Overriding its planning and zoning commission, Sussex County Council has rejected the rezoning of a 17-acre parcel on the east side of Route 1 across the highway from the new Bayhealth Medical Campus.
That decision was one of three at the Feb. 27 meeting when council overruled recommendations from the planning and zoning commission.
East Gate Farm filed an application to rezone the parcel south of Cedar Neck Road from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to B-1 neighborhood business district for an office complex. The planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend approval; county council was unanimous in denying the application.
Making the motion for denial, Councilman I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, said he was concerned about development along the Route 1 corridor between Milford and Milton and south to Lewes. The parcel is located 900 feet east of Route 1.
“This property is a keystone in how Sussex County treats future land-use applications and development east of Route 1,” Burton said. “If we approve this one, it signals that Sussex County believes that more intensive uses are appropriate in this area. I do not want to start that trend with this property,” he said.
Burton said land on the east side of Route 1 should remain AR-1 with the uses permitted under that zoning district.
At the Nov. 16, 2017, planning and zoning commission meeting, Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson said the rezoning was in character with the developing nature of the area for an office center to be integrated in the area's residential and healthcare uses.
The council did not agree.
Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, said it's understood that more development will occur in the area around the new hospital. “The cat is out of the bag, but we still need to be cautious because with this change of zoning they are not legally bound to build what was presented,” he said.
Arlett said he would have preferred that the applicant file a conditional-use application instead of a rezoning application.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to master plan this area, and we should take the time to do it right with thought of future development in this area,” Burton said.
Burton said there are no other parcels on the east side of Route 1 with commercial zoning. He said zoning in the area of the hospital is institutional within Milford city limits, but the tract is isolated and surrounded by residential development and AR-1 land.
“Although B-1 neighborhood business is appropriate within this area, the existing AR-1 zoning is equally appropriate,” Burton said. “The east side of Route 1 from the Route 30 to south of Milton is largely protected lands according to the future land-use map in the current comprehensive plan.”
He said more intensive commercial development is not as compatible with the protected lands as the existing low-density residential development or agricultural use under existing AR-1 zoning.
Council votes against P&Z
Sussex County Council also overruled the planning and zoning commission recommendations on two other applications.
Council voted 5-0 to approve a rezoning application from AR-1 to CR-1 filed by Dale Lomas/Seashore Highway Associates for a 4-acre parcel along Route 9 near Lewes. The planning and zoning commission had voted 4-0 recommending denial of the application.
Making the motion for approval, Burton said the planned commercial expansion of an adjacent business was consistent with other commercial uses along the north side of Route 9.
Council voted 5-0 to deny a conditional-use application filed by Gailbraith Development Group for a 46,000-square-foot mini-storage facility along Muddy Neck Road near Ocean View. Commissioners had voted 5-0 in favor of the application.
Making the motion for denial, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, said the project was not compatible with the area.