OC Officials Approve Land Swap With Delmarva Power

OC Officials Approve Land Swap With Delmarva Power
Delmarva Power plans to use its parcel to construct a battery energy storage system, pictured in the rendering above. Submitted Image

OCEAN CITY – With little fanfare or further discussion, resort officials this week approved a land swap with Delmarva Power in the area of 100th Street.

The two parcels are adjacent and identical in size, and simply swapping them provides a mutual benefit to the town and Delmarva Power and Light (DPL). The Mayor and Council held a requisite public hearing on the proposed land swap on Monday before unanimously approving the exchange.

Last month, the Planning Commission held a marathon public hearing on DPL’s proposed use for the parcel it is receiving in the swap. DPL applied for, and eventually gained approval for the conditional use on the site to develop a battery storage energy system, or BESS, on the lot it is acquiring.

In layman’s terms, a BESS provides a fallback energy source in the resort for DPL during times of peak energy use on the barrier island. It’s part of DPL’s larger plan to improve and ensure reliability at peak times. In 2019, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) initiated the Maryland Energy Storage Pilot Program. The intent of the program is to explore the efficiency of deploying utility-scale energy storage throughout the state including Ocean City.

When the planning commission held its public hearing last month, residents lined up to voice their concerns with DPL’s plans to develop a BESS in an area uptown near residential areas. The issues raised ranged from concerns about the vast above-ground battery field and potential health risks to concerns about the potential impact on the bayside viewshed.

DPL officials at the time were able to allay most of the concerns at that point. It was also pointed out the utility company held a conditional use permit for the parcel it already owned to develop an electric power substation, although was not the company’s intent. That existing conditional use permit will expire when the land swap between the town and DPL is officially consummated.

When it came time for Monday’s public hearing, there was considerably less robust discussion. In fact, only one resident got up to speak about the proposed land swap. Uptown resident Martin Brannigan said he was representing his condo board at the hearing and residents in his community had some concerns.

“I came here tonight regarding the property swap,” he said. “In speaking with our board of directors, there have been some concerns raised.”

The town has not made public its intentions for the parcel it is receiving in the swap. At one point, it was discussed using the parcel as one of the potential sites for a private-public seasonal housing project, but that has not come to fruition. Brannigan has spoken in the past about a potential seasonal housing project on the site, and revisited the issue briefly again on Monday.

“We know there will be something going there,” he said. “We had concerns when a seasonal housing project was being discussed.”

Brannigan said the neighboring condo board had three basic concerns. Was there a timetable for the start of the DPL BESS project? What steps were being taken to eliminate or at least minimize visual pollution from the project?

“The third thing is, we’ve all seen power stations around town with security fences,” he said. “We would like to request whatever fencing goes around the thing will be the least objectionable.”

After closing the public hearing, the council voted unanimously to approve the land swap with DPL. Councilman Mark Paddack attempted to alleviate some of Brannigan’s concerns.

“Our public works director is here tonight,” he said. “If you go down Old Landing Road, there is a waste transfer station back there that is well-screened. I am confident DPL will work with our public works department and the town to minimize the visual pollution.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.