Two coastal buffer proposals rejected in Worcester County Commission asks planners to suggest law clarification

November 20, 1996|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

SNOW HILL -- In a remarkable display of unanimity, the Worcester County Commission voted down two sharply conflicting bills yesterday that would have changed the county's coastal setback rules.

The commissioners asked the planning commission to study the existing law and report to them in two weeks with suggestions on clarifying it. The law, enforced by the county zoning board, is an effort to protect the shoreline along tidal waters of the coastal bays and tributaries.

Both bills were voted down, 4-0 (Commissioner Granville D. Trimper was absent), in a brief action that was not listed on the agenda. The votes were surprising because they indicated apparent agreement on an issue that had divided the commission for several months and because three of the commissioners were voting against bills they had sponsored.

"The art of politics is compromise," said James Barrett, commission president.

"That's right -- there's no dishonor in a good compromise," said Commissioner Jeanne Lynch.

The votes came several weeks after a lively and lengthy public hearing on the issue of protecting Worcester County's waterways.

After a Tom Horton column published in August by The Sun described, with words and photographs, how one Trappe Creek landowner had cleared his property to the waterline in apparent violation of existing law, two bills to amend the law were put forward.

One bill, sponsored by Commissioners Trimper, Robert Cowger and James Purnell, would have reduced the buffer required from 50 to 25 feet and allowed use of turf sod at the shoreline. A second bill, introduced by Lynch, would have expanded the buffer to 100 feet and required the use of indigenous vegetation in a series of clearly defined buffer zones.

The public hearing in October drew a large and interested crowd. All four commissioners said that hearing had caused them to reconsider their positions.

"We want to get all the information we can," said Barrett. He said clarification is needed because the commission felt the law was confusing and badly written.

Barrett added that the setback rules were one part of the overall issue: protection of the environment. "But there's a lot of work to be done," he said. "This is one part ofthe problem."

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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