SNOW HILL – Developer Jack Burbage’s plans for a small community at Salt Grass Point Farm near Bishopville are a little closer to fruition after the Worcester County Planning Commission approved his preliminary plat.
After some discussion centering on open space and the wetlands along the St. Martin River, the commission voted favorably on the plat, giving Burbage the go-ahead to move on with the 12-lot cluster subdivision.
The commission also approved a waiver of the open space requirement.
Aside from 37 acres of public open space, there is private open space, Burbage attorney Hugh Cropper said. While under the law, open private land does not fulfill code requirements, but on this plan, some private land clearly functions as open space.
According to Cropper, 29 1/2 percent of the property will be open space, and there could be more after the critical area buffers are set. Buffers, unbuildable areas measuring 100 feet inland from the tidal line, can be even larger depending on soils and other local conditions.
The wetlands and buffer area are already protected, Cropper reassured the Planning Commission.
“People that buy those will be constrained by the wetlands laws,” he said.
The property is partly in the critical area, according to land planner Robert Hand, and would have seven lots in the area and five outside it. All would be large estate lots.
Cropper said the developer envisions large lots with some suitable for mini-horse farms.
Under the Critical Area law, the developer is allowed to construct one house per every 20 acres.
Planning Commission member Jeanne Lynch, one of the County Commissioners who passed the county’s Critical Area law and well known for pro-environmental views, suggested putting some of the land under a conservation easement.
Cropper said that the situation does not lend itself to an easement, unlike one of Burbage’s other projects, Bay Pointe Plantation.
“We’re just looking at a strip of marsh here,” Cropper said.
“A strip of marsh is a strip of marsh, especially along the St. Martin River,” Lynch said.
Cropper said that each property’s deed would require a buffer management plan.
Burbage said that the sites would be well protected by existing laws.
That is a matter of opinion. Lynch said.
“It’s buffer. You can’t touch the buffer,” said Cropper.
“There’s always one person who decides it doesn’t mean me,” Lynch said.
The plat does not show any piers because current law restricts piers over wetlands to 100 feet, which is not enough in this case to reach open water.
Lynch said she wanted the declaration to include the lack of riparian rights.
“I’d like to see it stay in. I’m not voting to approve it unless it stays in,” she said.
She also suggested reserving an area for community water access.
Hand said they would have to do soundings and determine how to reach the channel.
According to county staff, it would be difficult to get the Maryland Department of the Environment to permit a pier because of the length needed and the shallow water.
Cropper said the developer would have to look into it.
One item the developer does not have to look into is sewer service. Lighthouse Sound sewer service area has been amended to include the Salt Grass Cove development.
“It’s going to be just sewer. Individual lots will have private wells,” said Hand.
“Cropper added, “This has been subject to quite a bit of study from the sewer point of view.”