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Sussex board says no to modular home

Property owner says precedent has been set in manufactured home park
October 11, 2017

Story Location:
32 South Shore Drive
Bethany Beach  Delaware
United States

Sussex County officials have slammed the door on a couple wanting to put a modular home in a manufactured home park near Indian River Inlet.

At its Sept. 18 meeting, the county's board of adjustment voted 5-0 to deny an appeal filed by the property owners of a decision made by the county's director of planning and zoning, who did not allow them to get a building permit or file for a special-use exception.

Now the couple is in a costly predicament. They purchased a $350,000 lot in South Shore Marina near Bethany Beach, aiming to place a factory-built modular home there. Applicant Jason Harshbarger said a precedent had been established because the small manufactured park contains other modular and stick-built homes.

The park, which is zoned MR, medium-density residential, existed prior to zoning, so it's grandfathered in.

Harshbarger pleaded his case to the board during its Sept. 11 meeting, appealing a decision by Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell preventing him from placing a modular home in the park on South Shore Drive Extended.

Cornwell told the board that county code is very specific. Only one modular or stick-built home is permitted in a manufactured home park for the manager. “There is no section in code to allow modulars in a manufactured home park,” she said.

“I feel sorry for them, but I don't see anything in county code to provide relief,” said Chairman Dale Callaway as the board debated the appeal Sept. 11.

“How do they fix this problem?” asked board member John Mills.

Board attorney Jamie Sharp said the only option the couple has is to follow county code and place a manufactured home on the site.

Sharp said it was doubtful the park could be converted to a subdivisions because the minimum lot size in MR zoning is 10,000 square feet. Manufactured home parks are allowed to have 5,000-square-foot lot sizes. He said all of the lease-holders and landlord would have to agree and apply for a rezoning.

“But this is not the issue that is before us,” Sharp told the board.

Harshbarger said nearly a quarter of the homes in the small park are modular or stick-built. He said his research of county records showed four special-use exceptions were granted by the board for homes in the park from 2005 to 2014. “I have a home built and ready to be moved to the community,” he said.

“It's unfortunate the board has approved them in the past, which amazes me it was allowed,” Mills said.

Adam Rones of Culver and Pierce LLC, representing the applicant, said previous board approvals have changed the character and value of the community. “The value of the lots is not typical value in a manufactured home park,” he said.

Two vacant lots in the park are listed for sale for $350,000 each.

“If this doesn't go in their favor it will adversely affect others in the community as well,” Rones said during the Sept. 11 hearing. “The Harshbargers did their due diligence and used board hearing history. They want to know why they are not being treated the same as others.”

To further complicate the matter, Harshbarger said the owner of the park wrote in his lease that when a property was transferred and a manufactured home replaced, a modular or stick-built home must be erected in its place.

Cornwell said the lease does not comply with county code. Board member Ellen Magee urged county legal staff to contact the property owner to make him aware of the issue with the lease. 

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