Commissioners To Consider Route 611 Land Reclassification

BERLIN – After delaying a vote at their last meeting, the Worcester County Commissioners are expected to make a decision regarding a Route 611 land reclassification next week.

On Tuesday, the commissioners are expected to make a decision regarding a request to reclassify 8.34 acres of land from Resource Conservation Area (RCA) to Limited Development Area (LDA). They delayed a vote on the matter last week after hearing from concerned residents.

“We’ve been handed a heck of a lot of information that we didn’t have before today, and, in addition, testimony from people who really care about the outcome of this one way or the other,” Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said last week. “I’m going to ask that we table his for a couple weeks so we can go through all this information and ask questions of our staff and other people so we can make the most informed decision possible.”

Following a favorable recommendation by the Worcester County Planning Commission, the commissioners were presented last week with a request to reclassify the Route 611 property currently home to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program office from RCA to LDA. Attorney Hugh Cropper said an error occurred in the property’s original mapping and should be corrected. Though the land was labeled RCA because it was home to a golf course at one time, technically principal buildings—such as the former golf clubhouse being used by MCBP—are not permitted in the RCA. Cropper said he was seeking a refinement now from RCA to LDA.

“It doesn’t set a precedent,” he said. “The issue is whether or not a mistake occurred.”

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South Point resident Diane Stelzner said she was concerned about the proposed change. She said classifications like the RCA were meant to protect environmentally sensitive areas. She noted that when the property was purchased by Ayres Creek Family Farm in 2016 it had the RCA designation.

“The developer purchased the entire property knowing the potential was limited by the RCA,” she said.

Stelzner added that the proposal was more than a refinement as it would open the door to more intense development.

“Please don’t be swayed today by false truths and manipulated facts,” she said.

Another South Point resident expressed concern about traffic in the vicinity.

“Traffic on Route 611 and particularly Assateague Road is really congested now,” she said, adding that she didn’t understand why the property owner was seeking the change.

Cropper said it was simply to correct the designation so that if MCBP ever leaves the owner can lease the space to someone else. With the current RCA designation, the property can only be used by a nonprofit conservation organization—something that was only made possible by a text amendment approved a few years ago.

“The text amendment was written for Coastal Bays,” Cropper said. “If Coastal Bays left there’s nothing you can do with it.”

He said the property owner hoped the organization stayed forever.

“But if they ever left or ceased to exist I guess he’d like the option to try to rent to somebody else,” Cropper said.

When asked what approving the change versus not approving it meant for the site, staff said the change wouldn’t allow the owner to expand any of the structures on the site or the impervious surface.

“This is a precursor to something else that could be done down the road,” said Bob Mitchell, head of the county’s department of environmental programs.

Nordstrom made a motion to table the issue so that the information presented by Cropper as well as the opponents to the change could be reviewed. The commissioners voted 4-2, with Commissioners Joe Mitrecic and Jim Bunting opposed, to table the issue. Mitrecic noted that the public hearing on the matter was closed and that the commissioners were simply delaying their decision.

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.