Worcester Planners OK Composting Code Change

SNOW HILL– A text amendment that would allow composting facilities in Worcester County received a positive recommendation from planning officials.

The Worcester County Planning Commission last week voted unanimously to forward a text amendment that would allow food waste composting facility as a special exception use in certain districts on to the Worcester County Commissioners with a favorable recommendation. The change is being pursued by Garvey Heiderman, owner of the Hobbit Restaurant and Ocean Compost LLC.

“There’s no zoning regulations for compost facilities in the county,” he said.

Heiderman told the commission he’d been composing in Bishopville for the past two years through a transient use permit. To continue composting on a more permanent basis, he said he’d worked with county staff to draft a text amendment that would allow it by special exception. As proposed, the amendment would allow it as a special exception use in the A-1 and A-2 agricultural districts as well as in the I-1 and I-2 industrial districts.

“The intent was to make it very straightforward,” he said, adding that he wanted it to be as simple as possible.

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Heiderman said that since he’d been composting in Bishopville, he’d received no complaints and had even invited representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) out to review the operation.

“They’re very encouraged by what we’re doing,” he said.

He said the goal of Ocean Compost was to save the resort money by reducing its tipping fees, as less is going into the waste stream if it’s being composted.

“We’re scratching the surface of what we can do but every little bit helps,” he said.

Jennifer Keener, head of the department of development review and permitting, said a lot of the language in the text amendment staff had worked with Heiderman was based on MDE standards.

“We did tailor it a bit to Worcester County,” she said, adding that they’d consulted the roads and public works departments.

Commission member Mary Knight thanked Heiderman for the years of effort he’d put into expanding composting locally.

“It’s been very successful in Ocean City,” she said.

Noting the text amendment had received a letter of support from Assateague Coastal Trust, the commission voted 6-0 to forward it to the commissioners with a favorable recommendation.

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.