County Rezoning Public Hearing Set

SNOW HILL – Citizens will finally get their chance to weigh in on proposed rezoning regulations meant to implement the 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in the County Commissioners meeting room in the Government Center building in Snow Hill.

The county’s updated Comprehensive Plan was approved in March 2006, but the rezoning, which was supposed to follow immediately after, was delayed until June 2008.

Two local environmental organizations, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Assateague Coastal Trust, organized public workshops for communities throughout the county this month in response to citizen questions over the new zoning regulations. Organizers report that those events were well attended.

The county also offered a week-long open house and some events in the north and south of the county to inform citizens, with extensive maps and staff members available for questions.

Some elements of the Comprehensive Plan such as TMDL levels for local waterways have not been included in the regulations intended to enforce the acclaimed plan, said Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips. The county needs to explain how it will meet those state mandated water pollution limits.

The county also needs a transfer development rights program, as well as required conservation subdivision design, Phillips said.

Most citizen concerns begin with individual properties and potential changes to individual zoning, but concern has also arisen over large sections of rezoning, particularly areas east of Berlin and bordering Stockton that are proposed to be zoned A-2.

This new zone is essentially a more intensified agriculture zone getting golf courses, racetracks, auto repair shops, marine boatyards and the like out of pure agricultural land.

Another item from the Comprehensive Plan that is contradicted in the zoning draft is the upzoning of the South Point area, from estate to residential, according to Phillips.

“What’s the reasoning behind that?” she said. “The Comprehensive Plan very clearly stated we made a mistake on South Point and we need to correct that.”

Environmental site design for development should also be required, but is not under the draft regulations, said Phillips.

“The language says, ‘may;’ it doesn’t say ‘shall,’” Phillips said.

Critics of the draft rezoning are calling for more consistency with the 2006 Comprehensive Plan and more protection of sensitive areas.

“It’s all about comparing the Comprehensive Plan to what they have proposed,” said Phillips. 

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