SNOW HILL- A prominent local developer will only be cited once a month for a zoning violation, the Worcester County Commissioners decided this week, while waiting on the solution.
The effluent tank at Eagle’s Nest Campground is 22 inches too close to the property line shared with the Ocean City Airport, so campground owner John Burbage worked out a deal to shift the property line over two feet, with the concurrence of airport owner the town of Ocean City. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been asked to sign off on the change, but may not answer for some weeks.
Burbage, through attorney Hugh Cropper IV, asked the County Commissioners Tuesday to allow him to use the tank temporarily, despite the zoning violation, while waiting on the answer from the FAA.
“I can’t sign off on this. It’s the result of a developer’s mistake,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs. “I think we’d be making accommodation to a developer we would not and have not made to any individual property owner.”
Others defended the proposed change, however. “This wasn’t a blatant mistake by the developer,” said Commissioner Bud Church. “This was an honest mistake.”
It was a mistake nonetheless and should not have been the responsibility of the county. “It’s the developer’s responsibility to do a survey,” county attorney Sonny Bloxom said.
The county often allows zoning violations to slide without official notice while waiting on a meeting with the county Board of Zoning Appeals, Cropper pointed out.
There is no legal way to give the campground a temporary permit, Bloxom said. The landowner should either have the sewage pumped out and hauled away every day, or be cited each day for the violation. Others said the commissioners had some discretion.
“We can bend the law any time we want to,” said Commissioner Jim Purnell.
Burbage asks for, and gets, a lot of variances, Boggs said.
The Commissioners voted to allow the incorrectly-sited effluent tank to remain in place and in use while Burbage waits to hear from the FAA. They also approved an unusual arrangement to only cite the violation once every 30 days, instead of once per day, as provided by county law.
Boggs dissented, saying, “It becomes who’s in front of you,” adding Burbage asks for and gets a lot of variances.
The decision touched off an interesting dialogue. “It has nothing to do with who’s in front of us,” Commissioner Louise Gulyas said.
“That’s the way it appears,” said Boggs.