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Stonewater Creek: What’s old is not new

February 13, 2018

Sussex planning and zoning commission recently gave preliminary approval for Phase 7 of Stonewater Creek, a subdivision of 540 lots near Long Neck.

The developer filed an amended application from 70 lots approved in 2008. The developer now proposes a cluster subdivision, which allows smaller lots in exchange for more open space and what the code calls "superior design." The new plan also calls for 100 units, 40 percent more than the 70 originally approved.

This change has residents of earlier phases of Stonewater Creek – who will share a pool and other amenities with their new neighbors – calling foul.

They say county code requires that before resubdivision or alteration of density can be approved, the director of planning and zoning must notify all property owners in the subdivision. Most critically, the code states the developer must provide evidence that 51 percent of existing property owners approve the plan.

So why didn't the planning and zoning commission uphold the code and inform residents? Planning and zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said the project was submitted as a new subdivision, so it's not required to adhere to the same rules.

To be clear, the subdivision was approved in 2008 for 70 lots, and new residents will share amenities built in the older section.

How, by any standard – other than the developers' – can this be called a new project?

County code specifically protects people who buy in the early phases of a subdivision so developers can't later change the rules. This application should have been rejected for what it is – a ploy to get around the need to inform residents and get their approval for the changed plan.

Who is planning and zoning serving by allowing this project to move forward? The people who live here, or a developer whose plan, one commissioner said, doesn't even offer usable open space in exchange for 40 percent more density?

Saying a project is new doesn't make it new. If this plan meets the county definition of new, it's clearly time to rewrite the ordinance.