Sussex council approves Ritter application

Decision to remove concrete crushing placates neighbors who complained
January 27, 2023

Howard Ritter & Sons can continue selling landscape materials at their location off Plantation Road, which they have been doing since the 1970s.

At its Jan. 24 meeting, Sussex County Council unanimously approved a conditional-use application filed by the company to continue sales of stone, mulch, soil and other related outdoor products at its existing 51-acre borrow pit near Lewes.

Because of nearby residents' concerns with noise and dust, the Ritters amended their original application to remove concrete crushing and recycling, stump and tree grinding, and shredding and dyeing of mulch.

David Hutt, an attorney representing the applicant, said the family is giving up a very profitable portion of their business by halting concrete crushing. “They listened to concerns and complaints and modified their application to be less impactful on their neighbors,” he said.

Because Delaware Department of Transportation now allows recycled, crushed concrete as a base layer for roads, the demand for the product is high. He said the operation was in the heart of the Henlopen Transportation Improvement District where several road improvement projects are planned or underway.

Hutt said the company has supplied materials for the state, county, municipalities, hundreds of local businesses and thousands of local residents for nearly 50 years. He said the application received 42 letters of support. No one spoke in opposition during the council hearing.

In support of application

Brook Freeman, who lives near the property on Robinsonville Road, said council should consider amending the application to allow concrete recycling. He said by eliminating the operation, trucks hauling concrete for recycling must travel to other locations, adding more truck traffic to area roads.

Freeman said he has lived in the area for more than 70 years and has never had a problem with the company.

“They have responded to growth in the area and their business has evolved as the result of you allowing all this development,” he told council.

He said some neighbors have complained they don't want the operation in their backyard. “This was an existing backyard. There is still farmland around this area and they will try to shut that down also. Be careful not to take property rights away from people,” Freeman said.

District 4 Councilman Mark Schaeffer asked if the application could be amended.

County attorney J. Everett Moore said the application filed for the hearing could not be amended without scheduling new hearings.

“But they can come back at any time,” he said.

District 3 Councilman Doug Hudson asked why the applicant was even filing a conditional-use application since they have been business for so long.

“We received a complaint,” said Director of Planning & Zoning Jamie Whitehouse, which triggered discussions between county staff and the Ritters.

He said the borrow pit on the site, which is not part of the application, is a nonconforming use and staff recommended that a conditional-use application be filed to cover other activities on the property.

The council approved the following conditions recommended by the planning & zoning commission:

Hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays

No deliveries of materials can be made before 8 a.m.

All materials must be stored in bins with sufficient management of stormwater runoff.


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