County OKs Surface Mine Rezoning

SNOW HILL – A change in zoning approved last week is expected to provide future flexibility for a property currently home to a surface mine.

The Worcester County Commissioners voted 5-0 on June 21 to rezone property currently used as a surface mine on Downs Road. The land will be reclassified from A-1 to A-2.

“Whatever they do next is going to be less impactful,” attorney Hugh Cropper said.

Cropper told the commissioners his client, Rayne’s Land Holdings LLC, was seeking the rezoning of 105 acres on the west side of Downs Road because of a mistake in the existing A-1 zoning as well as a change in the neighborhood. He said the property had been approved for a borrow pit years ago and had been excavated to the point that future uses of the site were limited.

“About 60 acres of this property has been excavated,” he said. “It’s currently being excavated more.”

Cropper said zoning the property A-2, which permits a little more than A-1, would be consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. The A-2 designation didn’t exist, however, prior to the last comprehensive rezoning.

“If we had an A-2 it would have been A-2 all along,” Cropper said.

According to the comprehensive plan, the county should try to preserve its large tracts of land. Cropper said that property owners needed flexibility so they could ensure the properties sustained themselves.

“Once this borrow pit is done, which it’s just about done, these properties need to have a little bit of flexibility,” he said.

He added that the A-1 and A-2 districts had the same residential rights so the change in zoning wouldn’t potentially lead to more houses. The change would simply allow the owner to do more than traditional agricultural and forestry, according to Cropper.

“Whatever is permitted in the A-2, once this surface mine is decommissioned, whatever is permitted, whether it’s renting paddle boats, whether it’s renting kayaks, whether it’s people going fishing, whether it’s a winery, is going to have less traffic impact and be less impactful than an industrial surface mine with dump trucks,” said.

Cropper also noted that the property had frontage on Route 113 a driveway on Downs Road, ensuring future access wasn’t a problem.

The commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the rezoning, which was recommended by the Worcester County Planning Commission, on the basis of a mistake.

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.