BERLIN – A local developer has abandoned plans to turn the former Pine Shore Golf property on Route 611 into a campground.
Developer Todd Burbage confirmed Tuesday he has pulled his campground plans and now intends to build his family home on the property along Ayres Creek. Area property owners who objected to the proposal are elated.
“We look forward to having Todd and his family as a neighbor,” neighborhood resident Donald Bounds said.
Burbage said he plans now to donate a conservation easement on the property to the Lower Shore Land Trust or the Maryland Environmental Trust. He will seek a rezoning of the existing Maryland Coastal Bays Program office property (former Pine Shore Golf clubhouse) to a B-2 classification so he can rent the property to a commercial enterprise in the future if need be.
Burbage also plans to relocate two existing homes on the property but has no intention of subdividing it in any way.
According to Burbage, in 2013 he and his wife decided to sell their home in the Ocean Reef community in West Ocean City. Burbage said after looking at several pieces of land, they settled on relocating to the Ayres Creek property. Burbage said he himself planted hundreds of trees in recent years on the property in advance of building a family home there.
When his Ocean Reef home failed to sell after many months on the market, Burbage said he asked attorney Hugh Cropper to draft alternative plans for the Ayres Creek property. That’s when the concept of a campground arose.
In November, however, the Ocean Reef property sold and Burbage returned to the idea of building a house on the former golf course.
“I originally bought the property to live there,” he said. “I was working with the Maryland Environmental Trust way before our attorney filed for campground status. I am happy to own the property. I never initially had any plans except living there. It was a residual piece of property and when we couldn’t sell our home we looked at other options.”
Bounds believes nearby residents will be thrilled to hear that Burbage is no longer planning to build a campground.
“That’ll put everybody at ease,” he said, adding that he was constantly being stopped in places like the grocery store by people who wanted an update.
At a December community meeting hosted by Bounds and fellow members of the “Save Ayres Creek” initiative, more than 100 people turned up to share concerns about the proposal. They were worried about the noise, traffic and pollution they said a campground could bring as well as the impact it would have on what many consider an environmentally fragile property.
Despite his change in plans, Burbage remains committed to the notion that northern Worcester County could use more campgrounds and that the Ayres Creek site was an ideal chance for redevelopment.
“It’s an appropriate spot for a campground. Maybe some of the neighbors don’t like it, but if you’re in the tourism business that place is a redevelopment opportunity,” he said.
Burbage said the property had already been disturbed and that what was left of the former golf operation was in bad shape.
“There’s a cart path falling into the creek right now and a sign sitting in the creek,” he said. “What upset me the most about the county residents’ criticism was frankly some of the ones who were the biggest critics about traffic were people who owned automobile dealerships so I don’t think they have much standing in criticizing traffic when maybe you were a part of it.”
Burbage said the redevelopment of 80 acres into a more productive use would have benefited the county.
“If Worcester County wants to give raises to its teachers, firemen and police officers and have a better way of life for its employees, they need to figure out how they want to grow, where they want to grow and when to want to grow,” he said. “That farm was a complete redevelopment opportunity. Yeah we all put up with traffic 75 days. That’s the beauty of where we live. I wish it was longer.”
Burbage shuddered at the thought of the opposition from the “Save Ayres Creek” campaign influencing his decision.
“We are a company that cares about being good citizens in our community, and our actions over the years have proven that without a doubt, but Todd Burbage is not someone who steps away from too many good fights,” Burbage said. “If Sun Communities wants to expand Frontier Town again, as I hear they may, they are going to have one hell of an advocate in me on their side because this county is business unfriendly and this county needs growth.”
A campground on the Ayres Creek property, Burbage said, would have meant a significant financial benefit for the county.
“I probably pay $7,000 a year in taxes for that property now,” he said. “If it was redeveloped into a campground, it would have paid out $400,000 in new taxes to the county, easily. I base that on what we did at Castaways campground and then what we paid after we developed it and invested it. People want teachers to have raises and there’s constant budget shrinking, this would have helped. Now we will just turn this back into a farm, our family farm. But Worcester County lost out here.”