Diakonia Project Merits Exception

Diakonia Project Merits Exception

A 4-3 vote by the Worcester County Commissioners has jeopardized the future of a 42-unit affordable housing project operated by Diakonia.

Diakonia’s current facility on Old Bridge Road can no longer meet the needs of the growing local population of homeless and livelihood-stressed individuals who need help getting back on their feet. At a new site on Route 611, Diakonia hopes to provide 42 long-term housing units for tenants, an expanded food pantry, outreach offices for counseling and a thrift store. The project received a favorable recommendation in the fall of 2022 from the county planning commission contingent on sewer capacity issues being resolved.

A solution to the sewer capacity shortage came from the Town of Ocean City. Diakonia asked the town if the nonprofit could use a certain amount of sewer flow from Ocean City to connect to the West Ocean City District sewer system while agreeing to a deed restriction the site would only be used for transitional housing and related services. Ocean City officials unanimously supported the project strictly because of the community services Diakonia provides to the county as well as Ocean City.

The commissioners voted 4-3 this week to not allow the necessary sewer flow connection to permit the Diakonia project to move ahead. The commissioners opposed cited a fairness issue with other stalled development projects awaiting EDU service along Route 611.  Rather than grant the connection, the county wants to try and work out an agreement with the resort to allow more flow from Ocean City to serve county development projects since there is a waiting list for sewer connections currently.

County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, a council member in Ocean City for more than a decade, does not see an accord happening with the resort, saying, “You all may have a lot more faith that Ocean City’s going to open up their sewer to West Ocean City but I don’t have that faith. I sat on that council. I remember the days when the county was asked to participate in the upgrade of the sewer plant over there and they said no. The people in the Town of Ocean City paid for that. Nobody else in Worcester County paid for that upgrade.”

Unless a major change in direction occurs, the decision by the commissioners this week basically kills a transitional housing project needed to address homelessness in the community and affordable housing woes.

Diakonia has for decades been a non-profit jewel in a county with many similar well-intentioned charities. The nonprofit is worthy of an exception while the commissioners and Town of Ocean City potentially consider an agreement to allow for those development projects stuck in the mire of no capacity to move ahead.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.