County Needs Another Look At Land Donation Offer

SNOW HILL – An offer to donate land in exchange for a cul de sac in Bishopville’s Holiday Harbor residential community needs further study, the County Commissioners concluded Tuesday.

Buzz Taylor, a resident of Dixie Lane in Holiday Harbor, has offered to donate the land for a cul de sac to be built on his street to allow large vehicles like garbage trucks and school buses to turn around, instead of backing up to exit the dead end street.

“Where we live no school buses can get to us because there’s no place to turn around,” said Taylor. “Even though my children are out of school, I was trying to help out a little bit.”

The street is home to five children who walk to a bus stop about a block away. The walk is not far, said Taylor, but it does put the children out in rain or other bad weather.

“If you had a fire truck here, there’s no place for them to turn around without being on somebody’s yard or driveway,” Taylor said. “We have so many people drive up here and it’s a dead end. They back on our grass. They’ve already knocked my fence down. Bigger trucks that come in here, you can see what it does to a black top driveway.”

Taylor is offering the county part of a half acre unbuilt lot he owns next to his home. The county can take what it wants of that land, he said, to build a cul de sac. Any vehicle could make use of the cul de sac. 

Commissioner Bud Church, who went to school with Taylor in his youth, visited the site. Dixie Drive is a county road, he pointed out.

“When garbage trucks go down that lane, they can’t turn around. There’s kids that play there and the trucks have to back up quite a distance to turn around,” Church said.

Taylor offered that the community would then take over maintenance of the road beyond the cul de sac.

“There’s quite a few children on that road,” said Commission President Jim Purnell, a bus driver himself. “The school bus must be able to turn around and go back out.”

School buses do not enter Dixie Drive, said Public Works Director John Tustin.

Both Commissioners and county staff expressed concern that complying with Taylor’s request could start a litany of road improvement inquiries from residents along unimproved and private roads.

Two years ago, the county denied a paving request from West Ocean City residents of Quay Lane, a platted, unimproved road, which also caused staff to worry over the precedent it might set.

Ed Hammond, Worcester County attorney, advised the commissioners to check into how many such roads the county holds and how much improvements might cost before making a decision.

“You’re looking at millions of dollars,” he said.

In 2005, the county had 7.6 miles of unimproved private and county roads, which would cost between $1.3 million and $1.9 million just to pave, before costs for grading, engineering, design and stormwater management costs are calculated.

Taylor’s lot on Dixie Drive also lies within the Critical Area, which imposes additional permitting and building standards close to the shoreline

“I think there’s some extenuating circumstances here that warrant a better look at the situation,” said Church.

Church pointed out that Taylor planned to donate an empty lot he owns for the cul de sac.

“I’m looking at a plat that shows five of these [dead ends] in Holiday Harbor alone,” said Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting. 

Tustin added, “We’ve probably got a bazillion dead end roads in the county.”

Commissioner Judy Boggs questioned about the precedent the move may set.

 “We’re going to see people lining up at the door,” predicted Boggs. “Once you do one, that opens up the door to everyone else.”

Commissioner Louise Gulyas reminded her colleagues, “We didn’t help the people on Quay Lane.”

Church, who represents West Ocean City, was quick to point out, “Quay Ln. was a private lane. This is a public road.”

Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who also drives a school bus, called for more information, in particular from the school board.

The commissioners voted unanimously to have staff gather more information, including the thoughts of the Worcester County Board of Education, before making a final decision.