Council: Three requests, three different answers

Zoning change applications approved, denied and deferred
Owners of the former Veggie Shack on Route 9 near Harbeson want county officials to rezone the property to commercial. BY RON MACARTHUR
April 9, 2014

Location, location, location may not only apply to selling houses. It also makes a difference when applying for a zoning change in Sussex County.

County council heard three zoning change applications during its March 25 meeting and voted on them three different ways.

Council denied an application to rezone a parcel to commercial along Route 1 near Milton; voted to approve commercial zoning for another parcel on Route 16 near Milton; and deferred a decision for yet another commercial rezoning application for a parcel along Route 9 near Harbeson.

Council agreed with a planning and zoning commission recommendation that applicant Zhenguo Zhang should reapply for a conditional-use for a 2.3-acre parcel along Route 1 near Hudson Road, Milton. Zhang was seeking a change from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CR-1, commercial residential, to open a medical office.

In the 3-2 vote, Council President Mike Vincent, R-Seaford, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, and Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, voted for denial. Councilman Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, and Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, voted to approve the application.

Council agreed with the planning and zoning commission recommendation that a change to commercial zoning would open development up to a large number of possible uses; a conditional use is more restrictive.

“I agree with planning and zoning,” Vincent said. “A conditional use makes more sense because CR-1 would have too many potential uses.”

Deaver said a conditional use was more appropriate for the parcel because it was not located near another commercial area.

Phillips disagreed saying commercial zoning was within a few hundred yards of the parcel. “This is not spot zoning and the intended use would not be a high impact use,” he said. “We have given commercial zoning to other properties on Route 1 with less commercial zoning in the area. This is not a precedent.”

Council also voted to waive the application fee for Zhang to reapply for a conditional use.

Council then approved CR-1 rezoning for a 19,000-square foot parcel along Route 16 near Milton that is surrounded by other properties with CR-1 zoning. Council approved the request 5-0 to change zoning from AR-1 to CR-1. “This is a perfect example of in-fill,” Cole said.

Charles and Chrisy Greaves of Milton plan to convert a house on the parcel to an antique shop with office space. “This parcel is worthless as a residence,” Charles Greaves said. “I want to reinstitute value for this property. Sussex County is dotted with abandoned houses and I would not like to see this happen here.”

Phillips asked if the applicant was asked to apply for a conditional use.

“We always offer that option when someone applies,” said Lawrence Lank, the county's director of planning and zoning.

“I just got a lesson on how important conditional uses are, and it seems odd it didn't come up,” Phillips said.

In a third decision, council voted to defer an application filed by Phillip Cross and Prentice Watkins to convert a 4.8-acre parcel along Route 9 from a conditional use to CR-1 zoning. Cross said the property – the former location of the Veggie Shack and greenhouses – is for sale and a change to commercial zoning would not place a limit on use of the property. The planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the application.

“That means a shopping center could go here,” Phillips said.

Deaver made a motion to approve the application but her action died for lack of a second from another council member. Following that, a motion to dismiss the meeting also failed.

“I guess we will just sit here,” Vincent said.

“What just happened?” Deaver asked.

Eventually council voted to defer on the application.