Sussex council approves businesses on Robinsonville Road

Prettyman family to continue repairs, storage on 1800s family property
September 18, 2019

A couple who has had businesses on their property for more than 40 years has been granted a conditional use by Sussex County Council to continue operations.

Joseph and Patricia Prettyman, who live on a 3-acre parcel along Robinsonville Road near Lewes, filed an application to maintain two dwellings and operate a lawnmower and small-engine repair shop and three self-storage buildings.

Mark Davidson, a land planner with Penonni Associates in Milton who represented the applicants, said an application was filed because the Prettymans were issued a violation notice for operating commercial businesses in AR-1, agricultural-residential, zoning.

He said the small-engine repair business dates back to the early 1970s and the other businesses date back to the 1980s.

“They have never received any complaints from neighbors or anyone else up and down the road,” Davidson said. “They don't advertise for this. It's all word of mouth.”

Hours for the lawnmower repair business are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, with no weekend hours. The storage units are open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Davidson said outside storage of boats and trailers is contained between two buildings and is not visible from the road or adjacent properties.

The couple also have a small horse farm where they board horses and offer riding lessons, which is not a permitted land use in AR-1 zoning. A special-use exception from the Sussex County Board of Adjustment is required to operate a commercial horse-boarding business.

Davidson said the use could possibly be grandfathered because the Prettymans have had the horse farm since the 1960s, prior to creation of Sussex County zoning. He said proof will have to be presented to Sussex County planning and zoning officials to bypass the board of adjustment process.

He said the farm, which was 200 acres, dates back to the late 1800s and still has several historic buildings on site, including a circa 1890s milk house. Davidson said the size of the farm was reduced when acreage was sold to the adjacent Estates of Bridle Ridge subdivision where horse stalls and pastures are permitted.

Davidson said the land was farmed until the 1980s when the use was changed to what it is today.

At its July 18 meeting, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the application.

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