Ocean City Today

Frontier Town appeals county EDU decision

By Brian Gilliland | Jan 25, 2018
Photo by: File photo

(Jan. 26, 2018) The 4-3 decision of the Worcester County Commissioners in December to adhere to a plan prioritizing certain kinds of sewer capacity over others has been appealed to Worcester Circuit Court.

At issue are 71 equivalent dwelling units of sewer capacity Frontier Town attempted to buy to facilitate a campground expansion.

The move to expand was a copy of what Sun Communities did at the Castaways campsite it purchased in 2014, Hugh Cropper, attorney, said. Cropper said at Castaways, Sun Communities purchased the property, moved the campground from septic to public services, and then expanded the campground onto the drain field.

“It worked so well they decided to buy Frontier Town and do the same thing,” he said.

If it had proceeded the way Sun Communities had planned it, Cropper said during the peak season, about 90,000 gallons per day of wastewater would be removed from the watershed and be managed by public services instead.

Expansion or not, Cropper said Sun Communities would still be removing about 50,000 gallons per day from the watershed, though it was not obligated to and “won’t make a penny more” than it currently does.

The rejection comes based on a plan the commissioners ratified in September that divides up the remaining EDUs available at the Mystic Harbour Sanitary Service Area into priority categories in two areas: north and south.

Sun Communities purchased 166 EDUs from the county in March at a cost of about $1.28 million to transition the park from septic to public services. Included in that deal was an agreement for Frontier Town to build, and eventually deed to the county, a pumping station to ensure wastewater flow.

Currently, Sun Communities cannot use those 166 EDUs without the pumping station, Kelly Shannahan, assistant county administrator, previously confirmed.

With that deal in place, and following a rezoning approval to provide for a 213-site campground expansion on an adjacent property, Sun Communities sought an additional 71 EDUs to service the expansion.

The problem is, the south area where Frontier Town is located, doesn’t have 71 EDUs to sell according to the September plan.

According to the county, the area only has 55 remaining EDUs total, and Frontier Town ranks seventh in its list of priorities, behind infill development south of the airport, vacant or multi-lot properties, Assateague Greens golf course, the Ocean City Airport, clubhouse and the humane society and several others.

The north area of the Mystic Harbour Sanitary Service Area has 298 EDUs left to sell.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic moved to fulfill Frontier Town’s request by moving additional EDUs from the north area to the south, which was seconded by Commissioner Bud Church. The motion was defeated as only Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw joined the idea.

A subsequent motion to deny the sale was approved by Commissioner President Diana Purnell, Vice President Ted Elder, and Commissioners Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting, while Lockfaw, Church and Mitrecic voted against.

Cropper said during the December meeting he would advise his client to seek a full refund of the 166 EDUs the theme park had already purchased, the $71,000 his client supplied as a deposit on the 71 EDUs he sought and to scrap the deal to install a pumping station.

Jessica Wilson, enterprise fund controller for the county, which includes the water/wastewater funds, said she is not aware of the county ever offering refunds on the sale of EDUs.

The Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant was expanded based on the county government’s ability to sell EDUs to pay back the loan used to fund the expansion. Wilson said in December the county needed to sell 20 EDUs per year to keep current with the loan payments.

If the loan burden is not met, the cost reverts back to the taxpayers to cover. Wilson said the county could continue to make payments on the loan until July 2018 without selling any additional EDUs.

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