Overriding state planners' objections, Sussex County officials supported a zoning change for a small parcel along Route 9 in Coolspring near Lewes.
At its Oct. 10 meeting, Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend approval that county council rezone a 1.2-acre parcel containing the retail shop Coolspring Cottage, two garages and a house from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to B-1 neighborhood business district.
Current owner Judith Demeno, who has operated a women's clothing business and gift shop at the location for the past seven years, is currently renting the property; she said the new owner plans to open a day spa.
Lawrence Lank, director of county planning and zoning, said the change is requested because Community Bank would prefer zoning be in place prior to loan settlement. Lank said the bank wrote a letter stating conditional-use applications can be problematic.
The current business is operating under a conditional-use application. The parcel was granted its first conditional-use application in 1974 to Harlan G. York Sr. for a gift shop. Demeno purchased the property eight years ago and moved her business, The Jetty, from downtown Lewes. She now plans to move her shop to Milford.
In its review of the proposed rezoning under the Preliminary Land Use Process, state planners objected to the application because the parcel is located in a Level 4 area, which the state considers land where new development is not supported. “These areas are comprised of prime agricultural land and environmentally sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitats, which should be, and in many cases have been preserved,” wrote Connie Holland, director of the Office of State Planning Coordination.
Gene Bayard, an attorney representing the applicant, had strong words for the objection. “It totally ignores the trend for development in the area, the county's comprehensive land-use plan, that B-1 zoning is permitted in a low-density area and that Route 9 is a developing area,” he said.
He listed nearly a dozen businesses in the vicinity of Coolspring Cottage including a gun shop, hair salon, appliance store, building supply company, landscaping business, RV sales, a kennel and an antique shop.
In a making the motion to recommend approval, Commissioner Mike Johnson called the PLUS comments an injustice. Agreeing with Bayard he said, “They did not take into account the commercial trend on Route 9. It's consistent with the historical use of the property and consistent with the land-use plan.”
Sussex County Council will conduct a public hearing on the application at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the county administration building on The Circle in Georgetown.