Wicomico County Approves Comprehensive Plan

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County have approved the 2017 Wicomico County Comprehensive Plan and recent changes to its growth tier maps.

In a Wicomico County Council legislative session Tuesday, Keith Hall of Transportation and Long Range Planning and Director Jack Lenox of Planning, Zoning and Community Development met with officials to approve the county-wide comprehensive plan and growth tier map modifications that resulted from discussions earlier this month.

In a March 7 open work session, Sharptown Mayor and Commission President Doug Gosnell met with councilmembers and Hall to address discrepancies between the town and county’s growth tier map.

According to Gosnell, Sharptown officials submitted applications in 2013 to change the jurisdiction’s water and sewer plan, which reflected their future plans to serve water and sewer to a section of land adjacent to town. This tier II growth designation would make the land, as he described, “untouchable” to those who wanted to build on separate septic systems.

But as a result of administrative changes during that time, Hall said the plans didn’t get finalized. Instead of labeling the aforementioned area tier II, the county labeled it a tier III growth area in the preliminary growth maps, allowing growth on separate septic systems.

To address Gosnell’s concerns, Hall and his staff suggested that any jurisdiction with pending applications for water and sewer expansion at the time the county comprehensive plan is adopted will have the town’s changes reflected in the county’s adopted growth tier maps.

Since that time, Council Administrator Laura Hurley explained that staff have modified the county growth tier map to fix these problems.

The tier II designation, she said, has been revised to include three distinctions, tier II-A, tier II-B and tier II-C.

Tier II has been relabeled tier II-A and includes areas with planned public sewer systems. Tier II-B includes areas within a growth area with a pending amendment to expand sewer service areas.

“Official tier designations for those areas are contingent on state and local approval,” Hurley said.

Lastly, tier II-C designates non-residential zoning districts.

“We had to make some language changes to our criteria for each tier,” Hall told the council. “So what used to be Tier II has been broken into three subsets, a tier II-A, a tier II-B and a tier II-C, with differences as discussed.”

Councilman Marc Kilmer expressed his gratitude for fixing the aforementioned problems.

“I want to express appreciation to Keith and the staff for working on this,” he said, “especially the past couple of weeks, as changes have been brought forward.”

Lenox added that the decade-long task was the group effort of multiple agencies.

“It is truly a group effort and we’ll go forth from here and do good things,” he said.

The council unanimously approved the comprehensive plan, and Hall added that it will now go to the Maryland Department of Planning for review.

“The state does not adopt the growth tier map, just like it does not adopt the county comprehensive plan,” he said. “It will merely provide comments.”

He explained that if the state provides comments, county officials will need to hold a public hearing to share the remarks. He said it will be at the direction of the council to address the comments.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.