SNOW HILL – Officials took another step this week toward allowing for more agritourism in Worcester County.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to add Worcester County to House Bill 801, which allows existing agricultural buildings to be used for agritourism, and to pursue a related change that would help pave the way for more agritourism.
“This is something that will go in the legislative session next year,” said Ed Tudor, the county’s director of development review and permitting.
Worcester County’s tourism and economic development staff asked the commissioners this week to add Worcester County to HB 801. The bill would add Worcester to a list of counties where an existing agricultural building used for agritourism is not considered a change of occupancy that requires a building permit under certain circumstances.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if Tudor’s department had input on the proposal. Tudor indicated that the change was needed if the county wanted to allow for more agritourism.
“I think it’s appropriate for what I’ve been instructed, what I believe you all want to accomplish,” he said.
He suggested that at the same time, the commissioners also pursue a change to the county’s land use article to include weddings in the definition of agritourism.
Commissioner Jim Bunting, who last month expressed concern about the impact more agritourism uses would have on the county’s working farms, pointed out that the commissioners hadn’t yet had the agritourism work session they’d discussed.
“This is at the state level,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. “We can further drill down on it at the county level.”
Bunting said he felt the county should determine its course before joining with other counties on state legislation.
“We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do things,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Elder said the county couldn’t allow more agritourism if this legislation wasn’t achieved.
“Without this we can’t make any decision on anything,” he said.
The commissioners voted 5-2, with Bunting and Bertino opposed, to add Worcester County to the bill and to move forward with amending the land use article.