SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Planning Commission last week denied a request from the Casino at Ocean Downs to waive sidewalk requirements.
On Thursday the planning commission voted not to waive the requirement for a pedestrian sidewalk in front of the casino. Bobbi Sample, general manager of the Casino at Ocean Downs, had asked for the waiver because neighboring properties did not feature sidewalks.
“We’ve got to start somewhere,” said commission member Jerry Barbierri prior to the vote to deny the request.
Sample told the commission the casino’s new owners, who purchased it in 2016, had only just become aware that the site plan for the expansion currently underway at the facility included the installation of a pedestrian sidewalk. She said casino officials were concerned about the liability issues associated with a sidewalk, as the Ocean Downs property would be the only parcel in that section of Route 589 with a sidewalk. Sample said she was worried that installing a sidewalk would encourage pedestrians to travel Route 589 even though most of it has just a narrow shoulder.
“We feel it’s not in our best interest from a liability standpoint,” she said. “Our property would be the only safe property for them.”
Commission member Jay Knerr said he already saw pedestrians and bicyclists on the shoulder of the road.
“It would make sense to me to have a sidewalk,” he said.
Sample added that the casino did not have plans to develop the corner of its property closest to Route 50 even though the prior owner had considered building a bowling alley and movie theater there.
“We don’t have any plans right now to develop that piece…,” she said. “Mr. Rickman kind of dropped that when table games were approved.”
She added that casino officials wanted to install a sidewalk when neighboring properties did so.
“Anyone that gets injured on our property or adjacent to our property, our pocket is going to be the one they’re going to try to reach into,” she said.
When commission members went on to share their support for a sidewalk, Sample asked if it could at least be delayed. She said the casino was working with Crabs to Go to give the store access to area sewer and that installation of that pipe would disturb the sidewalk.
Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, said the project could be bonded to ensure it was completed.
The commission voted unanimously to deny the waiver and then recommended to staff that the casino be given 180 days to complete the sidewalk.
Sample said this week the casino was still targeting an end-of-December opening for its 35,000 square foot table games expansion.