Casino Overlay Zone Public Hearing Set For Next Week

Casino Overlay Zone Public Hearing Set For Next Week
Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Citizens will have a chance to share their thoughts on a proposed casino overlay zone at a public hearing next week.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Worcester County Commissioners will host a public hearing on a text amendment that would create a casino overlay zone for the A-2 district. The change, proposed by Ocean Downs Casino, would allow for more entertainment uses on the casino property on Route 589. Bobbi Sample, general manager of the casino, has said the change would allow for a responsible expansion of the property.

The text amendment received a favorable recommendation from the Worcester County Planning Commission this summer and was the subject of a work session of the county commissioners last month. According to county staff, the overlay zone would allow for a holistic look at the property and future development on it.

The commissioners, however, expressed concern with the impact development would have on traffic and whether the overlay zone could be applied to other properties in Worcester County.

“The A-2 zoning was created for a reason, because it was a buffer between the A-1 and different other types of zoning which are heavier,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said during the work session. “I’m a little concerned about the integrity of the A-2 district.”

Sample said this week she’s heard some concerns from people who don’t understand the proposal and she is working to answer questions within the community. She’s attending a meeting of the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors Saturday to make a brief presentation regarding the text amendment and answer any questions residents there have.

“It might save some people from making the trip to Snow Hill on Tuesday,” Sample said, adding that most objections she’d heard had been allayed once people had more information. “It’s just trying to explain to people we have no plan to create Las Vegas here in Worcester County.”

The Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) is currently in the process of collecting feedback on the proposal from its members.

“The change would allow for potential new developments including additional gaming facilities, restaurants and hotels, and outdoor arenas and performing arts centers,” OCHMRA Director Susan Jones wrote to members in an email. “While they are good neighbors, Allied members, provide jobs and revenue to surrounding municipalities, the proposed text amendment is broad and would allow many uses. Therefore, we are seeking feedback.”

The survey issued by OCHMRA asks respondents how they’d feel about a hotel on the casino property, whether they’d support additional food venues or a nightclub there, and what attractions they’d like to see on the site. Jones said the survey would assist in the development of the association’s comments regarding the proposal.

Tuesday’s public hearing on the casino overlay zone is set for 10:30 a.m. at the government center in Snow Hill.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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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.