SNOW HILL – A July trial date has been set for the ongoing legal dispute regarding occupancy at White Horse Park.
If the settlement hearing scheduled in June proves unsuccessful, a trial date of July 27 and 28 has been set for the lawsuit filed against Worcester County by a group of permanent White Horse Park (WHP) residents. The residents filed suit against the county as a result of its plan to enforce the park’s occupancy restrictions, which have never been enforced before, in November. Residents were advised they’d face daily fines if they didn’t abide by WHP zoning restrictions, which don’t allow year-round occupancy.
“It is a humanitarian crisis,” attorney Hugh Cropper, who represents the residents, wrote in the latest document submitted to the court.
The controversy regarding year-round residency at White Horse Park dates back to 2018, when the county began a campaign to bring the park into compliance with its zoning restrictions, which state that between Sept. 30 and April 1 units can’t be occupied for more than 30 consecutive days or an aggregate of 60 days. A group of residents who lived in the park, many of them for years, began working with Cropper to find a solution that would allow them to stay in their homes.
The issue reached the court system in the fall, after the county sent residents a letter outlining fines they’d be facing if they violated the park’s zoning restrictions. Cropper contends the county gave up its right to fine people, since officials have known about the park’s small population of year-round residents for years.
In the weeks since, White Horse Park’s board has asked and been permitted to intervene in the lawsuit. James Almand, the board’s attorney, said the board wanted WHP to remain the seasonal recreational campground the developer intended it to be.
“Everyone that owns a lot in the park took title subject to very clear and specific recorded restrictions against year-round occupancy,” Almand said last month. “Therefore, each owner knew or should have known that White Horse Park could not be used as a person’s primary and principal residence.”
Now that the board’s request to become a part of the lawsuit has been granted, Cropper filed an amended complaint Jan. 22. Just as the initial filing asked the court to stop the county from enforcement action or attempting to evict residents, the Jan. 22 complaint asks the court to stop the White Horse Park Community Association from doing the same.
“It is undisputed that that White Horse Park Community Association Inc. never enforced the occupancy restrictions of the declaration against the permanent or fulltime residents of White Horse Park for nearly 33 years, until 2018,” the complaint reads. “By contrast, White Horse Park was advertised to the general public, by realtors and others, as a permanent or fulltime community.”
It goes on to state that the community welcomed fulltime residents for security reasons, to keep an eye on the park’s units.
“In approximately 2018, for some arbitrary and capricious reason, the community association decided to enforce the previously ignored provisions of the declaration,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiffs and other elderly and disabled permanent and fulltime residents of White Horse Park, many of whom are veterans, and this is their only home, were literally forced into a panic.”
The complaint goes on to attack WHP’s declaration of restrictions, which Cropper points out is antiquated, as it refers to campsites and camping.
“Obviously no one is camping at White Horse Park,” the complaint reads. “Not even the seasonal residents are camping at White Horse Park.”