Landowners Propose New Service Road Design

SNOW HILL – Property owners along the path of the planned Route 50 service road between Holly Grove and Seahawk roads are asking the county to consider a different alignment that, they say, would not detrimentally affect their ability to develop their commercial sites.

Land use attorney Mark Cropper, representing 10 property owners whose land would be traversed by the service road, spoke before the Worcester County Planning Commission last Thursday.

Cropper went before the Worcester County Commissioners six months ago to outline this proposal for the service road alignment. The commissioners said then that they would take it under advisement and instructed him to consult the planning commission and the Worcester County Board of Education.

The service road effort began at least seven years ago when the state decided against building one, but Worcester County elected officials decided to proceed on their own.

Originally, the service road paralleled Route 50, 100 feet south of that highway. The Maryland State Highway Administration felt that 100 feet did not provide enough traffic stacking room once vehicles turned off or toward Route 50, so that span was changed to 300 feet.

That change did not take the unique site characteristics of the affected properties in to account, Cropper said.

When several property owners attempted to develop their land, Cropper said, they realized that the service road as planned splits their properties into unusable pieces.

According to Cropper, three different people tried to develop one particular site transected by the current service road alignment and all gave up.

The 9.3-acre Harley-Davidson property, at the corner of Route 50 and Seahawk Rd., would be used up entirely by the needs of the service road as currently planned, according to Cropper.

Without the commercial development on those properties, the service road will never happen because there will be no funding, Cropper told the planning commission.

The service road is dependent on the future businesses and the established development of Wal-Mart and Home Depot to fund the project, a funding method set by the County Commissioners.

Many of the landowners were also not aware of this requirement when they bought the land, Cropper said, adding to their reluctance. That information is not attached to land titles or other documents researched prior to a land purchase.

Despite their disagreement with the funding requirements, those affected landowners are willing to go along with it and accommodate the service road as long as they can develop their property, Cropper said.

“We’re just trying to find a medium ground that everybody can live with,” said planner Larry Whitlock, who has worked on the proposed alignment.

To that end, a professionally-designed proposed alignment was put forward by the property owners. That plan brings the road further south, with the service road coming out on Seahawk Rd across from the Stephen Decatur High School student parking lot and a second outlet opposite Stephen Decatur Middle School.

In this potential alignment, traffic can only enter the service road to Seahawk Rd. near the high school, not exit it, while a right-in, right-out set-up is proposed for the second intersection, preventing traffic from the service road from using Flower St. as a shortcut to Route 113.

This proposed alignment is meant to interfere with traffic at the two schools as little as possible.

The schools also asked if property owners around the service road could find land to donate for more student parking and if there might be room for another ball field for the middle school.

Cropper said every effort would be made to accommodate those requests.

The planning commission had little to say on the proposal Thursday afternoon.

“You’ve certainly given us something to think about,” said Planning Commission member Carolyn Cummins.

One issue that will likely be contentious in discussions is that of environmental, particularly wetland, impacts that have increased under the proposed alignment.

“What about forested areas? You didn’t address that at all,” said Cummins.

On Thursday, Cropper contended that the difference in wetland impacts was negligible, while Cummins and other planning commission members pointed out that the numbers showed more of an increase in those impacts than he indicated in his presentation.

The planning commission plans to hold a work session to further consider the realignment request