SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Planning Commission could soon consider a sectional rezoning of some properties on Route 589.
The commission is seeking permission from the Worcester County Commissioners to pursue a sectional rezoning of properties along Route 589 near the Ocean Downs Casino. When presented with Route 589 rezoning requests this month, rather than vote to recommend the zoning changes to the commissioners, the planning commission agreed to seek guidance regarding a potential sectional rezoning.
“They voted to send a memo to the county commissioners requesting clarification,” said Ed Tudor, director of development review and permitting for the county.
The idea of a sectional rezoning — rezoning a section of the county, rather than adjusting zoning one property at a time — comes after the commission opted to make no decision regarding five rezoning requests presented by attorney Mark Cropper March 1. Cropper was seeking to have each of the five properties, all currently on Route 589 with estate zoning, rezoned to commercial. He argued that they could be rezoned on the basis of a mistake, as the county’s comprehensive plan called for elimination of estate zoning years ago, or on the basis of a change in the neighborhood, as the establishment of the casino had changed the neighborhood. The planning commission has approved other rezoning requests along Route 589 because of the change in the neighborhood caused by the casino.
“I appreciate the concerns of the various planning commission members in thinking this matter should be considered as a sectional rezoning as opposed to piecemeal rezoning,” Cropper said. “I remain of the opinion these particular properties warrant having their zoning classification changed from estate to commercial in any and all circumstances.”
While two of the five properties are still used residentially, one is used for storage and another two are vacant. One of the vacant properties is the site of Planted Pleasures, the abandoned garden center that the county cleaned up in 2017 when the property owner failed to abate what was declared a public nuisance. The property owner, Kevin Evans, told the commissioners he was struggling financially but couldn’t even hope to sell the property with the 24-hour casino so close.
“No one in their right mind would purchase my property for residential use,” he told the commissioners last fall.