Patchwork rezoning is a threat to public safety

October 29, 2013

Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners recently recommended approval of a zoning change for a small parcel on Route 9, from agricultural residential (AR-1) to neighborhood business (B-1). County council will have final say fol­lowing a November public hearing.

State planners objected to the change, saying the area comprises prime agricultural land, sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitats and should remain agricultural. Since 1974, a retail shop has been permitted by conditional use on the parcel, which holds a house and an outbuilding for the shop.

In approving the application, planners sided with an attorney for the applicant who said Route 9 is a developing area. One planner cited a commercial trend along the road.

Community Bank also sided with the appli­cant, calling conditional-use permits problem­atic. What the bank probably didn’t say is that upzoning immediately increases the value of the property – and that especially holds true for land rezoned commercial.

It’s hard to see how a conditional use that has been issued to various businesses for nearly four decades could be a problem for future use of the parcel.

A far more serious problem is the growing patchwork of parcel-by-parcel rezoning in Sussex County, demanded by banks and de­velopers who profit from the change. Unlike a conditional-use permit, which requires the ap­plicant to detail the proposed use, for a rezon­ing, the particular use is of no consequence and is not even supposed to be considered.

Commercial development on Route 9 and on Route 24 will result in more turning traffic, more congestion and more accidents. If you want to see the future of these roads 10 years from now, just look at Route 1 today.

Zoning is supposed to protect everyone by encouraging orderly growth in areas with enough infrastructure to handle the traffic growth brings. If council wants to change the zoning map, it should hire a planner and do it right. A public hearing on the rezoning request is at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the county administration building on The Circle in Georgetown.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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