BERLIN– Smoke. Trespassing. Noise. Light pollution.
“It goes on and on,” said Joan Jenkins.
Jenkins and her neighbors shared the issues they fear will come if the former Pine Shore Golf Course on Route 611 is turned into a rental campground during a community meeting Wednesday. More than 100 area residents turned out to learn what they could about the proposed campground.
“All we want to do is make sure the residents are aware,” said Donald Bounds, who lives near the defunct golf course.
Jenkins and Bounds have spent the past two weeks spearheading an effort to oppose the redevelopment of the golf course, which sits on Ayres Creek, into a campground. They’re worried about the environmental impact a campground would have on the fragile area as well as the effect it would have on traffic. Route 611, the road to Assateague, is already home to two campgrounds and is heavily traveled during the summer.
With the support of their neighbors the pair hosted a meeting at the Ocean Pines library Dec. 28 to share what they know about the project with the public. They distributed copies of plans for the roughly 300-site campground and talked about the process the developer would have to go through before it was built. The property, which is currently zoned E-1, would have to be rezoned as A-2 first. The property owner would then have to ask county officials to approve a special exception that would allow for it to be turned into a campground.
The former Pine Shore property is owned by Todd Burbage, who is represented by attorney Hugh Cropper. Though Cropper did not attend the meeting, he said beforehand he expected it to be filled with misinformation. He maintains that a campground would require little infrastructure and would allow for plenty of green space on the 93-acre site. He added that the homeowners complaining about the project all had homes right on the creek.
“I think the homeowners are being selfish,” he said. “They don’t own the creek.”
In a list of bullet points distributed to the media last week, Cropper pointed out the merits of the campground project compared to a 50-unit housing community, which is permitted by present zoning. He said the seasonal campground would bring in additional tax revenue for the county while not costing government as much as new residences would.
Developer Todd Burbage, who was not in attendance at this week’s meeting, has invited concerned citizens to sit down with him and work together to create a “conservation easement” on the property if they had environmental concerns.
At Wednesday’s meeting Bounds told the crowd about the wildlife that called Ayres Creek home and said he’d hate to see those animals scared off by a busy campground. He said his primary concern was the impact the project would have on traffic — both on Route 376 as well as Route 611.
“That is going to be a major hazard,” he said.
Jenkins said the golf course was in an Atlantic Coastal Bays critical area. She indicated a campground would not benefit the environmentally sensitive area.
“That’s not an appropriate type of development to have in our neighborhood,” she said.
A statement from Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) distributed at the meeting outlines the organization’s opposition to the rezoning of the parcel from E-1 to A-2, as the agricultural zoning would not conform with neighboring zoning. The statement also says the organization is opposed to the use of the parcel as a RV campground.
“It would be irresponsible of the county to allow this area to develop in a manner not consistent with the Worcester County Comprehensive plan,” it reads. “An intensive process of citizen and stakeholder input resulted in the adoption, by the county commissioners and approved by the state of Maryland, of a nationally recognized comprehensive plan that reflects the desire of our citizens to preserve Worcester County’s rural greenscape and natural resources…”
Jenkins said that aside from the environmental issues, from a traffic standpoint the project would impact anyone who traveled Route 611. She encouraged those in attendance to share their concerns with county leaders.
One member of the audience drew applause when he offered to support the cause with a check for $500.
“You’ve got to be committed to beating it,” he said.
While Jenkins thanked him for the offer, she said it was too early in the process to accept financial contributions.
“We’re ahead of the game,” she said. “We found out about this and wanted to let the neighbors know.”
Michael LeCompte, president of the South Point Association, thought the traffic issues that would be created by an additional campground on Route 611 could convince local leaders to oppose it. He said the number of accidents in front of Buck’s Place had already been on the rise in recent years as the road hadn’t been designed for the millions of travelers it saw each summer.
“Safety’s going to be the number one thing to change their mind,” he said.
Bounds thanked those present for coming out to show their concern for the project. He asked all of them to contact the Worcester County Commissioners to share their views on the proposed campground.
“I feel we have a good shot to hold this up if all of you respond to the county commissioners,” he said. “People effect decisions.”
Commissioner Bud Church was one of those in attendance Wednesday.
“I heard their comments, I understand their concerns,” he said after the meeting. “It’s going to be a long process.”
He added that it would be a long time before the property’s rezoning request got to the commissioners. He said the neighbors would need to continue to stay involved in the process.
“I think they need to do their due diligence and plead their case and hope for the best outcome,” he said. “If I lived there, I’d have a lot of concerns.”