A circuit court appeal and lawsuit involving the Worcester County Commissioners could allow the case of the full-time residents of the White Horse Park campground subdivision to move on to the board of zoning appeals and/or eliminate any zoning violation fines.

(Nov. 29, 2019) The fight for full-time residents to remain at the White Horse Park campground sparked up again last Tuesday, when attorney Hugh Cropper filed suit in Worcester County Circuit Court over county government’s refusal to adapt the zoning code so residents could live there legally year-round.

Two days later, last Thursday, Cropper filed a request with the court for a declaratory judgement and injunction halting any action against the residents. 

The zoning law applicable to that subdivision states that residents may only occupy their properties for 30 consecutive days, or an aggregate of 60 days, between Sept. 30 and April 1. 

They can live there full-time throughout the other months. Roughly 50 to 60 units of the 465-unit community are occupied by full-time residents, many of whom claim they were never informed of the seasonal zoning or that they could live there year-round anyway. 

During a June 2018 White Horse Park board meeting, Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting insisted that the residents follow the zoning laws. That prompted a proposed zoning code amendment sought by residents and Cropper that would have allowed current full-time residents to remain. After the commissioners rejected the amendment, they sent letters to residents to warn them of potential fines of up to $1,000 a day if they violated the zoning regulations. 

Cropper filed five appeals with the county Board of Zoning Appeals that argued the county waited too long to enforce the regulations. Ed Tudor, director of review and permitting, rejected the cases before the board could review them, contending that there was no enforcement, but rather a warning of enforcement action.

He added that appeal was invalid because it mentions the Department of Review and Permitting, while he claims that the county is the agency giving warnings. 

Cropper hopes the circuit court will overturn Tudor’s decision and send the cases to the board of appeals for review. As for his pursuit of the declaratory judgement, it asks the judge to resolve the dispute and declare the rights of the parties. Cropper is specifically seeking to stop the county from fining and evicting the full-time residents. 

“You can’t not enforce a law for 33 years, allow people to rely on that, allow them to build houses, take mortgages out, sell their other properties and then decide after 33 years you’re going to enforce the law,” Cropper said. “If I win that, it will be up to the 55 residents when they move out.”

Thus far, Cropper has not heard of any fines being imposed. 

He believes he has a good chance to win both cases. Cropper reiterated that the residents have a basic right to feel safe and secure and with a place to live. 

“People are upset,” Cropper said. “They’re scared. They’re panicked and it’s all because of the county’s threats. It’s awful. It’s despicable.” 

No court dates have been determined yet.   

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