DelDOT email an issue in Sussex rezoning vote

Attorney says transportation officials did not follow proper procedure
October 2, 2018

State transportation officials have thrown a hitch into a decision on a Sussex County rezoning application for a parcel at the intersection of Route 24 and Angola Road.

Near the end of a Sept. 25 county council public hearing, Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell read an email from Delaware Department of Transportation planner Jennifer Cinelli requesting council table the rezoning request until traffic impacts in the area could be discussed with DelDOT staff. “It should also be noted that DelDOT has active projects in this area and especially at the adjoining intersection,” she wrote.

The email was sent at 2:32 p.m. that afternoon to the planning and zoning office.

Kirk Salvo, KH Sussex LLC has filed to rezone a 3.5-acre parcel between Lewes and Long Neck from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to C-3, heavy commercial. The developer has plans to build a convenience store at the site, the current location of a homebuilders office and boat storage operation.

The county's planning and zoning commission has recommended council approve the application.

Record will be left open

After Cornwell read the email, Dennis Schrader, the developer's attorney, objected and said it should not be part of the public record.

County attorney J. Everett Moore did not back Schrader's request but he suggested council leave the public record open enough time for the developer to respond to the email. “The applicant should have a chance to respond,” he said.

“Both sides need to respond,” said Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View. “No one has seen it.”

He suggested DelDOT staff should come to a meeting and discuss the matter. “I'd rather see them live in person because there is a lot going on in this area. We should get it right,” he said.

It did not appear there was concensus to allow DelDOT staff to attend a future meeting.

Schrader asked council if they were going to allow DelDOT to negotiate the zoning change. “This is highly unusual,” he said.

After a long discussion, council deferred and voted unanimously to keep the record open until Tuesday, Oct. 9, for anyone to submit written comments on the DelDOT email. In addition, council members can submit questions in writing to DelDOT staff.

Copies of the email are available at the county planning and zoning office, 2 The Circle, Georgetown, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

County attorney J. Everett Moore said the last-minute email is not the proper way to participate in the public-hearing process. “I hope in the future they submit comments in a timely fashion and come here and comment,” he said.

“Let DelDOT know this is not the proper way to handle this matter,” Moore told Cornwell.

Residents: Traffic is already bad

During the hearing, Mike Riemann of the Becker Morgan Group, the developer's engineer, said the development team has met with DelDOT and confirmed that the main access for the parcel would be off Angola Road. A right-turn-in, right-turn-out would be permitted along Route 24. He said DelDOT has plans to start an intersection improvement project in 2020.

“Seventy-five percent of traffic going into the store would be pass-by trips and not new trips. There would not be a significant impact on traffic,” he said.

Nearby residents who spoke in opposition to the application said hundreds of new homes have been approved in the area, which will impact heavy traffic at the intersection and along Route 24. They also questioned whether intersection improvements will start when predicted in 2020.

“There has been a 200 percent increase on traffic on Angola Road,” said Curt Smith, who lives in Bay Point along Angola Road. “I've heard no one express a desire for a convenience store,” he said. “This intersection is not a good place for one due to the lay of the land. It could create a ripple effect for commercial development DelDOT had not anticipated.”

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