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Council Discusses Three
Land Use Plan Ordinances

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GEORGETOWN -- Proposed county regulations involving commercial zoning, "biotech" campuses, and agriculture-related industry got their first airings by Sussex County Council on Tuesday, July 15, 2003.

The three proposed ordinances were up for introduction to complement the county's recently revised Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Proposed changes to the C-1 commercial zoning regulations include limiting the number of units allowed in B-1 business and C-1 commercial zoning to four per acre. A "catch-all" provision would allow for conditional use permits for projects not specifically listed as allowable in the "Environmentally Sensitive Development District."

County Administrator Robert Stickels said, "I can't think of one in the past 15 years," that didn't fall into the categories of allowable conditional uses.

Council member George Cole, R-Cedar Neck, said he objects to a clause allowing the "grandfathering" of parcels, which would allow commercial land to revert to residential under current commercial densities.

Cole used the conversion of the fomer Old Mill Crabhouse Restaurant near Ocean View to residential zoning as an example. As commercial property,12 homes per acre are allowed, but as residential, only 4 would be allowed.

The restaurant property is located on Cedar Neck Road -- an area of concern for County Engineer Michael Izzo, who recently reported to the council that housing density along that dead-end road is exceeding his department's projections.

Cole echoed Izzo's concerns that the growth could wreak havoc with sewer expansion in the area. "The problem is not so much zoning as (it is) sewer capacity," Cole said. "It's bad policy to grandfather in all the C-1," he said, adding that it could put a "severe strain" on the county's sewer capacity, roads and other infrastructure.

Stickels pointed out that since Cole's objection to grandfathering would make the new ordinance more restrictive than planned, the change could not be introduced at public hearings on it. This could lengthen the approval process.

A separate ordinance for a new C-2 zoning category, which would cover "big box" stores, is scheduled to be introduced on July 29, Stickels said. More ordinances designed to put into law the principles set forth in the revised land use plan will be introduced in August.

County OKs 59-Unit Development Near Ocean View

Despite urging from the County Engineer to reject it, the Sussex County Council approved a rezoning application for 59 homes near the South Coastal Wastewater Treatment Facility outside Ocean View.

The project, to be located on 19 acres at Sussex roads 362 and 368, will include 12 single family homes and 47 apartments. Mark Dunkle, attorney for Gulfstream Development, said the the company could have asked for 212 units under the HR (high-density residential) zoning being sought. Under medium-residential zoning, the project could have included 77 units, Dunkle said.

Under the previous AR-1 zoning, the property would have been restricted to two units per acre.

Rob Gano, manager of the Assawoman Wildlife Area nearby, said in a letter that the current configuration of the project puts the highest density closest to the refuge. Jane Errett Vincente, who lives near the site, also wrote a letter opposing the plan because it calls for "too many people in too small a space."

Robert Harris of Gulfstream addressed concerns about the project's proximity to the wastewater treatment plant by pointing to several other developments near the plant, including three by his company. Very few complaints have been made regarding smell or disturbance by lights or noise from the plant, Harris said.

Some county officials, including Izzo and council member George Cole, R-Cedar Neck, expressed concerns about plans for homeowners to be responsible for maintaining stormwater management ponds on the site. "They lack the experience, and we want to make sure whatever is proposed is done correctly," Cole said. A motion was passed to require review of the stormwater management facilities every three years by the appropriate agency. The council then approved the overall application unanimously.

In Other Business ...
    Council approved the following grant requests:
  • Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, $500 for Olde Georgetown Days; and

  • Sussex Technical High School, $100 for National Young Leaders Conference.

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