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No decision yet on ag education facility

Sussex attorney says some farming allowed on parcel
May 19, 2018

Story Location:
16040 Hudson Road
Milton  Delaware
United States

Plans for an agricultural education facility near Milton are on hold after Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners delayed a vote during a May 10 meeting.

Members now have a better understanding of the complicated conditional-use application, but they said they needed more time to prepare a motion.

Jeri Berc, who lives at 16040 Hudson Road, is seeking permission to provide classes to Sussex Consortium students on her four-acre farm. In addition, she wants to provide a small commercial kitchen where students could process the fruits and vegetables they would grow.

During an April 26 public hearing, some residents from the adjacent Cripple Creek subdivision opposed the application, saying covenants that apply to the community and her property restrict commercial activities that would attract customers. They were also opposed to the proposed commercial kitchen.

At the May 10 meeting, assistant county attorney Vince Robertson said after reviewing the deed restrictions, it's his opinion that Berc's property is not part of the Cripple Creek subdivision, but it is subject to some of the community's covenants. “I saw nothing about commercial uses,” he said.

Robertson said the Hudson family – the original owners of the property – set up the subdivision as a farm-rural community where limited agricultural activities are permitted including growing crops and raising livestock and fowl.

He said Berc is permitted to have up to eight horses, two pigs, three sheep, 10 geese and 25 chickens on her property.

Robertson said the deed restrictions contained a phrase he had never seen before – nonagricultural-type people. He said those residents may not be accustomed to farming operations but the expectations are that farming may occur in the community.

“There could be odor, noise and dust, and Cripple Creek residents cannot take legal action against any of the permitted uses,” he said.

The commission debated whether Berc needed a conditional use because farming uses were permitted. Commissioner Bob Wheatley said it would be better for everyone to have specific conditions on the use of the property. “That takes any gray area away,” he said.

Berc, a retired certified landscaper with several degrees, has a bee apiary, flowers and shrubs, two horses and two chickens on the farm, where she also grows vegetables and herbs as well as fruit and nut trees. She has a small greenhouse and rainwater collection systems, and she does some horticultural landscaping.

Sussex County Council has scheduled a public hearing on the application at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 22.