Citizens confront council with property rights fights
Indian Acres owners fight recent sale
— Cecil County’s newly organized county council was greeted by more than 100 citizens Tuesday night who had a myriad of private property rights issues surrounding Indian Acres campground, Glen Farms and potential commercial chicken farms.
Indian Acres funstead lot owners brought out the
largest contingency, but only two lot owners spoke during the meeting, while several stayed after the meeting to talk with council members one-on-one outside, as they were leaving.
Duane Maeser, president of the Indian Acres Property Owners Association, said the group is opposed to a pending amendment to change the campground zoning ordinance in Cecil County that lot owners fear will allow the management of the campground to change it into a “resort town.”
“Another campground could cripple the six other campgrounds that are already in the county,” he said.
The amendment would allow low-density residential zones to host recreational vehicle parks with a special exception, which would require a petitioner to successfully navigate both the planning commission and county council. Recreational vehicle parks are already allowed in northern and southern agricultural zones and manufactured home zones under certain conditions.
If the amendment is
approved by the council, its usage would be expanded into the low-density residential zone allowing expanded uses; such as small restaurants, grocery stores and hotels up to 25 guest rooms and marinas only in the lowdensity residential zone, if the owner gets a special exception.
The zoning amendment is scheduled to be heard by the county council at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20. The request has already received recommendations for approval from the county planning staff and the county planning commission last month.
Despite the concerns of Indian Acres residents, those who requested the zoning amendment say they are not interested in developing the Earleville campground.
“This request will not impact Indian Acres,” said Dwight Thomey, an attorney who represents Blue Water Development Corporation, a group interested in establishing a resort-type campground near the northern end of the Elk River off Oldfield Point Road.
“I’ve never been to Indian Acres and I’m not interested in it for a resort,” added Todd Burbage, of Blue Water Development.
The controversy may have arisen out of the fact that Burbage attended the Nov. 19 planning commission meeting along with Joe Behrle, owner of a Pennsylvania construction company, who would partner with Burbage on the Elk River camp resort project. Burbage has developed similar resorts elsewhere in Maryland and Delaware, primarily by popular beaches like Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Suspicions were heightened when the management of Indian Acres, including its road network and amenities, was sold by longtime owner Robert Minissale to a group of investors that includes Behrle on Nov. 23 — the day before Thanksgiving. Many residents drove from out of state to protest the sale at the campgrounds that day, but were unsuccessful in preventing the settlement.
Queens Point RV and Resort Campground is the name of Indian Acres’ new owner and management company, effective Nov. 29. In a letters to lot owners, company officials disputed all claims that they want to make massive changes and say they will not raise annual membership dues.
“Another rumor is that the nature of the campground is changing,” the letter reads. “This is simply not true. You will see over the coming months many of the same faces you regularly see working the campground.”
Regardless of whether changes are coming to Indian Acres, however, the lot owners assert that restrictions in their deeds allow them to collectively buy the campground when occupancy exceeds 80 percent, which they say they’ve achieved. They argue the recent sale should have been superseded by their opportunity to buy.
Tanya Emkey, a lot owner in Indian Acres, told the Cecil County Council Tuesday night that the owners have hired Frank V. Boozer Jr., of Towson, as legal counsel and they intend to fight against the amendment and against the sale of the park.
“We own our lots,” she said. “By making these changes, you’re saying we can have a hotel in our campground. Through our deed restrictions, we’re confident we own our campground.”
Councilman Dan Schneckenburger said he would investigate the situation before Dec. 20.
“I was very impressed with their respect and their concerns,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dave Larason, vice president of the Glen Farms Civic Association, told the county council that two or three commercial operations are operating in his quiet, residential neighborhood near the Delaware and Pennsylvania border, raising traffic and safety concerns.
“I know at least one noncompliant letter has been sent by the county,” Councilman Dan Schneckenburger said, offering to check into the situation further.
Other Zion-area residents, who oppose the expansion of large-scale commercial chicken farms in Cecil County, claim the county issued a permit to Galen Horst to construct a $500,000 manure tank on his farm near Zion a year after the project was built, demanding to know how this is legal. Again, Schneckenburger said he’d investigate the claims.
Chicken farm opponents also asked the county council to consider hiring a consultant to do a health assessment on chicken farm impacts that is specific to Cecil County and to be sure ongoing monitoring of any existing large operation takes place. Others asked for zoning laws to be made stricter concerning chicken farms, indicating they would be willing to be part of a working committee assigned to create new rules.
Brian Robinson, a lot owner in Indian Acres, discusses his concerns about a zoning amendment with Council Vice President Dan Schneckenburger outside the county building Tuesday.
Perryville Middle School teacher Scott Dellosso helps a student with a project during a recent session at the school’s Makerspace.
Scores of citizens packed into the county council’s meeting Tuesday night to raise concerns about property rights issues.
Brian Robinson, a lot owner in Indian Acres, discusses his concerns about a zoning amendment with Councilman Robert Meffley outside the county building Tuesday.