A developer is seeking to seeking to rezone 15 acres south of Route 9 near Georgetown to build an industrial park.
John Stamato of Ribera Development in Millersville, Md., has submitted an application for a parcel off Steiner Road, south of Route 9, near Georgetown, seeking rezoning from CR-1, commercial-residential, to HI-1, heavy industrial.
The preliminary site plan submitted during Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission's Jan. 9 meeting shows three pad sites adjacent to the Delmarva Central Railroad tracks. There are no specific uses proposed for the site at this time.
Jim Fuqua, the applicant's attorney, said a key component of the application is the parcel's close proximity to the rail line extending into mid- and eastern Sussex County. He said the developer has plans to dedicate land along the tracks for a rail spur to provide access to the property.
“While this is a rezoning request, it's also a planning request. The future of the rail line depends on users, because without customers the rail operation would not be economically sustainable,” Fuqua said.
The attorney said the county comprehensive plan recognizes the need for rail service as an option to mitigate truck traffic on area roads. He said although the plan promotes a shift to more rail freight, it also notes opportunities to achieve that goal are limited.
“This is the exception. We can take advantage of the intent of that section of the plan,” he said.
He said the parcel is unique because it offers access to rail service as well as access to Route 9, which he said is the only east-west major arterial road in eastern Sussex County, according to the county comprehensive plan.
Fuqua said several commercial and industrial uses are located near the property, including a warehousing operation adjacent to the parcel.
“The issue is not a specific use, but if the zoning is appropriate for the parcel,” Fuqua said, adding that any plans for development would be submitted to the planning and zoning commission for review.
Fuqua said at this time, DelDOT officials are not requiring a traffic-impact study, but DelDOT officials could reconsider a study once a site plan is presented. The applicant anticipates paying for improvements along Steiner Road as well as at the Steiner Road-Route 9 intersection, he said.
The land is part of a larger parcel owned by Harry Dale Parsons and Olda Keene, trustee, of Lewes.
Land-use map question
Sussex Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said the parcel is considered commercial land – not industrial – on the county's future land-use map.
Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley said approval could require a change in the county zoning map unless there are mitigating circumstances.
Fuqua said the plan does not list heavy commercial as a permitted use in commercial areas, but it does list it in developing areas.
The attorney said land-use applications should generally be consistent with the plan. “The plan is a guide for future use. It's provided as a tool and is not ironclad. Each land use must be reviewed on its own merits,” he said.
“There is a need for HI-1 land in Sussex County; there is virtually none,” Wheatley said. “This is a perfect place for this.”
Fuqua said the commission could consider amending the comprehensive plan at the same time it rules on the rezoning application.