SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners this week opted not to rezone property near Route 113 in Bishopville.
The commissioners on Tuesday voted 5-2 not to grant a request to rezone slightly less than nine acres on Jarvis Road. While the applicant said the property was poor farmland, staff noted it was currently being farmed.
“We farm wetlands right now in the county, all over the county,” said Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, adding that other farms had larger wet spots than this one did. “There’s other land around it that’s poorer soils than this and they’re still farming them.”
Attorney Hugh Cropper told the commissioners his client, Nick Borodulia, wanted to reclassify 8.9 acres of property he owned on Jarvis Road based on a mistake that had been made during the last comprehensive rezoning. Cropper said A-1 zoning was generally intended for farming, timber, or single-family dwellings.
“This property doesn’t really meet any of those uses,” he said, adding that it was low and wet and featured a problematic culvert. “It’s not suitable for any of those things. For that reason, we’ve asked for this rezoning.”
He said the A-2 designation would give Borodulia a little more flexibility as far as how he could use the land. Cropper said the property was across from a large tract of industrially zoned land and was also very close to Route 113. In July, the Worcester County Planning Commission voted 6-1 in support of the rezoning.
Commissioner Jim Bunting pointed out that planning commission member Phyllis Wimbrow, who previously worked in the county’s department of development review and permitting, voted against the rezoning.
“Mrs. Wimbrow wrote the zoning maps,” Cropper responded. “In 1992 she sat down with a Sharpie and drew the zoning maps. It’s hard to get someone who wrote the zoning map to say there’s a mistake with the zoning map.”
Commissioner Eric Fiori pointed out the land was currently being farmed.
“When three and a half sides are being farmed, I have a hard time saying A-2 is the correct fit for this neighborhood,” he said.
A neighbor of the property said he didn’t understand Borodulia’s intention in seeking the A-2 zoning. Kathy Phillips, a concerned citizen, said the requested change would represent spot zoning.
“I think some people in this room are making the assumption farming is only practical on large parcels of land …,” she said. “This parcel is perfectly suited to become a thriving small truck farm and home for a family, growing crops other than corn and soybeans. Just because some of it is claimed to be too wet doesn’t mean it can’t be productive.”
When asked by the commissioners for his input, Mitchell said the property was currently farmed, as much of the neighboring property was, and that the A-1 zoning didn’t appear to be a mistake.
Commissioner Jim Bunting asked what uses were permitted in A-2 that weren’t permitted in A-1. Staff said there were 13 uses permitted in A-2 but that 11 of them were special exception uses. They include contractor shops, vet clinics, campgrounds, hospitals and marinas, among others.
Cropper pointed out the A-1 zoning allowed a variety of special exception uses, including agricultural processing plants, livestock sales yards and sawmills, among other things. He said the commissioners had approved a very similar rezoning in Newark last year.
“A-2 is better for this property,” he said. “We just did it last summer for the exact same reasoning. It is not going to be bad for the county if you grant this rezoning.”
Fiori said Cropper’s client had “quite a bit of flexibility” with the current zoning.
Bunting’s motion to deny the rezoning request passed 5-2, with Commissioner Joe Mitrecic and Commissioner Diana Purnell opposed.