7-Eleven out of scale for rural intersection
A controversial proposal to build a 7-Eleven on Route 24 at Angola Road is on the Tuesday, Sept. 17 agenda for Sussex County Council.
The project is basically unchanged since December 2018, when the developer sought to upzone 3.5 acres zoned agricultural-residential, AR-1. Now the developer is back, this time seeking a conditional use to build a commercial building in an agricultural-residential zone.
If approved, the project calls for a 3,500-square-foot building, 34 parking spaces, underground gas tanks and 24-hour lighting at what is now a quiet, rural intersection with a boat-repair service and a small office.
As former Councilman George Cole said in voting to deny rezoning, the proposed project is not a reasonable expansion of the existing conditional use. More recently, neighboring property owners have said the proposed 7-Eleven is located on or immediately adjacent to a 172-acre wellhead protection area on Angola Road.
Before voting, council should require a report from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control detailing elevations adjacent to the proposed store and the possibility of groundwater contamination because of runoff or future leaks of the underground tanks.
Council also must investigate whether Department of Transportation plans to upgrade the intersection, expected in 2021, were designed with the proposed 7-Eleven in mind.
Council should also take a good long look at the goals in the comprehensive land-use plan: “To provide for balanced and well-planned future growth and development that supports the county’s economic development goals while preserving the rural character of the county and its natural resources.”
This project is out of scale for this rural intersection, plus it could threaten future water supplies. With eight gas stations within 4.3 miles – one less than 2 miles away – this new building, with 24-hour-a-day lighting, in no way represents the promised balance or well-planned future growth.
Approving this project would open the door to suburban-style commercial activity all along Route 24 – and the rural character county officials pledged to preserve will quickly be lost.