Planners Support State’s Route 589 Vision

SNOW HILL — A state corridor vision plan for Route 589 and a county-drafted set of design guidelines both received unanimous approval from the Worcester County Planning Commission last Thursday.

The commission got a chance to discuss the state’s Route 589 vision plan during the meeting. The vision is only in its earliest stages, but was sound enough to receive a favorable recommendation from all members of the commission.

“I find it consistent with the [Worcester County] comprehensive plan,” said Commissioner Wayne Hartman.

Improvements to Route 589 have been in the planning stages for years, with completion of the project not forecasted until 2030. Landscaping, stormwater management, hiking and biking trails are all expected alterations to the five-mile stretch of corridor.

Because a lot can change in two decades, some on the commission were hesitant to adopt the vision. Commission Chair Jeanne Lynch wondered why there was such a rush to adopt the plan right now.

“My biggest concern is obviously the timing as well,” said Commissioner Mike Diffendal.

Because of the lengthy timeframe, and the unpredictability associated with growth in the area, adopting the vision runs the risk of interfering with development along the corridor. However, the commission felt that the alternative path of giving development free reign and then trimming down as needed would be more costly and inconvenient.

“It’s a tough issue and we’re just going to have to deal with it,” said Commissioner Brooks Clayville.

Commissioner Marlene Ott stated that it would be a good idea to “get something in place.”

Hartman felt the same.

“It’s good we have this vision from the state,” he said. “I think having this vision will be a real asset to us as a planning commission.”

The assembly unanimously agreed to give the plan a favorable recommendation, which will be passed along to the Worcester County Commissioners, who have the final say on whether the vision is accepted.

The other item on the planning commission agenda was a set of guidelines and standards for commercial use.

The guidelines are meant to classify architectural areas in the county into general categories, while still leaving wiggle room for developers looking to build unique designs.

Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor explained that his office was not trying to “draw too close or too fine a line around things.”

Lynch was satisfied with what she saw.

“Most applicants will at least have an idea where to go,” she remarked after reviewing the guidelines.

The main purpose of the standards, explained Deputy Director of Development Review and Permitting Phyllis Wimbrow, is to make it easy to spot when a proposed building obviously clashes with its neighbors.

“It mirrors the way most of us feel about the county,” said Lynch.

Tudor reiterated that the standards are only a basic template and should not be viewed as a final judgment.

“There are plenty of examples of blends of style out there,” he said.

Lynch commented on the fact that it was “the first time anyone has really dealt with [commercial use standards] in depth” and that the plan will be “worth its weight in gold.”

“It gives us a sense of place,” she said.
Like the vision plan, the guidelines also received a unanimous favorable recommendation.