SC Online Content Editor
GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council approved a rezoning request for 84.8 acres near Bridgeville to allow construction of a vegetable processing plant at its regular meeting on Tuesday, July 30, 2002.
PictSweet Frozen Foods, a division of United Foods Inc., plans to build a facility to process peas, corn and lima beans grown locally.
According to the state Office of Economic Development, the plant will add $3 million to $4 million in farm income and will increase production of the three vegetables by 25 million to 30 million pounds.
The economic development office also estimates that having the plant in Sussex County will allow local farmers to commit an additional 10,000 acres to crops.
Ed Kee, extension vegetable specialist for the University of Delaware, said he expects even more acreage to be served by the plant within five years.
Kee said he has visited the PictSweet plant in Bell, Tenn. "It looks like a college campus when you drive by it," he said. He told the council "I urge you to support it. I can't think of a reason not to. This will preserve farmland and keep the tradition of Sussex County rural," he said.
PictSweet expects the plant, to be located 1/2 mile north of Route 18 between Sussex roads 561 and 546, to be in operation in 2003. United Foods also operates plants in Tennessee, California and Utah.
Kee cited several factors he felt made Sussex County a good site for the plant, among them increased use of irrigation by area farmers and the land's conduciveness to farming.
The plant will open in May for the pea season and in mid-October for lima beans. Company officials plan two working shifts during those times. Estimates are that the plant will initially hire about 12 people to clean and hydro-cool the vegetables, which would then be taken to other plants to complete processing.
Barbara Sapp, whose family grows vegetables near Milton, said the PictSweet plant is "very important" to her and other Sussex farmers. "We have our own machines and we do our own harvesting and hauling," currently to a processor in New Jersey. The Bridgeville facility would be a blessing, she said.
Jack Tarburton, currently director of business development for the state, said he believes the plant is an example of "if you build it, they will come."
Tarburton, former Delaware secretary of agriculture, said he "used to lie awake at night, wondering why we spent $60 million" to preserve farmland in the state. The proposed facility, he said, is one example of why.
Bridgeville Town Commission President Joseph Conaway said the town "fully supports" the project, which is outside town limits. Conaway said the plant nicely complements the Kenney Foods operation in town, where 120 people are now employed.
Georgetown attorney Timothy Willard, representing United Foods, said "I haven't, in my practice, seen so many positive responses," to an application. No one opposed the application at the Planning and Zoning hearing July 11 or the July 30 County Council hearing.County sets hearings on land use plan
Sussex County Council released a draft of and introduced an ordinance for the update of its 1997 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which will be the county's roadmap for development for the next five years.
The plan, which must be approved by October, focuses on pinpointing areas to be considered "developing areas" and "secondary development areas," areas proposed for annexation into the county's 25 towns and cities, and those to be considered "town centers" and "environmentally sensitive developing areas."
It sets forth recommended densities and uses for land in those categories. The new plan calls for land in the "environmentally senstive developing area" surrounding the inland bays to be limited to two dwelling units per acre. Clustering would be allowed for up to four units per acre provided the total number of units didn't exceed two units.
Areas identified as town centers would be allowed 4 to 12 units per acre.
Another focus of the plan is the transportation needs of the county in the face of tremendous growth.
Council member Vance Phillips said he believes the plan should urge state officials to pay more attention to the county's roads, and that new roads may be needed to deal with the growth. Other areas receiving attention in the plan are agricultural preservation and environmental considerations.
The draft will be presented at a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the CHEER Center in Georgetown. County council will hold its public hearing on the plan on Tuesday Oct. 1, also at the Georgetown CHEER Center at 6 p.m.
The text of the draft plan, along with maps, is scheduled to be available online at www.sussexcounty.net by Friday, Aug. 2. Hard copies of the proposed plan will be available for $10.In Other Business ...
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