Riddle Farm Service Area Expansion Gets Planners’ Nod

SNOW HILL — The Worcester County Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation to extending water and sewer services from the Riddle Farm Service Area to nearby commercial properties in proximity to US 50. However, several commissioners were unsatisfied with the amount of public exposure given to the extension.
The water and sewer expansion has been in the works for the better part of a decade and would encompass a potential 400 EDUs with 267 of those immediately available.
“This endeavor took about six years to negotiate,” said attorney Mark Cropper, who represented the owner of some of the affected property. “And I don’t really want to go into the difficulty, but to say it was difficult is an understatement.”
This extension would only impact a few selected commercial properties near the current Riddle Farms area. Originally, extending that to cover nearby residential properties like those on Herring Creek Lane was considered but Cropper explained that the decision was made to just focus on commercial for the time being. However, not all commercial properties in proximity to Riddle Farms are included in the proposal, and some neighbors have already expressed interest in joining in.
Commissioner Wayne Hartman questioned how fair it was to cherry pick which properties are to be included initially.
“What makes people over by the Worcester County Addictions Center any more privileged to have it than the people across the street?” he asked. “How do we determine who are the privileged lots?”
Because it was Cropper’s client that made the push to extend the service area, he reminded the commission that other properties in the area were given the chance to connect to county water or sewer or both because the more lots involved the better.
Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting, elaborated and told Hartman that EDUs are finite and while it may not seem fair to extend to some properties but not others, a line has to be drawn somewhere.
“So, if you let your planning area get much larger than the capacity you have to serve, you’re creating false expectations for people that they’re going to get service,” Tudor said.
Any property owners who aren’t included but would like to be can always petition the Worcester County Commission, added Cropper.
Hartman said the public wasn’t being kept in the loop so many property owners in the area probably didn’t even know they could ask to be included in the extension. Commissioner Brooks Clayville was also unhappy with the opaque way in which the Planning Commission sometimes finds itself operating.
“I have, for a long time, felt like this process is not transparent enough … somehow, there needs to be a little more light on this process,” he said.
Hartman suggested the commission’s favorable recommendation come with the caveat that other nearby properties be allowed to join the extension. But that ruling wouldn’t be within the commission’s authority, Tudor pointed out. The commission only has the ability to give the maps as presented a favorable or unfavorable recommendation.
The commission voted 4 to 1, with Hartman opposed, to favorably recommend the water extension and the sewer extension, both as presented, to the Worcester County Commission. In a separate, unanimous motion, the commission voted to suggest to the county that any applicants who petitioned to be included in the new service area be given due consideration. The next step in the process will be a public hearing before the Worcester County Commission later this month.