Major Route 50 Service Road Changes On Table

SNOW HILL – The issue of a requested major change to the alignment of the planned Route 50 service road has not been settled, county planning officials said last week, despite reports that the Worcester County Planning Commission had unexpectedly voted to reject the requested re-design late last month.

Planning Commission Chair Jimmy Bunting said during the September Planning Commission meeting last week that the re-alignment request, which came up informally during a work session on the draft rezoning in late August, was still open.

Discussion at that meeting revealed planning officials’ dissatisfaction with the proposed change in the Route 50 service road’s design, however.

“By consensus, we didn’t like it. There’s a lot of problems with it,” said Bunting.

Commission members wanted more history on the Route 50 service road from the staff, they decided at that late August meeting.

Having received that information, at the September meeting commission members agreed that they would need some time to go over the detailed report before getting together for a more detailed presentation and a decision on a recommendation to the Worcester County Commissioners.

The planning commission also asked attorney Mark Cropper, representing the 10 property owners whose land the service road will cross, and who made the request on their behalf that the road be realigned to better serve their commercial interests, to provide more information.

One piece of information missing from the original presentation is the forestry impacts of the realignment. Commission members are interested in seeing those figures.

The original presentation of the realignment request made in early August included a chart outlining the wetlands impacts of the requested alignment, but nothing on the forestry impacts arising from the proposed change in road layout.

Cropper said he had that information and would provide it. He also asked if the commission would like any other details.

“There were quite a few items,” said Bunting.

“Whatever you want, get me a list,” said Cropper.

The traffic impact on Flower Street is one subject the commission needs to know more about, said Bunting.

Cropper said he would try to bring his traffic consultant, Wes Guckert of the Traffic Group, to a future meeting to discuss traffic concerns.

The commission is also concerned over impacts on non-tidal wetlands and would like more details.

While the planning commission was scheduled to discuss the re-alignment request at their Sept. 3 meeting, the commission decided to postpone the discussion to wait for more information and to study information already received.

A work session on the proposed change will be held Oct. 8.

The public may attend the meeting, but will not be able to speak.

“It’s open to the public. It’s not a public hearing,” said staffer Phyllis Wimbrow.

The planning commission considered inviting the Worcester County Board of Education to the work session, as well as local fire departments, to discuss those impacts.

The service road, in the current layout, and in the requested realignment, intersects with Seahawk Rd., which is home to both Stephen Decatur Middle School and Stephen Decatur High School.

Both entities were originally invited to a work session three years ago on the proposed Liberty Square Shopping Center on the east side of Seahawk Rd., which would anchor one end of the proposed realignment of the Route 50 service road.

“I just don’t want to be thinking about all this ‘til we have all the information,” said Planning Commission member Carolyn Cummins.

“We have problems with it. Maybe he should work on those,” Bunting said.

The proposed redesign would move the planned Route 50 service road alignment, which was established in 2002, further south on the same properties.

The service road as designed is already slated to cross the land owned by the realignment proponents, who want the road to run further south to protect, they say, the commercial viability of their property.

Several property owners, Cropper says, have been unable to develop their land because the current service road alignment splits the properties up into unusable portions.

Cropper presented the original realignment request to the Worcester County Commissioners seven months ago. The commissioners instructed Cropper to go before the Planning Commission and then return once a number of matters had been clarified.