Friday, July 11 – Golf Course Hoping To Add Seasonal Campground

SNOW HILL – A golf course in northwest Worcester County will become a campground and family recreation spot if all approvals go well, project developers told the Worcester County Planning Commission last week.

Deer Run Golf Course plans to add seasonal cabin camping and extensive sports recreation facilities.

“We really don’t have a family recreation area other than the Ys and that sort of thing,” said project land planner Larry Whitlock.

Local gyms do not offer activities or facilities for children, according to Whitlock.

“There’s a need for family-oriented facilities rather than adults only,” Whitlock said.

The county lacks diving facilities, he pointed out, and local swim teams must travel at least to Salisbury University for diving practice.

A clubhouse, tennis courts, a pool, volleyball courts and soccer fields will join the golf course, the plans indicate. A two-acre indoor recreation facility will offer racquetball courts, an indoor pool, and space for karate and other activities. The site will also include a small restaurant.

Plans call for 270 seasonal campsites, which cannot be used over the off-season. There will be no tent camping, individual mail distribution, or time-shares.

Planners chose to limit use to prevent people from living on site year-round, although membership campgrounds can under law operate 12 months of the year. While existing campgrounds can become co-ops, opening the door to year-round living, the Deer Run campground is past the cut-off date and could not go that route, according to Worcester County Zoning Administrator Kelly Henry.

Enforcement of the seasonal closure will take care of any other attempts to live permanently on site. The grounds will be gated.

Campgrounds are allowed in agricultural land like this site by special exception and are encouraged as a less intense use by the Worcester County Comprehensive Plan.

Any attempt to turn the space into housing would have to come back for another set of approvals and would be limited to five dwellings, under the agricultural zoning on the site.   

While no tent camping will be allowed, campers must use mobile structures on campsites and units must be under 10 years old, to keep up the quality of the campground, Whitlock said.

Restrictions will be created banning boats and boat trailers, allowing only kayaks and canoes on site, Whitlock said.

Deep setbacks and a vegetated berm will screen the 282-acre campground from motorists on Rt. 50 and local roads, according to Whitlock. The site will also not be lit up at night, and will not use a loud public address system, compromises reached to reduce impact on the neighbors.

Campers must purchase memberships, as a camper, golfer, or combination.

“When you say membership, I think about something that is exclusive,” said Worcester County Planning Commission member Betty Smith.

“It’s not exclusive,” said applicant attorney Mark Cropper.

The project was brought to the Planning Commission to seek its favorable recommendation of an amendment to the Worcester County Water and Sewer Plan to allow a sewer treatment plant on the site.

“I feel like we don’t really have a choice. I’m not happy with it. Better a campground than a bunch of houses,” Planning Commission member Jeanne Lynch said.

The plant will handle a peak of 80,000 gallons of effluent per day (gpd), averaging 68,000. Treated effluent will be sprayed on the 18-hole golf course.

The restaurant and golf course clubhouse will stay open year round, allowing the wastewater plant to continue operations. Wastewater plants cannot be started up then just turned off when not needed, but must continually process waste.

The Comprehensive Plan in general says that sewer service should not be provided in agricultural zoning, according to staffer Christine Holman, but campgrounds are an exception.

“We also recommend that the surrounding areas be designated W-6 and S-6 for no service,” Holman said.

The handful of existing homes would not then be eligible to connect to the Deer Run wastewater treatment plant.

That should not be a problem, said Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman. That area is not intended for service, and when the county Water and Sewer Plan is revamped, all areas outside service areas like the that surrounding Deer Run Golf Course, will be marked as no service.

If the septic systems of the surrounding homes fail, there is a possibility that those properties could be hooked up the campground septic system, however.

The Planning Commission voted 4-1 to give the amendment a favorable recommendation. Lynch dissented and Smith abstained.

More changes could be made in the design of the site and its features as the project goes through sketch plan and then site plan approval before the county Planning Commission.