Connelly Mill residents support land gift

Residents of Shadow Hills residential community urged the Wicomico County Council to accept a donation of 234 acres off Connelly Mill Road, where they said noisy and often illicit activities disrupt their quality of life.

During the Public Comments portion of the meeting, held earlier this month, Casey Taylor, president of the Shadow Hills Homeowners’ Association, said the property has been “a continuous concern for residents.”

“Land owners are not local residents to the best of our knowledge, but have only attempted to post no trespassing signs, which are quickly removed by people attempting to use this property,” she said.

Bonfires have been spotted and multiple gunshots heard “at all times of day or night.”

“Shots are often heard at late hours and into the middle of the night,” she said.

Residents have also heard about cars being abandoned there and illegal drug use, Taylor said.

Salisbury Police told residents they don’t have a vehicle that can access the area, so the Sheriff’s Office has to respond, she said.

“The HOA believes this valuable property will be an asset to Wicomico County,” Taylor said.

Resident Scott Taylor said activities there “constituent a nuisance and potential danger.”

By the time police or deputies arrives, trespassers have disappeared, he said.

“I’m not going back there because I don’t know what I‘ll be met by if I try to confront somebody,” he said.

While barbecuing at home, he has heard dirt bikes on the property and as late as 10:30 p.m. was disturbed by four-wheel trucks with loud mufflers.

“I think it would be very beneficial to the county to have that property and preserve that green space,” he said.

Discussion about accepting the property began in December last year,  with the initial offer being met with concerns about contamination – which testing proved is not a problem – to proximity to the Paleo Channel water source.

But Weston Young, Assistant Administrator for the county, told the Salisbury Independent it was determined the source protection boundary of the Paleo Channel is over 1,000 feet away from the property.

“What we are connecting into is a different acquifer than the Paleo Channel,” he said.

Young was instructed by County Council members to complete a cross benefit analysis if the stormwater ponds on the property were dug out more deeply.

“There is plenty of recreational value to taking over this site. To help balance the fact we are losing some tax revenue we would mine or dig out those storm water ponds deeper. Right now they are not that wet. In the past, they dug just above ground water. They dug 18 feet deep and the dirt was used to build the bypass,” Young explained.

If approved, county officials want to use the soil to cover trash at the landfill. Every 8 feet of trash is covered with a foot of dirt and cover material. At the end of each day, another six inches is placed over garbage to deter vermin and dogs.

Young said he is confident the site is not contaminated, after seeing test results.

Adjacent to the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex, the property, zoned R-8, is owned, in part, by Salisbury lawyer Steven Smethurst.

When the County Council first began talking about the land donation, Young told the Council firing range backstops were found there from a range located there more than 50 years ago, that was not always contained. Some officers shot at pop-up targets, he said. Aerial photographs identified a cluster of farm houses on the site, but no underground tanks were on file as having been registered.

Two monitoring wells were located, one with an official registration and another apparently used to measure for groundwater levels.

Debris was encountered, from household trash to a burned-out car, burned-out boat and dilapidated recreational trailer. Weather stripping and electrical wire were buried.

Water samples were taken from the east, central and western areas from ponds dug down to groundwater level. They were exposed to the elements, so also included rainwater, Young said.

Tests were completed for elements including volatile compounds, pesticides, herbicides and pollutant metals. Trace amounts of metals were found. Arsenic was discerned, but can occur naturally, Young said.

When the land was offered, donors set a deadline of Dec. 29 for the County to accept the property, so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Young said the donors offered to extend the deadline, if the County waived the $18,000 tax bill, drawing laughter from some Council members.

Council President John Cannon asked each Councilman if he would agree to waive taxes and the majority said they would not.


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