Planners Give A Little On Campground Buildings

SNOW HILL – Campgrounds should be restricted to accessory buildings 35 feet or less in height, the Worcester County Planning Commission concluded last week at their December meeting.

The commission supported an increase in the building height allowed, but did not go as far as Eagle’s Nest campground owner Jack Burbage would have liked.

Burbage requested a text amendment allowing accessory buildings at campgrounds to reach 45 feet. The change would apply countywide.

“We want to encourage people to have a nice upscale campground and upgrade their campground,” said Burbage attorney Hugh Cropper.

Eagle’s Nest Campground hired a campground planner to improve the site, resulting in the design of a 41-foot tall lodge.

“It’s a nice attractive building. It’s a great amenity to that campground,” Cropper said. “By allowing this to go up in height, we compact this and reduce impervious surface.”

The text change would apply only to communal buildings, like lodges, camp stores and indoor pools, not to campsites.

“To get people to come to this campground in this day and time, you need amenities,” Cropper said.

Such buildings are typically sited in the interior of a campground and not near property lines, according to Cropper.

Most campgrounds have substantial setbacks, but some, including Eagle’s Nest, do not meet those standards.

“Forty-five feet will help you do something that’s much more attractive by far,” said Mitchell Parker, managing partner of Frontier Town campground “I would agree with the 45 feet.”

“I would like to see it stay at 35,” said planning commission member Jeannie Lynch.

Houses are allowed up to 45 feet in height across the county, Cropper said.

“We really need 45 feet to do it right,” Burbage said.

Part of the problem in requiring such heights are the flood plain regulations, which require the Eagle’s Nest building be raised several feet from the ground.

Cutting 10 feet off the height of the building would flatten the roof pitch, and the building would not look as good, Burbage said. He asked that the commission leave the change at 45 feet and not reduce it to 35 feet.

“I don’t know that you’re gaining by that,” Burbage said. “I ask you not to squash it and make it so it’s not as attractive as it could be.”

Campgrounds are allowed in Worcester County as special exceptions in agriculturally-zoned land. Burbage said he could build a 45-foot structure on agricultural land under the county code.

County staff had some problems with the text amendment as submitted.

“As written, the amendment would allow buildings to go to 45 feet on individual campsites,” Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor said.

That was not the intent, Cropper said.

Amending campground accessory building height to 45 feet could mean, for example, a mini-amusement park on Route 50, at the Fort Whaley campground, Tudor cautioned the planning commission.

“To me it’s about the architecture. To make that work, you’d need height,” Parker said.

A 35-foot limit with the possibility of a variance would not be desirable, said Phyllis Wimbrow, deputy head of Development Review and Permitting.  That kind of arrangement is not permitted anywhere else in Worcester County’s code and could lead to attorneys arguing for variances elsewhere.

Lynch praised the improvements being made at the campground.

“I’m glad to see it’s finally getting cleaned up. Lord knows it’s been a long enough time,” she said.