OCEAN PINES – Discussion of two major projects dominated last Wednesday’s town hall meeting, when Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson gave residents an opportunity to ask him questions about the future of the community.
Thompson began with a report on the two meetings the OPA had with Worcester County officials earlier in the month to approve construction of the new Ocean Pines Yacht Club.
The Worcester County Planning Commission denied the OPA’s request to begin work on the new facility, citing issues with the number of parking spaces provided for guests.
Under the county’s code, the proposed design of the Yacht Club parking lot does not meet the required minimum number of parking spaces. One suggested solution was to reduce the 10 feet-wide spaces to 9.6 feet wide so more spaces could fit in the area.
Despite the parking issue, Thompson said the county is comfortable with all other components of the project and it meets code standards.
He also asserted that it is normal for a project to be denied by the county on the first try to initiate a construction project.
As an example, Thompson said Walgreens re-submitted plans about four or five times to get approval of its plans to build at the Manklin Station Shopping Center off Manklin Creek Road.
Finishing his report on the Yacht Club project, Thompson said they would re-use as much kitchen equipment as possible to save money. If any unit has been in use for a long period of time, it will be looked at to see if an upgrade would be less expensive than purchasing a new product.
The topic then turned to the natural gas pipe lines that will soon give Ocean Pines residents the opportunity to save money on their energy bills. While Thompson said the OPA has no official role in the project, he is communicating with the provider and county officials.
The final segments of natural gas lines traveling through southern Delaware are in being placed and should be complete by the end of November, following a pressure test to ensure the lines can extend so far south.
Realistically, Thompson said homeowners would be able to connect to the new line next fall.
“It’s a process that’s not going to happen overnight," Thompson said.
According to Thompson, two unknowns influence his estimate: it has yet to be decided if the pipeline will first enter the north or south gate. He said the question is whether pipes should travel to the north gate first, since they will be coming to Ocean Pines from Route 113, or the south gate because of the stronger commercial presence.
Another problem is that homes may have difficulty converting to natural gas. In older homes, some appliances might be difficult to convert from propane use some might have to be replaced. All homes also must go through a safety evaluation before the pipes are connected.
Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting warned the audience that they wouldn’t notice an instant decrease on their energy bills once natural gas is installed.
"You’re going to save money, but don’t think it’s going to be half off," he said.
Moving from those issues, Thompson went on to first answer questions previously submitted to the OPA.
The first question asked why meetings are in the middle of the week, instead of the weekend.
Thompson said meetings have been scheduled on both weekdays and weekends to give more opportunities for those who wish to attend meetings.
Another questioner asked for more mosquito spraying in the community.
The general manager asserted that adequate spraying has continued to be applied to properties. He said newer trucks have a quieter pump system that allows them to spray in the early hours of the morning, while most residents are asleep.
One message to Thompson sent prior to the meeting said that coming to the meeting would be a waste of time because the person has no confidence in Thompson’s plans and anything suggested to the general manager won’t influence his decision.
In response, Thompson invited the person to come and talk to him personally, saying that he wishes to hear from anyone who has an opinion about the community.
A member then asked how the Yacht Club project can proceed while ditches in the community do not provide adequate drainage.
Thompson said he has been aware of drainage issues, specifically in the north gate area around Beauchamp Road. Working with River Run, the OPA will increase the size of drainage pipes so they can handle heavy storms.
"[The pipes] will be able to get the water out a lot quicker," Bunting added.
Thompson said the drainage project could begin in spring, although nothing is certain, as much of the work would be done on the River Run premise.
"Unfortunately, we can’t control another person’s property," Thompson said.
Among the pre-submitted questions was one from Tres Denk, a member of the Recreation & Parks Advisory Committee, who asked if additional trails would be built for mountain bikes.
Thompson said the OPA is interested in the idea and that he would like to connect the trails that intertwine throughout the community.
A resident has recently offered her services to write grants for the OPA, which could result in additional funds for the association to build such trails.
Denk said a meeting is planned for the community to discuss trail projects on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Ocean Pines branch of the Worcester County Library.
In response to a question asking why the paddleball courts in Manklin Meadows have not been resurfaced, Thompson said maintenance has been done on them over the past two years. However, he does believe it’s time to completely resurface the area.
Audience members were then given a chance to speak to Thompson before the end of the meeting.
One member directed conversation back to the natural gas lines, asking if Ocean Pines will solely use natural gas in the future.
While the OPA will look into the option of properties installing propane tanks underground, Thompson said it appears that the intent of the project is to provide only natural gas to residents.
Concerning the SC Johnson Green Choice Recycling Challenge, an audience member said he has had difficulty reporting his numbers online.
Recalling that Waste Management has previously set up days to come to Ocean Pines to help residents record their data, Thompson said he would speak to the company to schedule additional dates.
Thompson continued to address questions concerning issues isolated to specific areas of the community, and near the end of the meeting, gave an update on what are likely the next two components of the OPA’s facility maintenance project.
The Ocean Pines Beach Club in Ocean City will likely have its parking lot paved to add more parking spaces.
While the structure is not in need of a complete overhaul, it could also receive new flooring on its second floor, as well as an air conditioning system.