North Ocean City Land Swap Project Progress Remains Stalled

OCEAN CITY — Red tape continues to stall a proposed uptown energy storage system on a parcel of land swapped from the town to Delmarva Power, resort officials learned this week.

Last spring, the Mayor and Council passed a pair of ordinances that will facilitate a land swap in the area of 100th Street between the town of Ocean City and Delmarva Power and Light (DPL.) The two parcels are adjacent and identical in size, and simply swapping them provides a mutual benefit to the town and DPL.

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

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.

During the planning commission’s public hearing on the BESS project, uptown residents lined up to voice their concerns, which ranged from aesthetic impacts on their properties from the vast above-ground battery field and potential health risks to concerns about the potential impact on the bayside viewshed.

By the time the Mayor and Council held their public hearing, most of those concerns had been allayed. Uptown resident Martin Branigan broached the subject again during the public comment period on Monday. He said there has been little or no mention of the proposed BESS project since the ordinances authorizing the land swap were passed last spring.

“We were told there would be more discussions in the fall,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. There are just some concerns among residents since the project hasn’t been discussed again.”

City Solicitor Heather Stansbury said there were multiple moving parts with the project that were being worked through by the town, DPL and Worcester County.

“It’s a fair question,” she said. “We are hitting a delay. Right now, we’re waiting on two entities that are beyond our control. It’s high on the list. It has to work its way through the county government. I feel like late spring would be the earliest.”

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.