EDUs Approved For West OC Mobile Home Expansion

SNOW HILL – County officials approved a request for sewer service that will allow for the expansion of a West Ocean City mobile home park.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to allow Mark Odachowski’s Salt Life Park LLC to purchase 34 EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) to expand the existing mobile home park on Old Bridge Road by 34 units. The approval came after Odachowski agreed to surrender 45 EDUs allocated to the Alamo property, which he purchased in 2018 when he had plans to build two restaurants on the site.

“Restaurants were going gangbusters at the time,” Odachowski said. “It was going really boom boom boom. When this pandemic happened, it shut everything down. Nobody was going to build restaurant pad sites.”

County staff told the commissioners Odachowski was seeking approval to surrender the 45 EDUs allocated to the Alamo and purchase 34 EDUs to allow for the expansion of the mobile home park. Though he also requested that a portion of the deposit he paid for the Alamo EDUs be credited toward the 34 EDUs, staff said they recommended delaying that decision.

“Those funds have been used for operational costs within the service area…,” Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said. “I think you should have the county attorney here to chime in on that particular issue.”

Attorney Hugh Cropper, representing Odachowski, said he was only asking that a portion of the deposit be credited to the new EDU purchase.

“You say I’ve got to forfeit my 45 EDUs on the other property,” he said. “That causes me a little concern unless I get some credit for the deposit.”

He said Odachowski had already paid $157,000 in fees associated with the EDUs he’d not yet used.

“That’s a lot of money in this economy, during COVID, for EDUs he’s never touched or never used,” Cropper said. “They’re just on paper.”

He added that if he turned in the 45 EDUs now without a decision on the deposit, he suspected county staff would recommend no credit be given.

“I’m very discomforted by coming back because my tea leaves are pretty clear what’s going to happen when I come back,” Cropper said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if the county was at a disadvantage if it redirected the deposit.

“When you make the EDU allocation you’re controlling development,” Higgins said. “If you’re going to start transferring those around, you’ve changed, in my opinion, the rules of the game.”

Bertino pointed out the county would be getting 11 EDUs Odachowski no longer needed back. He said those could be allocated to other projects.

John Ross, the county’s deputy public works director, cautioned the commissioners about proceeding.

“You’re initiating an EDU transfer policy,” he said. “Now all of a sudden there’s a way to transfer Mystic Harbour EDUs from one property to the other.”

He said when the county allocated the 45 EDUs, it had been for a commercial use — two restaurants — not a mobile home park.

“I have a concern about the fact that we had a customer who has purchased 45 EDUs,” Ross said. “Those EDUS sat in an account for how many years? This is three years they’ve been sitting in the account which means they were not available for anybody else to use those three years.”

While Bertino pointed out that the county had transferred EDUs before for a Food Lion project, staff said that had been done with a resolution making it clear it was a special case. Staff recommended if the commissioners wanted to grant Odachowski’s request in this case, they do so with a resolution. They also pointed out that Odachowski still owed quarterly fees associated with the 45 EDUs.

“We never connected,” Cropper said. “We never cost Mystic Harbour a penny other than paperwork.”

Bertino said that Odachowski had paid quarterly bills in the past and he had the responsibility to pay them this time. Odachowski said he’d been waiting nearly a year for the county to consider his request to move the EDUs.

“We’ve been pretty much sitting here for a year waiting for an answer,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to skip out on anything. I was just told everything is frozen.”

Cropper confirmed his client had asked for the transfer, which he said was a misnomer, in July.

“It’s been 11 months,” he said.

Commissioner Ted Elder said he understood the pandemic had created unforeseen difficulties.

“You’d have to be almost out of your mind to open a restaurant right now,” he said.

Ross said nevertheless the county had been making the necessary debt payments associated with its wastewater treatment plant throughout.

“We have somebody here that’s really going to help economic development of the county,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said.

Bunting made a motion to approve the allocation of 34 EDUs for the mobile home park, the return of 45 EDUs from the Alamo property, and to return Odachowski $45,000 of his deposit money. Commissioner Joe Mitrecic commended county staff but indicated he was going to support the motion.

“I think that sewer committee finds a reason to say no before they find a reason to say yes,” Mitrecic said. “I feel that way. Overall, I know they’re protecting, or doing what they feel is protecting us in the county, but I have to question it sometimes.”

The commissioners voted 6-0, with Commissioner Diana Purnell abstaining, to approve Bunting’s motion.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

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.