Planners move on without Allen

The Sussex County Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission held its first meeting Thursday, Aug. 11, since the passing of longtime P&Z President John “Jack” Allen.
The chairman’s seat remained vacant during the four-hour session at the Sussex County Administrative Building in Georgetown, but the committee patriarch’s presence was clearly felt.

“He was well-missed. We left his chair vacant in respect for his passing,” said Lawrence Lank, the P&Z director. “He’ll be missed for a long time I’m sure.”

The commission started the evening with a moment of silence for Allen, who died Monday, Aug. 1, at the age of 79. The Milford native had served on the board since its inception in 1968.

Many of the attorneys presenting zoning plans Thursday offered brief eulogies, verbalizing the surreal emptiness in the room. And when audience members who had come to oppose a subdivision proposal were turned away from the lectern, a woman evoked Allen’s virtuousness in protest upon exiting the room.

“I guess money talks around here,” she yelled. “This never would have happened if Jack Allen were still here.”

Lank and other members of P&Z later disputed the accusatory assertions.

As part of its emergency reorganization, the commission named Vice Chairman Robert Wheatley as acting chairman and Benjamin Gordy as acting vice chairman. The ‘acting’ labels cannot be dropped from Wheatley’s and Gordy’s titles until the county council appoints a fifth member to the P&Z board. The commission will proceed with a four-person body until that occurs, and all split votes will count as recommendations for denial, Lank said.

In other P&Z happenings:

• The commission recommended a conditional use proposal from Charles and Bonnie Zonko for approval. The Zonkos intend to use their AR-1 Agricultural Residential District property — at the corner of Roads 370-B and 381-A in Baltimore Hundred — to house a 40-by-100-foot office building and a 60-by-100-foot storage facility for Zonko Builders, which is currently headquartered in Fenwick Island.

• The commission granted preliminary approval to an application from William Warrington. Warrington wants to divide 16.35 acres of AR-1 land — north of Route 26 and west of Road 345 in Baltimore Hundred — into a 15-lot subdivision.