Summerfield project moves forward
By Bob Lassahn
During the June 7 session of the Worcester County Commissioners the Summerfield project, a subdivision of about 2,000 new homes planned by developer Mark Odachowski that could eventually be annexed to the town of Snow Hill, took two steps forward.
The commissioner’s meeting chamber was relegated to standing room only, even after opening up an adjacent anteroom and a request for extra chairs by Commission President Sonny Bloxom. The items pertaining to the Summerfield project were not scheduled for a public hearing during the meeting but the community had turned out in force.
A necessary amendment to the Worcester County Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan was approved by the commissioners with little fanfare after an eleventh hour change that removed the Castle Hill Estates and several other areas from the amendment. In a letter dated June 6, Mr. Odachowski notified the commissioners that the areas outside of the actual annexation should be removed from the service area to “honor the concerns of our neighbors at Castle Hill Estates and elsewhere.” The public hearing for the service area amendment was held during the May 27 session of the commissioners and there were several individuals who spoke against the issue.
A second item relating to the Summerfield project introduced to the commissioners was the question of rezoning upon annexation. The significant turnout led Commissioner Bud Church to introduce a motion not to modify procedures in order to provide for public comment. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Tom Cetola, but met with objection from Commissioner Judy Boggs. When a vote was called the motion carried by a four-to-three margin with Commissioners Boggs, Bloxom and Virgil Shockley voting against it.
Since any opportunity for public comment on the rezoning was blocked Commissioner Bloxom took a few moments to explain the process to those in attendance, advising that the county had limited control regarding a potential annexation. The issue of annexation is to be decided by the town through passage of a resolution that is subject to a public hearing and, if passed, could still be challenged by petitioning the question to referendum.
Ed Tudor, director of the county Department of Development Review and Permitting presented staff findings to the commissioners that were generally favorable to the potential rezoning of areas to be annexed including 24 separate parcels and about 1,021 acres. When the vote was called the commissioners approved the rezoning with six voting favorably and Commissioner Shockley abstaining.
The Summerfield project has garnered support from the County Planning Commission as being consistent with the State’s Smart Growth Initiative, keeping growth in areas adjacent to existing municipalities and established growth areas. The mayor and city council of Snow Hill also appear solidly behind the project by Mr. Odachowski that could nearly double the population when build-out is achieved.
There was obviously a turnout before the commissioners that was in support of the Summerfield project. Since no public comment was allowed the position of the majority of citizens in attendance remains uncertain, but it was obvious by the actions and comments of the commissioners they believed at least some were there to demonstrate an objection to the project. The question of annexation for Summerfield has jumped through several bureaucratic hoops on the county level successfully, but still faces acceptance by the town.
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