The heirs of a well-known Sussex County businessman have plans to build a campground near Georgetown.
Melvin L. Joseph Heirs Farm Account LLC has filed a conditional-use application for County Seat RV Resort, a campground with 304 RV-camper sites and 46 cabins, at the site of the former Georgetown Raceway, owned by the Joseph family, on a 74-acre parcel along Route 9 and Sand Hill Road.
Ken Adams, developer of the proposed project, is a grandson of the late Melvin Joseph, who passed away in 2005. Adams is president of M.L. Joseph Construction Co.
During an Oct. 22 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, attorney David Hutt, representing the applicants, said the location was chosen because of its proximity to Sports at the Beach and Sandhill Fields, two youth sports complexes. The two access points to the campground would allow connection to Sports at the Beach along Route 9 and Sandhill Fields along Sand Hill Road.
After the hearing, the commission voted to defer a vote to a future meeting.
Sports at the Beach has been providing weekly seasonal baseball tournaments since 2002, with more than 40 tournaments in 2019. The 100-acre complex has 16 fields plus many other amenities including basketball courts, pickleball courts and a pool.
Sandhill Fields, which opened in September, has eight fields for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. The 90-acre complex also includes pickleball courts, a cross country course and a walking trail.
Hutt said all campsites would be at least 400 feet from existing dwellings and at least 100 feet from Route 9. A 20-foot landscaped buffer would be in place around the boundary of the property. The campground would be open to match the Sports at the Beach tournament schedule from March 1 through Nov. 30. No permanent sites would be permitted. A camp store and house for a campground manager are included on the preliminary site plan. Only campers and invited guests would be permitted on the property.
The campground would not only provide traditional cabins, but also safari tents for glamping, which is tent camping with amenities.
Hutt said the proposed RV resort would help support tourism, the No. 2 industry in the county behind agriculture.
The attorney said tourism venues have mostly been directed to the coastal area. He said having a major destination in the center of the county would help boost the economy in the area. “It would provide another option for visitors to Sussex County,” he said.
During the public comment period, former Commissioner Mike Johnson, who is an avid camper, said the location couldn't be better because it also provides easy access from Route 113.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, campgrounds have become very popular because you can social distance. Camping has really grown,” Johnson said. “There is more to Sussex County than beaches, and this will create carry-over business in this area.”
“I know the applicants, and they would not do anything that is not first class with the community in mind. There should not be any misgivings about this,” said Pete Townsend, owner of Sports at the Beach.
Roadwork in the area
The developer is not required to provide a traffic-impact study but would be required to provide funding to an area-wide traffic study based on the projected traffic of 950 trips per day generated by the campground.
Average daily vehicle counts on area roads in 2019 were 16,655 vehicles on Route 9 and 3,911 vehicles on Sand Hill Road.
Hutt pointed out that work is underway on the Georgetown Eastern Gateway, the Route 9-Sand Hill Road intersection, which includes realignment of Airport Road with Sand Hill Road, turn lanes, improved drainage, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Questions about noise
Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson asked about noise abatement to protect area residents.
Hutt said there would be quiet hours established in campground rules, which would be provided as part of the final site plan.
Commissioner Bruce Mears asked whether there would be bands, which is a common practice at many campgrounds.
“There is no plan for bands, but you can put in a condition of approval if there is live music what the cutoff time would be,” Hutt said.
Mears said the campground owners should be able to provide live music with a specified cutoff time to be established by commissioners and county council members.
“We don't have a noise ordinance, so we have to make sure whatever we do can be enforceable,” said assistant county attorney Vince Robertson.
Mears said most campgrounds have constables or security staff to enforce rules.
Sussex County council will have a public hearing on the application at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17, in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown.