Shoreline Commission’s Future Debated

SNOW HILL – In spite of concerns from some residents, county officials are moving forward with plans to abolish the Shoreline Commission.

Legislation to get rid of the commission, which was created in 1972, was discussed at this week’s meeting of the Worcester County Commissioners. The commissioners are expected to vote on the change July 21.

The commissioners began considering abolishing the Shoreline Commission this spring as an effort to save money and streamline the permitting process. According to county staff, there were few laws governing shoreline construction when the commission was created. Today though, there are numerous regulations developers have to meet. Though the Shoreline Commission reviews applications, county staff researches each one.

“Most of this is institutionalized,” said Bob Mitchell, the county’s head of environmental programs. “If the permit application meets the requirements it’s being issued.”

During Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposal to disband the commission, resident Harold Scrimgeour said he was concerned about the prospect.

“By getting rid of the Shoreline Commission, you’re centralizing power back into one person,” he said.

Resident Ginger Gillis also questioned the need to eliminate the commission.

“Some people want the process of being able to come in and speak,” she said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino suggested that the practice of notifying adjacent property owners of a potential shoreline project continue as a way to provide them with a chance to voice their concerns.

Though they wouldn’t have a Shoreline Commission meeting at which to share their worries, they’d have a 15-day comment period during which they could contact the county.

Jennifer Cropper, a member of the Shoreline Commission, said she didn’t think the county needed to abolish the commission.

“We need to be citizens and government working together,” she said.

After hearing the public’s comments Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw said he did have some concerns about abolishing a board that had been in existence for decades.

“Is government taking away the voice of the people?” he said. “I think there are some questions before we jump into this.

The commissioners voted to approve the amendment Bertino suggested, requiring neighboring property owners receive written notification of pending projects, and are expected to vote on the proposal in July.