SNOW HILL – A request to rezone land off Nassawango Road in Snow Hill received a favorable recommendation from the Worcester County Planning Commission last week.
The planning commission voted 4-1 to forward a request to rezone close to 50 acres of land currently designated Resource Protection (RP) on to the Worcester County Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. Property owners have farmed the land for years and want the property returned to the A-1 Agricultural designation it had before the county’s last comprehensive rezoning.
“We’re talking about a property that’s been in a family 100 years,” attorney Hugh Cropper said. “It’s a farm and a forestry operation. If you owned this property and took pride in it like these people do, you’d say this is a farm and it should be zoned Ag.”
Cropper told the commission that his clients owned and farmed the property on Nassawango Road for decades. The land, which was previously designated as primarily A-1 with the area along the water identified as conservation area, was rezoned RP in 2009. Cropper said that was a mistake which was why his clients were seeking a rezoning.
“We believe the entire (150 acre) property should have been ag but we’re going to try to limit our scope to 50 acres,” Cropper said.
Commission member Jay Knerr said the property owners could continue to use the land for farming without seeking a rezoning.
“I’m really struggling with this change,” he said. “Quite frankly I don’t see the need for it. That area like you’ve stated is currently being farmed.”
Cropper said the property was an upland sandy field, not the sensitive sort of property the RP district was created to protect.
“It’s not environmentally sensitive other than the fact that it’s in the critical area,” he said. “RP is intended to preserve the most ecologically and environmentally sensitive parts of the county.”
Phyllis Wimbrow, deputy director of development review and permitting, said farming was allowed in any zoning district. Cropper, however, said that it was listed as a special exception in the RP zone.
Knerr again questioned the necessity of changing the zoning.
“If you owned it, you’d be hiring me or somebody like me to get it changed,” Cropper replied.
He added that his clients owned 150 acres of property and paid property taxes every year, but with the land zoned RP they could not build a house on it without going to the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals for approval.
“They should have the right to build one house on 150 acres,” he said. “I think that’s a basic right in this county.”
Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, said that while there might be an argument for rezoning a portion of the property, the section of it along the river should remain RP.
Commission member Brooks Clayville made a motion to leave the section of the subject property closest to the river RP but to forward the rezoning request for the rest of the property on to the commissioners with a favorable recommendation.
“I deal with these zones on my own properties,” Clayville said. “A-1 is awfully restrictive. RP is doubly so. I just don’t see an issue with building a house on this farm.”
He brought up rezonings that had taken place in the northern section of the county.
“Look at some of the stuff we’ve rezoned in West Ocean City that I voted against,” he said, “how dense it is. I just don’t understand why these folks aren’t allowed the right to have a house.”