BERLIN – Horsemen at Ocean Downs may get permission to
live in recreational vehicles this year after a fire damaged the bunkhouse in
“We lost the bunkhouse and the only other option under the
zoning ordinance is the bunkhouse per se. We’re looking for a temporary resolve
this year,” said Ocean Downs General Manager Peter Szymanski.
The fire in March 2006 destroyed a barn and killed one
horse as well as damaging the attached housing.
A new bunkhouse is under consideration, Szymanski said,
but will not be built before the 2007 racing season begins in June.
“We had to scramble to find emergency housing,” he said.
Some horsemen move from racetrack to racetrack following
the racing. Most racetracks provide some seasonal housing for workers.
Ocean Downs needs at least 100 horses a day for four days
of racing every week from mid-June to late August to fill the races. In the
summer, the harness track houses 400 to 450 horses, but others ship in from a
“There are people that are stabled here all year long but
they are not able to supply enough horses to complete the meet,” said
Ocean Downs is asking the county to allow up to 16
recreational vehicles on track grounds to be parked on a blacktopped area not
visible to the public.
Szymanski estimated that perhaps a dozen vehicles would
need space, housing up to 15 people. The horsemen would provide their own RVs
or campers. The county Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted on the request this
week after this paper went to press.
The Worcester County Planning Commission had some concerns
at its meeting last Thursday. Planning Commission member H. Costen Gladding
asked about water and sewer service.
“They don’t have the capacity,” said Planning Commission
Chair Carolyn Cummins. “That’s a very big concern.”
Jeannie Lynch, commission member, said she fears that the
track could procrastinate on building the bunkhouse if the horsemen are allowed
to stay longer.
“It’s a transient use,” said Cummins. “To me it should
just be permitted for the racing season so none of them end up living there
Cummins instructed staff to tell the BZA, to approve the
recreational vehicles for one season only.
“It’s just temporary, for three months, June, July and
August,” Szymanski said.