SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners delayed a decision on a request for additional sewer capacity from Frontier Town.
The commissioners voted unanimously to table a request for additional EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) from Frontier Town until after they’ve hosted the Aug. 20 public hearing on newly proposed standard sewer flow calculations.
“I’d like to go through that process first,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said. “I want to have that conversation and see how it would impact this project and other projects.”
On Tuesday the commissioners were presented with a request from Frontier Town for 38 EDUs to serve an additional 112 campsites. Staff told the commissioners they could amend the county’s water and sewerage plan to accommodate the request by moving EDUs from the northern section of the service area, approve a portion of the request or deny the request. When asked if the county’s sewer committee had a specific recommendation, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Shannahan said the committee did not make recommendations.
“I can speak for myself,” he said. “I think as we’ve stated in the report that there are a very limited number of EDUs that are remaining in the northern part of the service area, north of the airport. It is meeting the intended purposes of allowing for new development and infill development along the Route 50 corridor. I think by adjusting these and shifting these down south to the campground would detract from future growth and development in the Route 50 corridor. I think it’s a dangerous precedent to set.”
Commissioner Ted Elder said that an increased number of campsites at Frontier Town could lead to more congestion in the already busy area.
“If we keep expanding there we’re going to create a lot more problems,” he said, making a motion to deny the request.
Commissioner Bud Church asked about the feasibility of expansion of the Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant so that more EDUs would be available.
“I know from my district there’s a number of concerns about allocations,” he said.
Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, said the challenge in expanding the plant was finding area for spray irrigation. Shannahan agreed.
“The physical expansion of the plant is not the difficult issue,” he said. “The difficult issue is disposal of effluent.”
John Ross, deputy director of public works, said staff were exploring the possibility of spraying more at Eagle’s Landing.
“They’re taking every gallon we send up there and they’re still taking water out of the ground …,” he said. “They need it and they want it.”
Elder said that if the county let Frontier Town purchase more EDUs there wouldn’t be enough sewer capacity left for other properties.
“You have to hold some of these (EDUs) ready for these people that are actually going to need them,” he said.
Mitchell said the table outlining the various EDUs allocated to each category of development had been developed as a planning table.
“We gave estimated totals — the growth pattern has not matched what our expectations were,” he said, referring to the “campground explosion.”
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked whether the number of gallons per day attributed to each EDU could or should be adjusted. Staff said that could be reviewed.
When Commissioner Diana Purnell called for a vote on the motion to deny the EDU request, it failed, with just Elder, Purnell and Commissioner Chip Bertino voting in favor of it.
Hugh Cropper, Frontier Town’s attorney, told the commissioners when Sun Communities had purchased the property, it had included nearly 600 campsites that were all on septic. He said the company had purchased 166 EDUs and built a pump station that was later deeded to the county so the property could be served by public sewer. He said the latest EDU request was “the last piece of the puzzle” because it would allow Frontier Town to put campsites on the land that was previously the property’s drain field. He added that Frontier Town was good for Worcester County.
“They’re a great sewer customer because when you have disposal problems in the harsh of the winter they’re closed,” he said. “They’re a good citizen in Worcester County. They also have Castaways where they did the exact same thing, a successful partnership where a drain field was taken out. The drain field was right at the beach. They decommissioned it, cleaned it up, put campsites there.”
He said Frontier Town should be viewed as a success for the county.
“’You’ve taken tens and tens of thousands of gallons of untreated effluent out of the watershed, out of the critical area,” Cropper said. “It’s being treated. My client has paid for it and granted all that infrastructure. This is the last piece of the puzzle.”
The commissioners voted unanimously in support of a motion from Commissioner Joe Mitrecic to table Frontier Town’s request until the public hearing for the standard sewer flow calculations was held. That hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20 at 11:30 a.m.