County council defers on Moose Lodge

Sussex County Council held public hearing on the Loyal Order of Moose application at the April 26 council meeting.

Earlier this month, the county’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission recommended approval for a new East Sussex Lodge, on 4 acres near Peppers Corner Road, south of Millville. However, council hesitated to accept that recommendation without studying the application further, and deferred action. According to Council President Finley Jones, it will come back on the May 10 agenda.

Attorney Ken Feister, representing the applicants, said they hoped to open the members-only (and family and friends) lodge from 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday, 8 to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Feister noted the organization’s honorable reputation, as a nondiscriminatory nonprofit, primarily funded by its own members. Moose members go in for community service and fundraising, particularly for needy children. They run a 1,000-acre residential child care and school in Illinois (Mooseheart), and also provide a facility in Florida for retired members (Moosehaven).

The East Sussex Lodge started out with 50 members, Feister said, and had since grown to 500, plus 200 Women of the Moose members. However, he anticipated typical daily attendance at the lodge would be between 20 and 40 members.

He said Moose headquarters had designated the existing East Sussex Lodge, next to Hocker’s SuperCenter on Route 26, a “family center,” for its support of local children’s activities. According to Feister, the expanded facility south of Millville would give them additional office space (separate from the bar area) to maintain that designation and expand those activities.

However, neighboring farmer Alyssa Ziff called their choice of location highly inappropriate. “There’s no reason to go down there, unless you’re a chicken farmer,” she said. “It’s just not right to put it there.”

As Ziff contended, the applicants should bear the burden of proving the lodge would be a good use for the area — instead, she felt she’d been forced to come before council to defend her property rights.

The lodge was 75 feet from the ventilation turbines on the chicken house, maybe another 100 feet from her manure shed, she said — there were sure to be complaints about odors.

While Ziff applauded the good work the Moose organization did for the community as a whole, she questioned the benefit to the more immediate community. She also raised concerns about traffic, overflow parking spilling into her fields, headlights disturbing her chickens and pressures associated with alcohol and video slot machines, in an area without a standing police force.

As Ziff noted, burglars had targeted the video machines at the existing Moose lodge on three separate occasions in recent months.

Bill Satterfield, executive director for the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI), questioned the lodge’s compatibility with the established agriculture activities in that area.

In addition, he said the stormwater management ponds required to control runoff from the new parking lot could become an attraction for wild birds.

Wild birds sometimes carry viruses, he said, and that could pose a potential biosecurity risk. “We encourage poultry growers not to have ponds,” Satterfield pointed out.

In other business, council approved Reginald O’Rourke’s conditional use application for an additional home on her 1.1-acre parcel southeast of Ocean View. O’Rourke said the new home would be for her daughter and granddaughter.

In grant requests, Council Member George Cole approved $750 for the Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade Committee (they’d asked for $500), and council approved $675 for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).