SNOW HILL – County officials approved a growth allocation request this week that is expected to allow a local campground to expand.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to reclassify 33 acres from Resource Conservation Area (RCA) to Limited Development Area (LDA). The critical area designation change, which was previously given a favorable recommendation by the Worcester County Planning Commission, is expected to allow the Island Resort Campground in Newark to expand.
“Staff looked through the project and we thought it was a good fit based upon the expansion of the existing campground,” said David Bradford, the county’s deputy director of environmental programs.
Island Resort Campground, which is on land that was previously home to a surface mine (borrow pit), got a special exception approval that allowed it to open as a campground in 2005, according to attorney Mark Cropper. When the zoning code got changed in 2009, the campground became a legal non-conforming use. He said the growth allocation request would allow the facility to add 62 more campsites.
According to county staff, Worcester County has 369 acres of growth allocation available in the Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Program. The Island Resort request would use 33 acres of that allocation.
Cropper said the proposal was consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and would still need to be approved by the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals.
During Tuesday’s public hearing, South Point resident Stephen Katsanos voiced opposition to the request. He said there were unresolved zoning issues that needed to be addressed and pointed to provisions in the code that address improvements to habitat and water quality. He said he didn’t think the campground expansion was consistent with the comprehensive plan, as the plan stressed the value of protecting the county’s agricultural and rural heritage.
Katsanos also expressed concerns about water quality in Newport Bay.
“You have tidal influences there that will make that area basically a sink for whatever runoff comes off of this site or adjoining sites,” he said. “I think you need to consider the water quality impacts as well as the economic impacts of this proposal.”
A written comment submitted by residents of Cropper Island Road cited traffic concerns.
“The walkability of our road is already limited as there are no sidewalks or shoulders and the rampant disregard of speed limits, primarily by campers,” the email from Judy and Brian Wilbur said. It went on to suggest the campground have a separate entrance on Route 113 instead of access via Cropper Island Road.
The commissioners asked Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, to address the questions raised by Katsanos. Mitchell said staff had reviewed the request thoroughly and pointed out the property was a borrow pit even before it was a campground.
“The agricultural significance of the property is probably minimal,” Mitchell said. “That really goes into the history of what we’re looking at with this site.”
Bradford said the campground would be planting more trees than it was clearing for the expansion. He also mentioned the stormwater management requirements the project would have as well as forest conservation requirements. He added that a recent wetlands delineation had identified all of the sensitive areas on the property.
Bradford said the county’s 369 acres of growth allocation was rarely utilized and should last the county many years.
“We’ve only used 75 acres in the past 20 years,” he said. “A very small amount. We don’t use it that often.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the growth allocation request.