A long-standing application for a greenhouse-composting facility in a rural area near Milford has moved another step toward resolution.
At its April 14 meeting, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission approved a preliminary site plan for phased improvements proposed by Blessing Greenhouses and Compost Facility Inc. on a 32-acre parcel along Draper Road. When completed, the operation will be either on cement pads or inside covered buildings.
Owner Bruce Blessing operates a composting, flower-growing and yard-waste recycling business on the property.
The project has a long history. In December 2019, Sussex County and Blessing reached a court settlement that allows the company to stay in business.
The settlement came two years after a conditional-use application to operate the facility was voided by the commission Feb. 22, 2017.
The conditional-use application was reinstated by the commission in August 2017 with a long list of conditions.
Among those conditions was cleanup of a 100,000-ton pre-compost pile that had been accumulating for years. He was given a four-month deadline to remove the pile or post a $1 million bond while continuing to remove material from the property. Blessing said the deadline was unrealistic.
When Blessing failed to meet the conditions, the county planning & zoning commission ordered Blessing to shut down.
Blessings' lawsuit was filed April 4, 2018, and the county's lawsuit was filed May 18, 2018.
Among the conditions agreed to in the settlement:
The planning & zoning decision to void the conditional use is null and void.
The applicant must comply with Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and other agency requirements or the conditional use will be terminated.
Until a new facility is constructed, no new pre-compost storage or blending is permitted except on the existing concrete pad. The condition does not include any pre-composted material previously stored on the site.
Material may be loaded for shipping from either the concrete pad or the existing earthen bunkers in accordance with DNREC regulations.
Material processing, including use of heavy equipment, is limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday and material can be accepted from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
A landscaped buffer of at least 25 feet shall be installed around the perimeter of the property.
Following completion of a new facility, composting, pre-composting, blending and stockpiling must be conducted under roof on a concrete floor within buildings designated for that purpose. No outdoor storage or composting is permitted outside the buildings.
Compost does not include stockpiling or shredding of wood or yard waste, or stockpiling sand or lime or other non-regulated materials.
Blessing is permitted to receive waste from poultry operations including, but not limited to, hatchery waste, poultry processing waste and any other waste permitted by DNREC under its bio-solid program. No waste from municipal wastewater treatment facilities or residential sewage can be accepted.
The final site plan will include all buildings, stormwater improvements, buffers, site improvements and landscape plan signed by a licensed landscape architect or certified nursery professional.
The final site plan can include phasing of the project, which must include an overall master plan for the site.
The final site plan must be reviewed by the planning & zoning commission.
Failure to comply with any of the conditions will invalidate the conditional use.