The owner of Sports at the Beach is eyeing a possible hotel, restaurant and convenience store at the complex. But first, Sussex County officials must approve a zoning change.
Softball World LLC has filed an application to rezone an 8-acre parcel along Route 9 east of Georgetown from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CR-1, commercial-residential.
Although a possible project is not part of the application, Mark Davidson, land planner with Pennoni Associates, said Sports at the Beach is seeking rezoning because a section of its 87-acre property has been lost to Sussex County airport expansion.
During the Dec. 14 commission meeting, Davidson said the original plans in 2002 called for adult dormitories to be constructed near the rear of the property along the border with Delaware Coastal Airport.
The runway project required the county to purchase eight acres of Sports at the Beach property to expand the runway's safety zone, Davidson said. The sold-off section was the intended site for the dormitories.
The commercial project would help keep more families on the site and reduce traffic on Route 9, Davidson said. “We would need CR-1 zoning for the hotel,” Davidson said.
A traffic-impact study will review area intersections, said traffic engineer D.J. Hughes. In addition, he said, in 2016, state transportation officials conducted a traffic-signal analysis at the Sports at the Beach entrance off Route 9. “We will update that and provide for signal design at the entrance,” he said.
Speaking in support of the application, Cooper Realty Associates President Tommy Cooper of Lewes said Sports at the Beach is a critical economic development driver, pumping $300 million into the local economy since 2011. He said the facility's 30 to 35 tournaments each year generate as many as 5,000 guests spending 10,000 nights in area hotels.
Cooper said with the additional amenities, Sports at the Beach would be self sufficient. “Families would be home for the weekend with no reason to leave,” he said. “Let's help make it better.”
Commissioners had praise for the project. “This has been a home run; a lot of hard work has gone into this with all private money,” said Commissioner Bob Wheatley.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, commissioners deferred a vote to a future meeting. County council's public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown.