BERLIN – County officials this week voted not to allocate sewer capacity to a townhouse development proposed for Route 611.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3 to deny a request for 139 equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) of sewer service submitted by Sea Oaks Village LLC. Those who voted to deny the request pointed out the property’s original EDUs — the units of measure through which properties are charged for sewer service — had been transferred to other area properties at the request of the landowner last year.
“So what’s changed?” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.
County staff told the commissioners Sea Oaks Village, a proposed 135-unit townhouse development that would include 24,000 square feet of commercial space, had requested 139 EDUs from the Mystic Harbour Sanitary Service Area. The property currently has no EDUs because, at the request of the property owner, they were transferred to commercial space in West Ocean City in March 2016. At the time, attorney Hugh Cropper, representing the property owner, argued that the Route 611 parcel was “environmentally sensitive, wooded area” that, if developed, would not constitute smart growth.
Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said that if granted, the request for 139 EDUs would require 47 percent of that area’s EDUs. There are currently 298 EDUs available in Area 1, 148 of which are allocated for infill. There are 80 EDUs available for vacant properties, 17 available for single family dwellings and 53 available for commercial properties. If granted, Shannahan said the Sea Oaks request would require 91 percent of the infill EDUs and 8 percent of the commercial EDUs.
Bertino said he didn’t understand what had changed since last year, when Cropper said development of the parcel wouldn’t’ represent smart growth.
“I’m not aware of anything that’s changed,” Shannahan said.
Commissioner Bud Church pointed out that the Sea Oaks proposal had been given a favorable recommendation from the Worcester County Planning Commission.
“I didn’t see any negative response from anyone…,” he said. “We have the EDUs. It’s our purpose to promote growth, to sell the EDUs.”
Church subsequently made a motion to grant the request for 139 EDUs. It failed to get a second.
Commissioner Jim Bunting said that in addition to Cropper’s 2016 comments regarding the environmentally sensitive nature of the property, it was also subject to non-tidal wetlands regulations. He said his biggest concern, however, was the idea of allocating almost all of the EDUs available for infill.
Commissioner Ted Elder said he remembered Cropper’s 2016 request to transfer the EDUs and his comments regarding its environmentally sensitive nature well.
“There was a lot of discussion to that point, that the property would never be able to use 40 EDUs, and here we are with 130-some,” Elder said. “I just feel like somebody’s trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes or something.”
Bertino made a motion to deny the EDU allocation request. It passed 4-3, with Church and Commissioners Joe Mitrecic and Merrill Lockfaw opposed.