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For the second time in two months, county officials denied a request for sewer capacity in West Ocean City, Md.

According to The Dispatch, on Tuesday (Dec. 19), the Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3 to deny a request for 71 EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) from Frontier Town, which Michigan-based Sun Communities owns. Several commissioners argued that the county’s new EDU policy (and associated EDU allocation table) approved earlier this year assigned the area’s available EDUs to specific purposes.

“We didn’t allocate for Frontier Town in that table…,” Commissioner Jim Bunting said. “We have a plan. We all signed it.”

According to county staff, in March of this year Frontier Town purchased 166 EDUs from the Mystic Harbour Sanitary Service Area to eliminate the existing campground’s septic system. In November, Frontier Town asked to purchase another 71 EDUs.

Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, told the commissioners this week that while the county had 55 EDUs allocated for the area south of the airport, they were set aside for specific purposes, such as vacant lots and commercial infill. He said that there were 298 EDUs allocated for the area north of the airport that could potentially be sold to Frontier Town.

“Once EDUs are transferred from one category to another and sold, they will no longer be available for the originally intended purpose,” he said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked what would happen when the EDUs had all been allocated and property owners needed sewer capacity.

“It would require modifications to the plant,” Shannahan said, adding that finding a place to dispose of effluent would be a larger problem than expanding the wastewater treatment plant itself.

Commissioner Ted Elder asked what would happen if a septic tank failed and there was no sewer capacity available at the plant. County staff members explained that a holding tank would have to be used if that occurred.

Attorney Hugh Cropper, representing Frontier Town, said that the county had borrowed $8 million to upgrade the Mystic Harbour plant and could repay that loan through the sale of EDUs. He said Frontier Town was asking for just 71 of 353 total available EDUs.

“The debt associated with 353 EDUs is over $4 million,” he said. “The question is how are you going to repay that loan? You got in the business of EDUs to sell them to repay the loan.”

Cropper said that if EDUs were not sold to cover the loan repayment the debt would fall on taxpayers, more specifically the users of the Mystic Harbour Sanitary Service Area.

“If there was ever a place to sell EDUs, this is it,” Cropper said. “

He stressed that Sun Communities had purchased the facility and was improving it by eliminating the septic system.

“They voluntarily came in and bought 166 EDUs,” he said.

He said when the company had applied for a change in zoning from commercial to agricultural, it had been to expand the campground. Cropper pointed out the expansion had already been approved by the county’s various commissions.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably close to a million dollars, developing the expansion to this campground which we assumed the county embraced…,” Cropper said. “This is a huge mess for my client who has completely renovated the campground, (is) going to get rid of the drain fields, paid lots of taxes, lots of hospitality taxes, employed lots of people, all with the idea of doing this campground expansion. Literally they’re dumbfounded.”

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