Lewes Mayor and City Council voted 4-1 June 10 to approve a rezoning request for the former home of Lewes Dairy on Pilottown Road.
Applicant RJL Associates of Round Hill, Va., submitted an application for rezoning this spring, seeking to change the 2.73-acre parcel from industrial to R-2, low-density residential.
Deputy Mayor Andrew Williams opposed the rezoning because he said there is ample residential in Lewes.
“We seem to care about endangered species and endangered everything else, but this is a case of endangered zoning,” he said. “Industrial offers the most flexible zoning.”
The property was one of only a few industrial parcels left in Lewes. Another is the Lewes Ice Plant property on New Road, which has had a few rezoning applications come forward in recent years. That property was also sold this spring to ECMM at Delaware LLC for $1.2 million. No plans or rezoning requests have been submitted to the city since the sale.
Williams said he’s concerned the city doesn’t have commercial infrastructure and technology infrastructure to promote commercial growth to become a self-sustaining city.
“We’re running out of room to do that,” he said.
While other council members agreed with Williams, they ultimately voted in favor of the application. Councilwoman Carolyn Jones and Councilman Khalil Saliba reached out to several businesses to see if there was any interest in the property – there was not.
“University of Delaware is right there and it seemed like such a nice fit for them to take this over, but they had no interest,” Jones said.
The property had been on sale for about two years before the applicant purchased it in April for $3.5 million.
“I share Andrew’s concerns, which is why an effort was made to identify potential businesses for that location,” Saliba said. “Nobody stepped up. It’s disconcerting. It would be nice to have a green technology company down there that’s leveraging the university, but the market dictated it. I see no reason why it shouldn’t go from industrial to residential.”
The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning request in April.
Back when Lewes Dairy was still operational, Mayor Ted Becker said the city often received calls from neighbors complaining about truck traffic at various hours of the day and night. While he said he shares Williams’ frustration, he recognizes residential is the best use for the property going forward.
The developer has not presented any plans for the parcel.