Worcester Planners Exploring Estate Zoning District’s Future

SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials assured concerned residents they would be involved in any potential changes to the E-1 zoning district.

As the Worcester County Planning Commission was set to begin discussion of a sectional map amendment to eliminate the E-1 estate zoning district last week, several residents of South Point and the surrounding area expressed their concern. Commission members and county staff assured those present that the process was just beginning and that it was too early to say what if any changes would be made.

“We have a lot more work and study to do,” said Mike Diffendal, chairman of the commission. “Our process is going to be open and transparent.”

According to Diffendal, the planning commission’s exploration of the elimination of the E-1 district comes after four properties near Route 611 were rezoned from E-1 to R-1.  He said that while the owners of those properties had requested the zoning change to protect them from development of a potential campground, the planning commission wanted to consider rezoning all of the remaining E-1 properties.

“We’re just starting the process today,” Diffendal said.

Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting, said that the county’s 2006 comprehensive plan had called for the elimination of the E-1 district. He said contrary to rumors, staff was not pushing the rezoning.

“Don’t rely on comments put out there by folks,” he told the concerned residents present. “Staff is more than willing to meet with you.”

While one resident argued that the rezoning shouldn’t be considered until the county’s next scheduled comprehensive zoning review, Tudor said the same process would be followed either way.

Planning commission member Brooks Clayville said the South Point area would benefit by a sectional rezoning because it would be the sole focus of officials.

“In my opinion, this is a far superior way to do South Point,” he said.

Tudor said that anyone with questions should contact his department. He said many people didn’t understand the details of the E-1 zoning, which, he pointed out, actually permitted poultry farms, among other things.

Diffendal offered to present information on the county’s various zoning classifications at the next South Point Association meeting.

Elizabeth Walker, secretary of the association, said she would email that information to neighborhood members as well.

“We all need to be better informed and understand the complicated issues of zoning,” she said.

Phyllis Wimbrow, deputy director of development review and permitting, told residents that just because officials were considering elimination of the E-1 district didn’t mean that classification had to be replaced with an existing designation.

“There is a possibility we could come up with a different zoning district,” she said. “It might be that we need to come up with some type of hybrid … You’re not limited to just what we have on the books.”

Diffendal said the planning commission would spend the coming months reviewing information related to zoning and the E-1 district and would discuss the issue further in 2018.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.