Ocean City Today

Worcester Co. denies Sea Oaks EDU request

By Brian Gilliland | Oct 19, 2017

(Oct. 20, 2017) New owners don’t necessarily get a new chance to develop property once deemed unsuitable for the use because of its “environmentally sensitive” nature and the determination that “developing the property does not constitute smart growth,” the Worcester County Commissioners decided in a 4-3 vote last Tuesday.

In the end, like so many other development options in Worcester County, it comes down to water and sewer capacity, which is measured in EDUs.

In late February 2016, the commissioners allowed the then owner of the 40-acre parcel just north of the airport on Route 611 to transfer the EDUs from that land to the site of the former “Wheels of Yesteryear” museum on Route 50 — another property he owned in West Ocean City.

In allowing this transfer, the commissioners also decided they would not allow any further transactions of this nature in the county.

The justification for moving the capacity was based on attorney Hugh Cropper’s assertion that leaving the 40-acre plot vacant was the right thing to do for the county and its wildlife.

“The site is wooded — what a great thing for deer, turkeys, frogs and planning,” he said in February 2016.

Commissioner Bud Church, in attempting to allow a new purchase of 139 EDUs to build out the site, decided that was all lawyer talk.

“It’s an attorney representing his client,” Church said. “Our purpose is to promote growth.”

The county’s planning commission gave the proposal a favorable report, but the technical review committee advised either a text amendment or map amendment would be required before the project could proceed.

The commissioners were charged with deciding between three options offered by staff. The first was to not allow the sale of any EDUs to be associated with the parcel. Next, the commissioners could restore the original 40 EDUs to the lot, and finally, they could approve the request for more than triple the original amount of allotted EDUs to support the development.

Either way, the EDUs represented a majority of the available residential capacity in the area.

The new owners, identified only as Sea Oaks LLC after the proposed name of the neighborhood, were petitioning for water and sewer capacity in support of a 135-townhome development along with 24,000 square feet of commercial space.

Church moved to allow the purchase of 139 EDUs, which failed due to a lack of a second.

“The dynamics have changed but the property hasn’t,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.

Bertino moved to deny the sale, with Commissioner Ted Elder seconding.

“I feel like someone is pulling wool over someone’s eyes,” Elder said.

The motion carried with commissioners Merrill Lockfaw, Joe Mitrecic and Church opposed.

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