Henlopen Acres modifies zoning code definitions

Citing possible conflict, commissioners delay action on family and group rentals
October 15, 2021

Story Location:
Henlopen Acres Town Hall
104 Tidewaters
Henlopen Acres, DE 19971
United States

At the request of town staff, during a meeting Oct. 8, Henlopen Acres commissioners approved a number of amendments to the town’s zoning code.

Prior to the vote, Town Manager Tom Roth said he and town code enforcement had suggested the changes to help alleviate some of the ambiguity in the code.

As approved, the building setback line will now be marked from the property line; front yard is now the required open space between any part of the building and the front property line; lot area is the total area of a horizontal plane between boundary lines, expressed in square feet, as determined by recorded documents on file with the Sussex County Recorder of Deeds; nonprofit organizations now need to be registered as such and in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service; parking lots can’t have a driveway wider than 20 feet; swimming pool is a body of water at least 18 inches in depth used for recreational purposes, not ornamental; and zoning certificate has been clarified to be synonymous with the term building permit.

In addition to modifying some definitions, commissioners approved the creation of definitions for driveway, fence and unobstructed. The definition for driveway is an entrance or entrances to a property, used for ingress, egress and parking of vehicles, each which may extend no more than 20 feet in width on a town right-of-way. The definition for fence is a barrier, railing, or other upright structure, enclosing an area of ground to mark boundary, control access, or prevent escape. The definition of unobstructed is clear and free from obstructions or obstacles, excluding trees, shrubs, planted vegetation, driveways, sidewalks placed at grade, and heating and air conditioning equipment placed within three feet of the main building structure.

Commissioners also removed the definition of floor area ratio. Roth said the town hasn’t used this calculation since 2005.

There were two definitions the town commissioners delayed action on in favor of continued wordsmithing – family and group rental – due to an apparent conflict in the proposed wording,

As proposed, the definition of family would change from, “an individual, or two or more persons who are related by blood, marriage or adoption,...” to, “a social group traditionally consisting of parents and children, ... .”

For group rental, as proposed, the code would say group rentals are prohibited and are defined as rentals to more than three parties unrelated by blood or marriage.

Commissioner John Staffier brought attention to the conflict between defining family as a social group, while at the same time prohibiting group rentals. Town Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the proposed definition for family is using wording that many municipalities are now using. However, he said, he recognized the possible conflict between the two definitions. 

Commissioners are expected to resume the discussion of family and group rentals during their quarterly meeting in December.

Committee appointments made

Following the changes in the zoning code, commissioners approved the appointment of members to the town’s environmental approval and tree committees.

Lyndie Hertrich was reappointed to a three-year term on the environmental approval committee. Henry DeWitt and Lee Raesly were reappointed to three-year terms on the tree committee, while Commissioner Jeff Jacobs was reappointed to a two-year term on the tree committee.

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