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Upzoning requests, congestion don’t compute

June 7, 2019

“The zoning regulations and districts as herein established are designated and adopted in accordance with a Comprehensive Plan to promote, in accordance with the present and future needs, the health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants of Sussex County, Delaware, including, among other things, the lessening of congestion in the streets or roads or reducing the waste of excessive amounts of roads ...” - Excerpt from the opening paragraph of Sussex County zoning regulations document

Several rezoning requests for properties on the main roads coming into Lewes are moving through Sussex County review processes.

On Savannah Road, developers of a 6-acre parcel seek a change from agricultural/residential (AR) zoning’s two units per acre to medium residential (MR) zoning’s four units per acre.

On Kings Highway, owners of the Mitchell farm seek a rezoning on 20 acres from AR to commercial zoning and a rezoning on another 30 AR acres to medium residential for 120 dwelling units.

As currently zoned, those 50 acres would support 100 units. The requested zoning changes would allow an estimated 201,000 square feet of commercial office space generating an estimated 7,600 average weekday vehicle trips and 120 residential dwelling units generating 1,176 weekday vehicle trips.

These requests represent significant increases in permitted density and intensity along already congested roads – representing the complete opposite of what the zoning document calls for.

Owners and developers are within their rights to seek rezonings. Sussex County, however, is under no obligation to approve such requests.

Applicants wouldn’t seek rezonings if they didn’t think they would benefit. However, how would the changes benefit “the general welfare of the inhabitants of Sussex County?”

Land in these areas is plenty valuable enough under current zoning, which provides property owners ample opportunity to make money through development. Upzoning requests like these should not be approved unless exceptional need is demonstrated that outweighs the certain increase in projected congestion.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.