Wicomico Council Delays Vote On Program Open Space Swap

SALISBURY – A resolution allowing the conversion of Program Open Space land was postponed last week following a public hearing on the matter.

Last week, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to postpone a resolution allowing a Program Open Space (POS) land conversion from the West Metro Core property on Levin Dashiell Road to the recently acquired Connelly Mill property on Connelly Mill Road. Councilman John Cannon said the delay would give council members another opportunity to discuss the issue further.

“I’d like to have another work session before the council formally takes a vote on this,” he said.

Last month, Recreation, Parks and Tourism Director Steve Miller presented the council with a proposed land conversion that would transfer a POS restriction from the West Metro Core to Connelly Mill.

He noted the county had used POS funds to purchase the West Metro Core property in 2009 with plans to build a sports complex as the community grew on the west side of Wicomico. That development, he said, never materialized, and for the last 12 years the land has been leased to a local farmer.

To that end, Miller suggested a resolution that would not only designate Connelly Mill as Program Open Space land, but would allow the county to abandon the West Metro Core property.

“What we are here to do is seek council approval for this conversion,” he said.

In a public hearing last week, several community members came before the council sharing their support for the conversion. One resident said he supported park development not only at Connelly Mill, but at the West Metro Core as well.

“Some see it as a transfer from one to the other. I see it as an opportunity for both locations to be used by the public,” he said, adding that park development would promote ecotourism and economic development.

Resident Chris Roberts said he was in favor of developing Connelly Mill for recreational uses such as disc golf. He noted a growing interest in the sport, as well as the popularity of the disc golf course at Schumaker Park.

“I wish you would consider his space for permanent outdoor space and give disc golf a chance to be put in there,” he said.

Judith Stribling, Wicomico County Natural Resources Conservation Advisory Committee chair, said she also supported the resolution, as it could support the development of passive recreational activities like bird watching and hiking.

“The opportunities for people to come out and enjoy this kind of landscape are really key,” she said.

Councilwoman Nicole Acle noted that residents supported park development at both Connelly Mill and the West Metro Core. She pointed out, however, that the resolution called for the abandonment of the West Metro Core property.

“There was equal support for the West Metro Park as there was for Connelly Mill,” she said. “I don’t want us to lose sight of this resolution as a conversion. We will be abandoning the West Metro park on the west side and converting it to Connelly Mill.”

Councilman Joe Holloway said he supported the land conversion, but didn’t want to see the county abandon the West Metro Core property.

“At the Metro Core, we have an income-producing property where we can convert that money to Connelly Mill,” he said. “We don’t have to give up West Metro land. It can be used in the future.”

With no further discussion, the council voted 7-0 on a motion to postpone the resolution.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.