SNOW HILL – An update of the county’s commercial design standards and Route 50 corridor plan could help increase development along the well-traveled highway into Ocean City.
Since February, a committee of county officials, planning professionals and area business people has been working on revisions to the county’s design guidelines and Route 50 corridor plan. The changes are meant to bring the documents, which were created in the 1990s, up to date and at the same time resolve any problems identified with them in recent years.
“The corridor plan addresses the county’s identified most intense commercial development territory and as such, the commissioners have appointed a diverse group of individuals tasked with making timely recommendations that will make the corridor more commercially viable,” said Merry Mears, the county’s director of economic development.
The committee, formally known as the Design Guidelines and Route 50 Corridor Plan Task Force, has been meeting monthly to go through the documents and make improvements to them. Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, says the original guidelines and corridor plan were written before the Walmart was built on Route 50.
“Things have changed,” he said.
The guidelines address commercial development in the area and the corridor plan outlines requirements for the service road that will eventually link properties between Holly Grove Road and Seahawk Road.
“The goal is to review those items and make them more user friendly while still achieving the overall objectives of both,” said Mark Cropper, a local attorney and member of the group.
As they come from different backgrounds, task force members have shared a variety of viewpoints on the documents and what they mean for different parties. In a meeting last week, task force member John Peters, who works for the Cordish Company, said increased requirements equated to higher costs for developers.
“The cost of developing those pad sites [near Walmart] is becoming astronomically high,” he said.
Another member of the task force, Steve Engel of Vista Design, voiced concerns about buffers and parking requirements. Others discussed inter parcel connectors and access points.
Cropper, who routinely represents developers, believes the group’s meetings have resulted in significant improvements to the corridor plan.
“I believe it will make developing along that corridor more attractive for those that in the past have had unpleasant experiences trying to do so,” he said. “This at least is a signal to developers that we’re open for business.”
“Worcester County is now in the position to grow this area substantially, and it must be done responsibly, with significant input from the business community,” she said. “I’m encouraged by the cohesiveness of the members involved, and I look forward to the outcomes of our work.”
The group’s revisions are expected to be complete next month. The changes will then be sent on the Worcester County Commissioners for their approval.