Preserve the integrity of Sussex zoning

March 26, 2021

One of the most dramatic zoning changes that can be made in Sussex County is from one of the lightest land-use zones – agricultural-residential – to one of the heaviest land-use zones - heavy industrial. That’s what a property owner, Reed Farms, has requested for a 67-acre parcel of land bordered by Route 30 and Route 16 west of Milton. 

People make decisions about their property based on what zoning permits and, in many cases, what it doesn’t permit. Changes can bring serious impact not only for those seeking the change, but also for those who made decisions about their own property based on existing zoning.

One of the primary tests that rezonings are usually required to pass is proof that the rezoning will benefit the general safety and public welfare of the community. On the flip side, what are the potentially negative impacts to surrounding properties from a proposed rezoning? 

Therein lies the problem with this rezoning request. The applicants will not say what specific uses are planned for the parcel once it is rezoned. How can potential environmental or traffic impacts be assessed when no one is saying what specific uses are planned?

Sussex Councilman John Rieley hit the nail on the head during a recent public hearing. Here is part of the exchange:  

“Is this a blank check now with no proposed uses?” asked Rieley. “There are no specific uses,” responded David Hutt, the applicants' attorney.

So, is this just a fishing trip? Get the potentially lucrative rezoning and then market the property for who knows what uses? Or is this a throw of the dice, gambling that not citing specific uses will bring forth less public resistance than actually stating what is planned?

Either way, the lack of transparency in such a serious matter is troubling, at the very least. No rezoning of this magnitude should be granted without more specifics and a statement on how this will help promote the general safety and public welfare of the community. Otherwise, the integrity of Sussex County’s government and its zoning process will be significantly weakened. 

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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