County Comp Rezoning Surpasses Halfway Point

SNOW HILL – Worcester County’s comprehensive rezoning is 50 percent complete, according to Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting.

“It’s fair to say we’re past the 50-percent mark. Things are zooming along,” Tudor said. “We hope by the end of the year to have this thing wrapped up.”

The comprehensive rezoning is the implementation of the Worcester County Comprehensive Plan, approved over two years ago in March 2006. Many requirements of the plan have gone unenforced due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms, like the revamped zoning code.

The draft commercial design standards released last week were part of the completed comprehensive rezoning effort, so far the only tangible result of the work.

The County Commissioners formally assigned the rezoning work to county staff in February 2007, but those instructions did not produce results until this week, less than two months after the County Commissioners imposed a deadline for the final draft of the comprehensive rezoning.

The Worcester County Planning Commission will meet this month to discuss and comment on the just released commercial design standards.

The commission had planned to discuss the recently delivered northern Worcester County transportation study, but chose to look at the commercial design draft first, deeming the design standards a higher priority.

While Worcester County had a number of plans in place theoretically governing design and aesthetics of commercial sites, from the Route 50 and Route 113 corridor plans to the rezoning code, they were voluntary or difficult to enforce.

None of those documents were integrated with the rest, said Carolyn Cummins, chair of the Planning Commission.

“I think we’re okay here. We checked that stuff. I think we got it all,” Tudor said.

Like the previous plans, not all of the countywide commercial design standards are required elements of building or site design.

“It strikes a good balance between mandatory and giving people some flexibility,” said county attorney Sonny Bloxom, who read the standards over for legality before the document was released to the County Commissioners and public.

Sandy Coyman, director of Worcester County’s Comprehensive Planning Department, said the commercial design guidelines try to make new construction compatible with local neighborhoods.

“You don’t become the beauty police,” Coyman said.

Tourists will not visit Worcester County if it looks like everywhere else in the U.S, he said. 

Tudor also made sure that staffers who would work with the standards looked the draft over and commented on it.

“It’s very easy to use,” Bloxom said.

Other sections of the 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan implementation will be released before the rezoning deadline, according to Bloxom.

The County Commissioners imposed a Dec. 31 deadline on the rezoning in June, requiring Tudor and Deputy Director Phyllis Wimbrow to devote their time to complete the rezoning. Tudor’s voicemail message warns that he will be occupied with the rezoning and callers should speak to other staffers until that is complete.

Meanwhile, decisions are still being made under the old zoning code, which does not match what the new Comprehensive Plan suggests.

“Expect by year’s end to see something,” Tudor said.