Industrial park proposed for parcel outside Milton

Developer files applications for Sussex land-use plan amendment and rezoning
January 12, 2021

Story Location:
Route 16
Gravel Hill Road
Milton  Delaware  19958
United States

The Reed family has plans to develop a 67-acre parcel just west of Milton into an industrial park.

Reed Farms LLC has filed an application to rezone three parcels along Route 30/Gravel Hill Road near the Route 16/Milton-Ellendale Highway intersection from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to HI-1, heavy industrial district.

But in order for that rezoning to occur, officials must first vote to amend the county's future land-use map ordinance to change the parcel from low density to a growth area. HI-1 zoning is not permitted in areas designated low density.

During a Dec. 17 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, David Hutt, the applicants' attorney, said the parcel meets all criteria in the county land-use plan for a growth area, including access to major roads, access to central water and sewer service and utilities, and near a town center. In addition, the parcel is adjacent to a spur of the Delmarva Central Railroad.

Hutt said the site is in proximity to existing industrial-zoned land where Baker Petroleum and Wyoming Millwork are located.

Commissioners deferred a vote on the rezoning application and left the public record open for receipt of Preliminary Land Use Service comments on the proposed amendment to the future land-use map.

Once the comments from state agencies have been received and announced at a public meeting, the public and applicants will have 15 days to submit written comments relating to the PLUS findings.

Assistant county attorney Vince Robertson said county council's public hearing on the rezoning application would not be scheduled until the record is closed on the application to amend the future land-use map.


Uses not part of application

Although Hutt said there are no specific uses proposed for the parcel at this time, a conceptual site plan filed with the application shows an area for heavy industrial uses such as agriculture-related business, wholesale and distribution operations, and railroad services uses; an area for light industrial uses such as stand-alone industries and pad sites; and an area for warehouse, storage and flexible-space uses.

Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley said HI-1 rezoning applications do not require site plans, but a future site plan for the parcel would be subject to review and approval by the planning and zoning commission.

Nearby residents expressed concern about what type of industries or businesses would be in the park.

“Often, people think of large factories or offending uses,” Hutt said. “The county has protections from this matter in HI-1 zoning.”

He said any proposed use that is deemed to have a serious adverse impact to neighboring areas or any potentially hazardous use would first have to be granted a special-use exception by the Sussex County Board of Adjustment, which includes a public hearing.

Wheatley said there are 45 uses – including asphalt plants – that require special permission.

“This is a big leap from AR-1 to HI-1, but there are safeguards in place,” Wheatley said.


Concerns about entrance

Some residents expressed concerns about a proposed entrance to the parcel across from the Pemberton community.

Mark Davidson of Pennoni Associates in Milton said Delaware Department of Transportation officials would likely require that one of the parcel's access points line up with the Pemberton entrance along Gravel Hill Road.

Milton resident Keith Steck said an industrial park is not the best use of the parcel. “Heavy industry is not appropriate in that location. It's better suited for a medical facility, a grocery store or other services the community needs,” he said.

He said any use of the land should be compatible with residential growth and the hundreds of acres of preserved land west and north of the parcel.


Attorney's request nixed

Robert Valihura, an attorney representing residents in the Pemberton community, asked for the public record to remain open so he could present a written statement from his clients in opposition to the application. He said his clients were prepared to testify at the Dec. 17 hearing until the application was amended to include a change in the future land-use map, which was not part of the original application.

Commissioners did not grant his request.

“It was a slight change in wording, and I'm puzzled how it would affect what someone's testimony would be,” Wheatley said. “They'll have an opportunity again to testify at county council. I wasn't moved by his argument.”

“The underlying application has not changed,” Robertson said. “It's the HI-1 rezoning reviewed by PLUS and the rezoning that was posted. I don't see a fundamental change in the circumstances. A turn of phrase from staff doesn't affect where HI-1 is appropriate or not.”


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