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Sussex takes steps to revise commercial zoning

In proposed plan, seven districts would replace popular CR-1 and B-1 classifications
When zoning was created in Sussex County in the 1970s, the Route 1 corridor was zoned C-1 commercial, allowing for a wide variety of uses. The C-1 district has been closed and replaced with CR-1, which would be closed if county officials approve seven proposed new zoning districts. RON MACARTHUR PHOTO
June 2, 2017

Sussex County has moved one step closer to revamping its commercial zoning districts.

If a proposed ordinance is approved, the county's two most popular commercial zoning districts - CR-1, commercial-residential, and B-1, neighborhood business - would be closed and replaced with seven new districts that provide fewer and more specific uses.

The commercial zoning districts would solve some lingering issues not addressed by current zoning, including uses such as brew pubs, breweries, wineries and distilleries, which would be permitted in several of the new districts.

“These are smaller districts that are more predictable to county council, the public, developers and property owners,” said Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson.

CR-1 zoning allows for a large variety of small and large commercial uses including everything from shopping centers to car dealers to small retail establishments.

B-1 zoning is more restrictive but still has a large variety of uses.

Robertson said the new 43-page ordinance - which will have public hearings in the near future - was favorably received when presented during a stakeholders meeting.

Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, has been critical that current commercial zoning allows too many intense uses on small parcels. During council's May 23 meeting, he said he wanted to make sure the new districts would have minimum and maximum parcel sizes.

Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said each of the proposed districts contains that information.

In addition, she said, planning and zoning staff would meet with applicants to determine the district that makes sense for their project.

Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, said the new districts should have a goal of attracting new businesses to Sussex County.

“More predictability is good for the economy because people fear the unknown. With CR-1 zoning there are many possibilities,” he said.

Under CR-1 zoning, site plans can't be considered as part of the application. “People are concerned what will be on their street corner,” Robertson said.

At least one of the proposed new districts would allow county officials to consider a site plan during public hearings.

Arlett said that streamlining the zoning process would also help the economy. “How do we do that through the zoning process?” he asked.

Cornwell said the process will definitely be clearer to applicants. “But we may need another ordinance to streamline the process,” she said.

The proposed ordinance can be viewed at sussexcountyde.gov.

Some uses are permitted in several districts, including assisted living and long-term care facilities, which would be permitted in the proposed B-2, C-2, C-3 and C-4 districts.

The proposed ordinance can be viewed at sussexcountyde.gov.