County Looking To Abolish Shoreline Comm.

SNOW HILL – County officials have introduced legislation to abolish the Shoreline Commission, the body charged with reviewing applications for construction along the water.

Citing the fact that staff handles most of the commission’s duties, the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to move forward with plans to abolish it this week.

“I think it’s outgrown its usefulness,” said Sonny Bloxom, the county’s attorney.

Bloxom said that when the commission was created in 1972, there were few federal laws concerning construction along shorelines. Through the years though, numerous state and federal regulations have been created that address the issue. While the Shoreline Commission still reviews applications for permits to build on the county shoreline, staff performs the research associated with each application.

“Staff do all the heavy lifting,” Bloxom said.

He said if the commission was done away with, applications for smaller shoreline projects would be handled by county staff while applications for major projects would be reviewed by a department head. If an application is denied, the individual who submitted it would have the option of taking the issue to the county’s board of zoning appeals.

Bob Mitchell, the county’s head of environmental programs, said abolishing the commission would save applicants the legal fees associated with a Shoreline Commission hearing. It would also streamline the process.

“It’s an administrative hurdle that needs to be removed,” he said, adding that it would enable “hassle-free permitting.”

Commissioner Jim Bunting said he had recently gone through the process himself and found it unnecessary.

“Staff does a great job with their inspections,” he said.

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw asked whether actual project approval currently came from the Shoreline Commission or county staff. Mitchell said it came from staff.

“There’s very little leeway where a judgment call could be made,” he added. “It’s pretty much a cut and dry thing.”

All of the commissioners agreed to support the proposed bill and a public hearing will be held before them on June 16.