Sussex council denies Old Orchard rezoning

Developer will proceed with three other projects along roadway near Lewes
January 15, 2019

Backing a recommendation from the planning and zoning commission, Sussex County Council has denied a commercial rezoning application for a parcel off Old Orchard Road near Lewes.

Old Orchard Ventures LLC c/o Barry Baker had filed to rezone a 6-acre parcel from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to C-2 medium commercial for Old Orchard Plaza, a 50,000-square-foot medical office building.

In the 3-1 vote at the Jan. 15 meeting, Councilman I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, said he agreed with planning and zoning's findings that rezoning was not consistent with other land uses in the immediate area. Burton said when an adjacent parcel was changed to C-1 zoning – now a closed district – in 1994 it made sense. “But times have changed, and the parcel is now surrounded by residential neighborhoods,” he said.

The application drew opposition from neighboring Villages of Five Points residents who said, among other concerns, traffic on Old Orchard Road was already at capacity, and additional projects would only exacerbate conditions.

Old Orchard Ventures has a master plan to develop a nearly 25-acre parcel that has a mix of AR-1, C-1 commercial and MR, medium-density residential, zoning. The developer plans to build a 24-unit independent-living condominium community on the 6-acre MR parcel; Tranquility at Breakwater, a 75,000 square foot, three-story, assisted-living facility on a 7.5-acre section of AR-1 land; and a 50,000-square-foot office complex on the 4-acre C-1 parcel.

In its recommendation for denial, planning and zoning commissioners urged the developer to refile the application as a conditional use to allow county officials more say in the use of the property. Burton said he did not want his motion to be perceived as support for a conditional use. “Each application has to stand on its own,” he said.

Councilmen Burton, Mike Vincent, R-Seaford, and John Rieley, R-Millsboro, voted for denial while Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, voted against denial.