Officials To Revisit Land Donation

SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County will vote again on a land donation that they rejected late last year.

Last December, the Wicomico County Council voted to reject a 235-acre land donation from Connelly Mill Ltd. Partnership after an environmental study revealed potential pollution issues. The property, located next to the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex and within the City of Salisbury corporate limits, is valued at more than $1 million and consists of wooded parcels and two ponds.

Earlier this fall, however, the council agreed to reconsider the donation after additional environmental studies eased officials’ concerns about contamination on the property and a cost-benefit analysis revealed the property’s potential as a borrow site.

Weston Young, the county’s assistant director of administration, told the council this week the property contained an estimated $20 million worth of soil, which could be used for operations at the county landfill. With the acquisition of a property adjacent to the landfill off the table, he said the county needed a place to mine additional soil.

“We have significantly more material (than expected),” he said. “What that does is raise the estimated soil value from $13 million to $20 million and it raises the estimated useful life, or years of soil, from 8.3 years to 12.8 years.”

Young added that the county had requested a permit exemption from the Maryland Department of the Environment to mine for soil at the site and was still awaiting the department’s reply.

“We are looking at two weeks from now before we hear back,” he said.

Over a 12-year period, Young estimated the county would spend more than $7.6 million for operations at the site, $105,000 for environmental insurance and $35,000 to reimburse the property owners for the environmental studies. Yet he argued the benefits far outweighed the costs.

“It still gives a net value of over $13 million to the county,” he said.

Young requested the county council accept the land donation.

“We still wish to pursue the acquisition of this property,” he said. “The value makes sense, the soil makes sense and the proximity to Henry Parker and future park uses …. makes sense.”

Council President John Cannon asked Young if the county should purchase environmental insurance for the property.

Young replied that the insurance would address some of the council’s concerns.

”From the studies we’ve done, we think the risk is low,” he said, “but again we are talking about $105,000 that could potentially save us significant dollars should we hit something.”

Councilman Joe Holloway asked if the county should construct a fence around the property. He noted that several nearby residents had complained of trespassing and other illegal activity.

“Are there any thoughts about trying to fence this property?” he said.

Young noted a fence could stop trespassers from entering the site and protect county equipment left on the property.

“I think it needs to be seriously considered,” he said.

With no further discussion, the county council thanked Young for his assistance.

“You’ve done a lot to relay our concerns,” said Councilman Marc Kilmer, “and I think things are headed in the right direction.”

Holloway agreed.

“This whole process was about protecting the citizens …,” he said. “I think this is going to be a good move.”

Cannon said the council would make its decision on Dec. 18.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.