Council protects rural character of Sussex
A conditional-use application for a 7-Eleven convenience store on Route 24 at Angola Road exploded into one of the most controversial applications since Overbrook Town Center, a massive shopping mall, was proposed on Route 1.
The two projects are vastly different in scale, yet both generated passionate opposition from residents who raised serious traffic and environmental concerns about both applications. And in both cases, the overarching question was similar.
Residents demanded that council adhere to its mission, now stated in the updated 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.”
There’s no doubt Sussex’s rural character is eroding, primarily as a result of the county’s two-unit-per-acre agricultural-residential zoning. The essential question before council is finding the balance between the county’s rural character and the desire of property owners to maximize land value. To its credit, Sussex County Council denied both applications. In making the motion for denying the 7-Eleven, Councilman Doug Hudson, in his first term on council, said approving it would set a precedent for more commercial development on already congested Route 24, noting there are no other major businesses in this area.
“It’s out of character,” Hudson said. “It’s not appropriate to start a commercial trend.”
We agree. Instead of stimulating commercial growth in otherwise rural areas, let the commercial trend emerge in areas already zoned for it. Opponents of this application also revealed Sussex County’s wellhead protection regulations are insufficient. The parcel lies within 100 feet of a wellhead protection area, and neighbors complained that runoff could contaminate their wells.
Going forward, county officials should enact a minimum 300-foot buffer surrounding wellhead protection areas to match buffers already in place in New Castle County.
While Sussex has always been rich in groundwater resources, the time to protect these critical resources is now, before development threatens them.