SNOW HILL – County officials agreed to give a local property owner an additional two months to clean up his former garden center.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to give Kevin Evans, owner of the former Planted Pleasures property, an additional 60 days to clean up the Route 589 parcel. Evans told them he couldn’t afford to hire anyone to help him but that he would continue to work to address the weeds and dilapidated buildings himself.
“There has been considerable improvement and I will continue to do that,” he said.
Evans requested Tuesday’s hearing with the commissioners after being ordered by the county to abate the nuisance on his property. County staff cited the uncontrolled grass and weeds, dilapidated structures and “unscreened accumulation of personal property” as issues that needed to be addressed.
Evans told the commissioners he was in a difficult position because his property was zoned for residential use even though it was on busy Route 589 across from the Casino at Ocean Downs.
“My property value has plummeted,” he said, adding that his land was mortgaged for more than three times what it was worth. “With a debt to value ratio like that, it’s very difficult to justify improvements to this property.”
He said he and his neighbors, whose properties were also zoned for residential use, were trapped. He said the casino was open 24 hours a day and served liquor until 4 a.m.
“No one in their right mind would purchase my property for residential use,” he said.
Evans said he’d closed the garden center — one of a handful of commercial uses allowed on properties zoned E-1 — and taken another job during the last economic downturn. He said it was then that much of his equipment — lawn mowers, weed whackers and the like — was stolen.
“I was left with no money and very little resources to keep the property up,” he said, adding that he did cut the grass every 10 days.
Evans said that because the commissioners had approved the rezoning of another property further down Route 589 he was hopeful that he’d be able to get his property rezoned commercial in the future.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said it wouldn’t take more than a day or two to clean the property up.
“You may have cut the grass but the weeds are grown up around the buildings and the buildings are falling down …,” he said. “It’s not a stretch for you and a couple men to clean up this property.”
Evans said he couldn’t afford to hire anyone but would continue to do what he could on his own.
“I need some time,” he said. “I think I’ve been singled out. I believe there’s a hidden agenda related to my property.”
Commissioner Bud Church assured him there was not. He said any time a county resident was asked to abate a nuisance they always felt they’d been singled out. He added that Evans’ property had probably been brought to the county’s attention because it was so visible. He encouraged Evans to begin his cleanup efforts on the front portion of the property and even offered to loan him his weed whackers.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort or time to clean up,” he said.
The commissioners agreed to give Evans 60 days to improve the condition of the property. They followed that up by giving a Pocomoke resident who’d also been asked to clean up his property the same amount of time to complete the task.