County Appeals MDE’s Rejection

SNOW HILL – Worcester County is seeking reconsideration of a decision by the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding a proposed West Ocean City development.

The Worcester County Commissioners last week agreed to send a letter to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) requesting reconsideration of the department’s disapproval of the county’s request to amend its water and sewerage plan. The amendment would have allowed for Sea Oaks Village, a proposed townhouse development on Route 611, to be served by the Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, told the commissioners he and his staff had met with MDE officials after they’d initially expressed concerns about the amendment.

“We did have a positive meeting in Cambridge but that meeting really focused on plant issues and infrastructure issues,” Mitchell said. “I would note we’ve had an unbelievable amount of cooperation from state staff on the discharge permit revisions, the infrastructure changes, and further dialogue on planning issues.”

Nevertheless, the county received a disapproval letter from the department regarding the request to modify the water and sewerage plan. The letter cited the proposed amendment was not in keeping with the county’s comprehensive plan and stated the county was not able to ensure the wastewater treatment plant facilities and infrastructure were adequate to accommodate additional sewage flows.

Mitchell said staff recommended asking for reconsideration.

“This request does not restart the process. It’s just an appeal to the secretary to reverse the decision and approve the amendment…” Mitchell said. “We’ve put together some solid arguments to our positions in the letter.”

The commissioners voted 6-1, with Commissioner Ted Elder opposed, to send the letter seeking reconsideration of the amendment. Elder referenced the history of the Sea Oaks property as he explained his opposition. In 2017, the commissioners denied the property’s request for 139 EDUs (equivalent dwelling units). A scaled back request for 63 EDUs, however, was approved in the fall of 2018 and the property owner’s lawsuit against the county regarding the initial denial was dropped.

“This is the same property I think we initially rejected ourselves here at the county and then changed our mind on,” Elder said. “I just wanted to remind the commissioners that’s the way it happened. We were in agreement with what MDE has just said.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

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.