New Worcester County Commercial Building Guidelines Taking Effect

A December 19 Delmarva article discusses the impact of new commercial building guidelines that the Worcester County Planning Commission adopted in 2009 as the first projects to be affected by the guidelines near completion.  The article notes that the guidelines are designed to avoid the traditional “strip mall” appearance and instead “incorporate traditional seaside colors, porches, and rooflines.”

Jennifer Burke, zoning administrator for Worcester County, oversees the permitting and zoning division and also reviews commercial site plans. She said the guidelines were drawn up in 2009 to move the evaluation of an architectural plan from being subjective to being carefully planned.  …

“Having a standard will give a sense of consistency,” she said.

Marlene Ott, president of the Worcester County Planning Commission, said, “These guidelines were set up to give this area a unique and pleasant and almost expected feel. We call it Eastern Shore vernacular architecture. (These guidelines were implemented) so it doesn’t look like it belongs in Baltimore or downtown Columbia.”  …

The guidelines include approved rules for rooflines, signage, parking lots, lighting, landscaping, windows, architectural embellishments and colors, among others. It is divided into three traditions — seaside, town center and agricultural — reflecting the three traditional areas of the county.

The article also notes that some architects worry that the new design guidelines are unnecessarily restrictive:

[Becker Morgan Group architect Jason] Pearce shared that this has been a challenge.

“No question about it. Whereas in other jurisdictions, we basically need to follow the building code, in this case it’s more aesthetic. We can only do a certain type of design in a certain location,” he said.

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