Even though there is no specific project planned for the parcel, Sussex County Council has approved a request to rezone nine acres of land along Route 24.
At its Sept. 24 meeting, council granted an application from American Legion Post 28 in Oak Orchard to change the property from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CR-1, commercial-residential.
“This increases the value of the parcel,” said Michael Cotten of Cotten Engineering in Seaford. “With AR-1, they are limited, so this opens the door to other possibilities of what could be. It's not a change of use, but a change of zone.”
Cotten said the Legion refinanced its loan last year, and if the parcel had been zoned commercial, they would have had a much better finance rate. “This definitely increases the value of the parcel,” he said.
He reiterated that the Legion does not have plans to develop the parcel at this time. “I think you will need the land for yourself, so why would you want to develop it?” asked Councilman Sam Wilson.
“The rezoning is consistent with what is going on along Route 24,” Cotten said. “And the site is adjacent to other commercial sites.”
At its Sept. 12 meeting, Sussex County Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the request.
Cotten said the post has the fourth largest membership in the world with more than 8,000 members throughout the county, providing 25,000 hours of volunteer service each year. He said all of the money raised through several annual fundraisers is returned to the community.
“Knowing the American Legion, I can't imagine them doing anything that wasn't beneficial to the community,” said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Marty Ross.
The parcel is a grassy lot containing a pavilion, a garden and storage buildings and is adjacent to two other B-1 neighborhood business district lots occupied by the Legion building and its parking lot.
Cotten said the Legion is aware the site could have sewer capacity issues. “It limits what we can do with the parcel,” he said.
In addition, Cotten said, state transportation officials are completing a study of Route 24 that could require the addition of a traffic light at Post 28 should the parcel be developed.