Fearing State Law, County Eyes Subdivision Changes

SNOW HILL — With the deadline for accepting the controversial Senate Bill 236, or the “Septics Bill,” looming, the Worcester County Commissioners will be looking to re-define the definition of a minor subdivision of property to allow a maximum of seven lots instead of the current five lots.

“I think this is one thing that we actually need to do for the farmers in the county,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who is a farmer.

According to Shockley, agriculture and tourism are the two driving forces behind Worcester’s economy. The bill, which would divide the county into four different land use tiers that would determine their ability to build on septic systems, presents a real threat to farming and the farming tradition in Worcester if not managed carefully, according to Shockley.

While the goal of pollution reduction is popular, development restrictions are not and Shockley said Tuesday the way the codes are now farming families would find it difficult or impossible to divide their land to give their children and grandchildren.

“If you’re going to keep the farm operating, the kids have to live on the farm. They have to be a part of that farm on a daily basis,” he said. “I want my grandkids on my farm. Currently, that won’t happen unless we change this.”

Shockley admitted that he was against raising the limit from five lots to seven on a single minor subdivision in Worcester when the County Comprehensive Plan was reviewed in 2006. However, he pointed out that “a lot has changed since 2006”.

Commissioner Madison Bunting also lent his support to the bill, though he pointed out that the county won’t be able to make a Dec. 31 deadline for the legislation.

“We’re going to have to seek relief from the state by legislature’s ability to extend our deadline,” he said. “But some of us believe that we should attempt to do this and I am behind this bill 100 percent.”

Because the bill to change the definition of minor subdivisions was not advertised, run through the Planning Commission, or discussed at a public hearing, it cannot beat the deadline as emergency legislation. Instead, assuming the cooperation of the state, the commissioners plan on going through the process this winter and expect to have a public hearing early next year.