Moore Withdraws Vacation Home Regs; Cecil County Council Backs Water, Sewer Plan Changes

January 14, 2015

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore has withdrawn a controversial proposal to impose tough new regulations on single-family homeowners who rent their property to vacationers. And the Cecil County Council endorsed changes to the county’s water and sewer plan to expedite services in the “growth corridor” and a proposed private drug rehab hospital in rural Earleville.

The actions came at a 1/13/15 Elkton worksession of the Cecil County Council, whose members had raised questions previously about Moore’s proposed new law to strictly regulate thousands of single-family homes throughout the county in response to a few citizen complaints about one house in Earleville.

Under Moore’s proposal, property owners would have had to obtain in advance a “special exception” from the county’s board of appeals, have the property inspected by zoning and health agencies, provide off-street parking at the rate of two parking spaces per bedroom in the house, and limit occupancy to two persons per bedroom. In addition, rentals would have to be for a minimum of five days and for no more than “four weeks per month.”

The proposal defined a ‘vacation rental home’ as “a transient vacation rental or use in which overnight accommodations are provided in a family residential dwelling unit to guests for compensation for periods of less than 30 days.”

The regulations received a chilly reception from the county’s Planning Commission on 12/15/14, when the proposal died for lack of a second on a motion to approve it.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: ]

Several County Council members had subsequently questioned the need for county-wide regulations to deal with problems at one property—which county planning and zoning officials are already taking to court in two existing ordinance enforcement cases that will be heard in District Court later this month. Some people had complained that a mansion on Veazey Cove Road was being rented out for weddings, parties and transient vacationer stays that caused noise and other problems in the community.

With little public support from anyone except one nearby resident, Moore’s proposed law was seen by many as a solution in search of a problem. So Moore withdrew the proposal via a brief email sent on 1/12/15 to the County Council by County Attorney Jason Allison, who wrote: “The County Executive respectfully requests that this legislation be withdrawn.”

Council President Robert Hodge (R-5), who had introduced the bill at Moore’s request, noted the withdrawal at Tuesday’s worksession without further comment.

Meanwhile, Hodge raised some eyebrows when he suggested, during discussion of revisions to the county’s water and sewer master plan, that a proposed private drug rehab hospital on Grove Neck Road in Earleville might be allowed to tap into a planned seven-mile water pipeline from the town of Cecilton that is being financed by the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) to replace water wells in three Earleville communities that were polluted by the nearby US Army Corps of Engineers dumpsite at Pearce Creek.

The Corps recently won approval of a state environmental permit to resume shipping channel dredge spoils dumping at the site– but only on condition that the Cecilton water pipeline would be built to serve the affected area homes.

The new master plan includes the Cecilton waterline but from the outset of discussions involving the Corps, the MPA and Cecilton Mayor Joseph Zang, the line has always been proposed as a “closed” system that would not allow other properties along the seven-mile path to tap into the line. Most of the lands along the route are zoned rural residential or Southern Agricultural Residential, with no provision for public water or sewer services so as to limit growth in the rural area.

The proposed owners of the Bracebridge Hall drug rehab hospital asked the county government to grant them a “W2” designation in the master water plan, allowing them to create an on-site water supply system within the next two years via wells to serve 200 people. The 200 person figure cited in the new water plan amendment sought by the hospital is higher than the 150-bed patient capacity the for-profit hospital developers had previously asked the county to approve in earlier submitted documents.

Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) initially registered a “no” comment on adding the Bracebridge Hall request to the master water plan. In subsequent discussion she revised her view after county planning officials, and Mayor Zang who was in the room, clarified that there was no provision for the drug hospital, to be operated by Recovery Centers of America—owned by a Philadelphia real estate developer with no previous experience operating such a drug abuse rehab facility—to tie in to the Cecilton water pipeline.

But “Why couldn’t they tie in,” Hodge asked. “Does the town have a problem with that, or the state?”

County Planning and Zoning Director Eric Sennstrom responded that the Bracebridge Hall property did not qualify for such a connection because it could not demonstrate a “health hazard” problem such as the three Earleville communities whose water wells had been polluted by the US Army Corps of Engineers dumpsite at Pearce Creek. (The Bracebridge Hall property is about three miles away, and on a different road, from the dumpsite-affected communities.)

Eventually, the County Council agreed that as long as the Bracebridge Hall site was going to set up water wells on its own property, and not try to tap in to the Cecilton pipeline, the panel would agree to the developer’s request.

After the worksession, Hodge told Cecil Times that he personally felt that if a government-built utility line was being constructed, anyone along that line should be able to tap into it. But he conceded that he understood that residents of rural areas might object to such a position so as to preserve the rural quality of such areas.

“That’s just me,” Hodge said. “But I understand how people could disagree with that position.”

In other discussions, the Council supported several requests by the private Artesian Resources company, which holds franchises to provide water services in many areas of the county, to expedite provision of services in several “growth corridor” areas in the Route 40/I95 areas of the county. However, in a few areas, Artesian proposed spreading out the time-frame for provision of water services, which would allow individual property owners to obtain a permit for an on-site well to build a home because there was no immediate prospect for public water services.

The Town of North East has objected to several elements of the updated water and sewer plan, in large part because the town has pursued a policy of annexing lands so as to hook them in to town water and sewer services. (North East Mayor Robert McKnight has annexed many major developer projects into the town, and his failed campaign for county executive was primarily financed by individuals and businesses tied to the Clark Turner development operation that has benefitted from annexation.)

The town of North East now objects to some provisions of the new water and sewer master plan that might put the town into competition with the private Artesian operation. The County Council deferred discussion of the town’s objections into a closed session with the county attorney.

The Council worksession’s preliminary decisions still must be ratified at a formal legislative session later in the month.

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3 Responses to Moore Withdraws Vacation Home Regs; Cecil County Council Backs Water, Sewer Plan Changes

  1. Joe C on January 19, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Totally amazing, campaign contributions can buy anything in Cecil county! Clark Turner entities funded Ms. Moore’s campaign also, especially after she was elected. The entire council should recuse themselves since they all received support through CBL which was funded by entities which will benefit from the new revised water and sewer plan. The current rate payers will pay for the expansion of sewer on Rt 40, while those who benefit will not pay the towards the bond for the project like the other 5 sewer districts in Cecil County. This how rate payers and taxpayers are treated in Cecil County.

  2. Joe "Q" Public on February 14, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I still don’t understand how Indian Acres is kicking out the people who live on the site full time. They pay county taxes and the ones left and forced to move out by the end of May 2015. If you maintain your property, follow all of the rules and regulations.

    How does Indian Acres throw out good people who own their “campsite”, as W.S.C. Inc calls it on their rules. I find it funny that Indian Acres and owner Robert Minissale of W.S.C. Inc sell full two story homes to “campers”. Tell me because you list W.S.C. Inc as a non-profit, it’s ok to make “owners” leave to go Where? I can’t see Cecilton putting them to the front of the line for the affordable housing that they are building. Hmmm, think about that, politicians.

  3. Nowhere Man on February 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I live in what the powers that be in Elkton call “the middle of nowhere”– south of the Canal in Cecil County– so I guess I’m too stupid to ask any questions. But if I had a brain, I would ask how much of the taxpayers money was spent on coming up with these vacation home rental regulations, how many hours of the county attorney time, how many hours of the planning and zoning staff, and how much of our county executive’s time was wasted on this dumb idea.

    Why do such stupid ideas get so much time and attention, at taxpayer costs when we have so many other real problems that no one in elkton is paying attention to?

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