BERLIN – A handful of property owners who want to see their Route 589 lots rezoned are expected to make their case at a hearing in December.
The Worcester County Commissioners will host a public hearing Dec. 18 regarding a proposed sectional rezoning of more than a dozen properties on Route 589. While the Worcester County Planning Commission does not recommend a sectional rezoning, the commissioners will host a public hearing to gather citizen input before they make a decision.
The concept of a potential sectional rezoning along Route 589 came up this spring, when the planning commission was presented with rezoning requests from five property owners. In light of the multiple requests, the commission began exploring a sectional rezoning of about 15 properties in the area, some of which are currently zoned agricultural and some of which are zoned estate.
Over the course of the summer, the planning commission reviewed relevant information and earlier this month informed the Worcester County Commissioners that it did not support a sectional rezoning at this time for a variety of reasons, including other nearby commercial property and the impact traffic associated with a change in zoning could create.
Nevertheless, attorney Mark Cropper, who represents the five property owners who filed the initial rezoning requests, will ask the commissioners Dec. 18 to move ahead with the sectional rezoning. His clients’ properties (referred to as the 589 Properties) are zoned estate and are located on the west side of Route 589 across from the Ocean Downs Casino.
“The entire neighborhood in which they live has been changed to a commercial nature as a result predominantly of the casino,” Cropper said. “The county commissioners have found it appropriate to rezone other properties that have been less impacted. These properties deserve even more to have their zoning classifications changed.”
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, a defunct garden center the county declared a public nuisance and subsequently cleaned up. At the time, property owner Kevin Evans told the commissioners he was struggling financially and couldn’t even sell his property with the 24-hour casino so close.
Cropper maintains because the commissioners have agreed to rezone properties on Route 589 significantly farther away from the casino, there’s no reason they shouldn’t adjust the zoning for the properties closest to it.
He also pointed to the commission’s concern regarding the already congested Route 589.
“Some concerns have been raised that this volume should support denying the requested rezoning,” he wrote in a letter to the planning commission. “I suggest just the opposite. Because of the volume of traffic at this particular location, the 589 Properties should not be zoned for any residential uses. The traffic condition is simply not compatible with residential living and supports a change to commercial.”
In making the case for rezoning the land on Route 589, Cropper also cites the fact county officials have agreed to eliminate estate zoning in Worcester County. He says the most appropriate zoning classification for property across from the casino, “most intense commercial use in Worcester County,” is commercial.
“The 589 Properties are surrounded on three sides by commercially zoned or utilized properties,” he said.
Following the public hearing scheduled for Dec. 18, the commissioners will have the option of rezoning the section proposed, leaving existing zoning as is, or rezoning just a portion of the area proposed.