Business seeks Easton annexation to invest
EASTON — With anticipation to move forward on a business investment, JD Oliver LLC representatives said to the Easton Town Council Monday night, Sept. 18, that they hope to have an annexation agreement before the body by its next meeting in October.
JD Oliver has proposed Easton annex its property, nearly 4 acres of land at 9433 Ocean Gateway, which consists of two parcels that sit just east of U.S. Route 50, adjacent to the current town boundary that runs along the highway.
JD Oliver bought the property several years ago from Elliott Wilson truck sales, and continues to operate as large truck and equipment sales and services business. The property immediately to the east of Route 50 primarily operates as the sales facility, and farther east of that is a property that carries out repairs for the business.
The planning commission previously approved of the annexation, saying it is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan, which prioritizes that particular property for annexation in the current comprehensive plan cycle, Town Planner Lynn Thomas said.
The applicant is pursuing a zoning waiver from the Talbot County Council. Whenever a property is annexed into a town from the county, the county council has to option to put a hold on any zoning changes for five years after the annexation’s approval.
The town and property owner is seeking to zone the property as “general commercial,” which includes business uses similar to what currently operates out of that lot.
The process to annex the JD Oliver property was tabled at the county council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12, after a long discussion among council members that saw differences of opinion on the future of that property. The council debated the merits and feasibility of granting the annexation and relinquishing control of how the property would be used in the future.
Although the current business model for the property won’t change, the new town zoning would allow for a “substantially higher density” and “substantially different” land uses, according to the county. The town’s boundary runs along the east side of Route 50, immediately adjacent to the JD Oliver property, which is just north of Easton’s boundary.
“While it will be somewhat unique in that this will be the first property between, say, the restaurants — actually there’s a couple parcels just north of the restaurants — but then nothing is in town until you get to the (Hertrich) Ford dealership,” Thomas said. “In that long stretch of a lot of already improved parcels, this will be the first among those.”
Some county council members questioned annexing the JD Oliver property before other neighboring properties are ready to be annexed, too, such as has been done in past annexations with Talbot Commerce Park and Easton Point.
But garnering consent among neighboring business owners is something that will take time, and JD Oliver is ready to move on investment now, JD Oliver representative Dan Stein said.
Ryan Showalter, an attorney representing JD Oliver, said the annexation request is driven by a business need to have access to the town’s water and sewer, which will better set up the company to invest in its parcel and expand the business. He said JD Oliver wants to expand its repair facility, on the easternmost part of the lot, replacing the current facility with a larger one with multiple bays, which will allow for additional jobs for skilled mechanics.
“We need to go this direction so that we can get water and sewer, and we can’t wait,” Stein said. “I understand the issue is you want to annex more than just one parcel, but in order for us to get all that buy-in from everybody, it would take way too long to be able to do that.”
At the county meeting on Sept. 12, Thomas and Town Attorney Sharon Van Emburgh spoke in favor of the annexation and said it would provide an incentive for other county business property owners between the Oliver parcels and the town to seek to do the same.
The county council is slated to review the annexation proposal at its next meeting on Sept. 26.
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Talbot County Council is expected to discuss a resolution that would allow the annexation of the trucking sales and service business property owned by J.D. Oliver LLC, on nearly 4 acres on Ocean Gateway from the county’s general commercial to the Town of Easton’s general commercial zone.