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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


County Considers Rezoning 589 Property

SNOW HILL — Opponents of the proposed rezoning of what’s come to be known as the Burbage property along Route 589 will have to wait another week or more to voice their objections. After extensive testimony and at the suggestion of the applicant’s attorney Hugh Cropper, the Worcester County Planning Commission continued the hearing until 1 p.m. Thursday, April 21 in Training Room A on the third floor of the Government Center.

Located along the eastern side of Route 589 north of the Steer Inn Tavern, the property in question is currently zoned for agricultural use but Cropper, who represents the petitioning partnership between Silver Fox, LLC and Burbage/Melson, Inc., argued both that the zoning was kept that way in error and that a significant change in the neighborhood makes the rezoning needed.

Worcester County Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor presented the staff observations and recommendations regarding the proposed rezoning. According to him the original recommendation for the property from the planning commission was to zone the property R-1, which is a residential designation.

The planning commission made the recommendation as part of the comprehensive plan the commissioners passed in 2009. Tudor said the commissioners declined to endorse that recommendation, designating it A-1 agricultural by a 4-3 vote after some debate.

County attorney Sonny Bloxom advised the planning commissioners about the rules for choosing to rezone the property based on a mistake. He said they couldn’t claim the mistake was in the county commissioner’s judgement. Rather, the applicant had to show that the commissioners were unaware of a condition at the time that now has a significant baring on the property.

Bloxom also reminded the planning commission that the commissioners’ primary concern at the time was increasing traffic pressure along Route 589.

The staff did not present the planning commissioners with their recommendation based on a change in the neighborhood as it was not within the original application. They are expected to research the matter in advance of the next meeting.

Cropper said the original A-1 designation was mistaken for several reasons. Chief among them was that, unbeknownst to the commissioners at the time, Marvin Steen who owns the adjoining property had already platted a road, running from Ocean Pines Association’s King Richard Road to the cornfield that now occupies the Burbage Property.

This road will eventually be able to enjoy use as a further outlet for the Ocean Pines south side residents potentially easing the traffic rather than exacerbating it.

By presenting expert testimony, Cropper also argued that not only is the amount of land insufficient to run a productive agricultural property, the soil is not conducive to it. He added that having combines and other farm machinery driving down Route 589 to get to the property would cause even greater traffic hardships and, given the lack of productivity of the land also be economically unsustainable.

As to the additional argument of the change in the character of the neighborhood. Cropper said that the commissioners did not account for the casino in the comprehensive plan documents and demonstrated that the area was wedged in the midst of a residential and business neighborhood rather than an agricultural one.

“It is absolutely an unplanned for change,” he said of the Casino at Ocean Downs. “We see that as a substantial change in the neighborhood.”

Atlantic General Hospital C.EO. Michael Franklin endorsed the plan given the likelihood it would benefit the hospital. As the medical industry adapts to an ever increasing number of the insured, demands for primary care have increased. Franklin said that if there were more primary care availability, pressure could further be reduced at the hospital emergency department driving the cost of healthcare down.

“From our standpoint this type of location enhances our ability to carry out our job,” he said.

Although he said he’d only come on a fact finding mission from the OPA board of directors, general manager Bob Thompson testified at Croppers request.

Thompson said the 2009 board endorsed the original plan that the county commissioners voted down because they believed zoning the area residential would eventually lead to a King Richard Road egress. As the OPA board has been reconstituted, Thompson said they may once again consider whether or not to endorse the measure.