Baseball Training Plan In Industrial Area Not Supported

SNOW HILL – A text amendment to allow recreational facilities in industrially zoned areas will be forwarded to the Worcester County Commissioners without the support of the planning commission.

The commission voted 5-0 last week to give a text amendment that would permit recreational facilities as a special exception use in the light industrial zone an unfavorable recommendation. The connections of the East Coast Titans have proposed the amendment because they want to use a building at the former Cropper concrete plant in Bishopville for winter training.

“This would simply be enabling legislation that would enable the applicant to ultimately go to the board of zoning appeals on a site-specific basis,” attorney Mark Cropper said.

Cropper told commission members the proposed amendment was similar to the one they’d approved last month that would allow churches as a special exception use in the light industrial district. He said it would allow recreational areas, including sports training facilities, on industrially zoned properties as a special exception use that would require board of zoning appeals approval on a case-by-case basis. He added that while neither text amendment was site specific, they were being pursued to allow Oak Ridge Baptist Church and the East Coast Titans to take advantage of portions of the concrete plant property not currently being used by the operation.

East Coast Titans’ Shawn Eisemann said that if the youth team was able to use the warehouse building on the concrete plant site, players would be able to practice indoors through the winter.

“From Sept. 1 through April 1 you can’t control weather,” he said, adding that in the building the team would be able to set up batting cages and even a turf area to field ground balls.

Eisemann said the Titans had just expanded to include baseball as well as softball.

“We don’t like to see our local talent go outside this area,” he said.

Cropper said that while a recreational center was not an industrial use, he thought it would be compatible with industrial uses. He pointed out that the training center would operate in the evenings and on weekends.

“I’ll be the first to admit this is not an industrial use but just like with the churches, the specifics of this use are such that there should not be a conflict between whatever industrial use is on the site and this because the hours are completely different,” he said.

He added that the concrete plant owner would be the landlord.

“I think that’s a huge advantage here that may or may not exist on some other industrial zoned properties,” he said.

He said that in a location where athletic facilities might not fit with an industrial use, the board of zoning appeals would be able to deny the special exception request.

“I think that’s what the board of zoning appeals is there for, to make that decision, to make that judgement, on a case by case basis,” Cropper said.

Mike Diffendal, chair of the commission, asked if anyone had consulted with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding potential requirements. Cropper’s clients pointed out that the concrete plant itself was fenced off.

Phyllis Wimbrow, the county’s deputy director of development review and permitting, reminded commission members that the text amendment was not site specific and would apply to all areas zoned light industrial.

Commission member Jay Knerr expressed concern with the fact that the amendment would apply to industrial areas throughout the county.

“The issue I have with this amendment, when we approved the churches, people go to church, they’re there for an hour and then they leave,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. But this is an all-day thing. They may be there for hours and hours.”

He added that there wasn’t a lot of property zoned light industrial in the county.

“Why would we want to erode that?” he said.

Cropper said that it wouldn’t be eroded in this case, because a portion of the site would still be used industrially.

“I don’t see a large proliferation of these uses on industrially zoned land,” Cropper said.

Knerr’s motion to send the proposed amendment on to the Worcester County Commissioners with an unfavorable recommendation passed 5-0.

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.