(Nov. 1, 2019) The Worcester County Department of Review and Permitting rejected the five appeal cases from full-time residents of the seasonal White Horse Park campground subdivision before they could go to the Board of Zoning Appeals, effectively throwing another roadblock in the path of their movement to live at the park year-round.
Claiming they didn’t know about the zoning regulation or that they were told it didn’t matter, the residents originally sought to remain in the park when local attorney Hugh Cropper proposed a text amendment that would allow full-time residents as of June 2018 to remain in the park until they sell the unit, live there seasonally or die.
Both the county planning commission and county commissioners rejected the amendment, citing the park’s lack of infrastructure to serve residents year-round. Cropper filed five appeal cases for his clients on the basis that the county waited too long to enforce the zoning code, therefore invalidating the fines of up to $1,000 the county warned of via letters to all residents.
However, Ed Tudor, director of review and permitting, rejected the appeal on the basis that its mention of the Department of Review and Permitting and enforcement action is incorrect.
“There was no enforcement action taken,” Tudor said. “It was a letter stating what could happen.”
He also maintained that it was not the department that held responsibility for the enforcement plan, but rather the county commissioners. However, Cropper said he respectfully disagreed with Tudor’s interpretation of enforcement action and the county commissioners.
“I don’t think there’s a reasonable person in this county that would not believe that to be an enforcement action,” Cropper said. “If you got that letter in the mail that says if you don’t move out of your house you’re going to be fined up to $1,000 a day, I think you would see that as enforcement action.”
He added that the county commissioners would have to rely on staff from development review and permitting to enforce the zoning regulations.
“The department is an agency of the county commissioners,” Cropper said. “The department doesn’t exist independently of the county commissioners.”
He voiced frustration that none of the full-time residents have received proper housing assistance, even when they attended the meeting the county set up to connect them with local agencies.
“From a humanitarian perspective, I really don’t understand it,” Cropper said. “Are they really going to take people on a fixed income, who can barely afford their mortgage, and fine them $1,000 a day and effectively throw them out of their house because they stay there two or three months too long in the winter?”
He said he plans to take the issue to a higher court, but isn’t sure exactly what that will be yet.