Rezoning requests deserve careful scrutiny

January 21, 2022

During 2022, at least two significant rezoning requests will be processed through Sussex County’s planning commission and Sussex County Council. 

One of those requests comes from heirs of Jane and Lowder Mitchell, involving their former farm on Kings Highway across the street from Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. The land is zoned AR-1 agricultural-residential, which permits, by right, two housing units per acre. The Mitchell heirs would like a more intensive zoning that would permit a combination of houses, condominiums and commercial space.

Another significant rezoning request comes from Carl M. Freeman Companies for a 500-plus-acre parcel north of Route 9 in the Cool Spring area. That property is also currently zoned AR-1, like the Mitchell farm and most of the other land in Sussex County’s 943 square miles. The Freeman folks would also like more intensive zoning that would likewise permit them to develop single-family home lots, townhouses, commercial and other community uses similar to what they have done in their Bayside community in southeastern Sussex County west of Fenwick Island.

Property owners have every right to request rezonings, but Sussex County Council is under no obligation to approve those requests. The burden will be on the applicants to demonstrate how these rezonings, if approved, would contribute to the general health, safety and welfare of the county and its residents. Given that Sussex is already one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, with its infrastructure – including highways, schools, medical and emergency facilities, and environment – already being challenged at best, and overwhelmed at worst, proving how such rezonings would improve rather than further deteriorate conditions is a tall order.

When the above requests come up for formal review and public hearings, the public must insist on knowing how the changes will actually contribute to solving the real problems county citizens are facing, rather than simply exacerbating them.

As the largest, most geographically diverse and naturally blessed county on the entire Delmarva Peninsula, Sussex County deserves nothing less.

  • 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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