SNOW HILL – The legal case regarding occupancy at White Horse Park continues to move forward despite a judge’s ruling on a related appeal.
A judge on Wednesday granted Worcester County’s motion to dismiss the administrative agency appeal filed regarding White Horse Park. The decision removes the county’s department of development review and permitting from the ongoing lawsuit, which is currently slated for trial Dec. 15 and 16. With the lawsuit, a group of full-time residents are fighting the county’s plan to begin enforcing seasonal occupancy restrictions.
“The case is moving forward and we still have trial set in December,” said attorney Hugh Cropper, who represents the residents. “The year-round residents still feel good about the trial.”
In a two-pronged approach, Cropper filed a lawsuit and an administrative agency appeal last year after the county announced plans to begin enforcing the park’s seasonal occupancy restrictions. Residents, many of whom have lived at White Horse Park for years, were advised they would face daily fines if they didn’t abide by the park’s zoning restrictions, which don’t allow year-round occupancy. Judge Daniel Long denied motions for summary judgment and dismissal of the lawsuit in August.
Cropper filed the administrative appeal after the county’s department of development review and permitting rejected applications made to the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) regarding the county’s plan to fine full-time residents of White Horse Park. The department head concluded the BZA didn’t have jurisdiction because the fines were outlined in a letter from the president of the Worcester County Commissioners, not from the department. Long agreed with that conclusion in his ruling.
“In addition, the notice issued by the Worcester County Commissioner President provided no action upon which an appeal could be processed,” Long wrote. “Rather, the notice outlined potential future action should the residents fail to comply with the existing zoning ordinances. That notice was not a final decision from which an appeal could be taken.”
Though the appeal has now been dismissed, the lawsuit filed against Worcester County will still move forward. Preliminary settlement talks are underway with the White Horse Park Community Association, which joined the county as an interested party in the lawsuit.
“We have entered into pre-settlement negotiations with the association,” Cropper said. “They’re very preliminary, very conceptual, but at least we’re talking.”
A settlement hearing is set for next week but if no agreement is reached, a trial is expected to take place in December.