Public opposition raised to business rezoning

Nearby residents are not happy with an application to re-zone about four acres west of Muddy Neck Road from AR-1 Agricultural Residential District to a B-1 Neighborhood Business District. At the public hearing at Sussex County Planning and Zoning meeting on April 30, representatives from Shady Dell Homeowner’s Association, Providence Homeowner’s Association and other neighbors spoke in opposition to the application, citing the precedent that will be set if such a parcel is re-zoned.

“I found out that if a property is to be re-zoned it’s a courtesy to send a notification to all residents within 200 feet,” said Diana Emlet, who lives in Providence. “I live 49 feet away and didn’t receive the notice, nor did anybody in Providence. If I wanted to buy in a commercial area, I would’ve bought next to Giant,” she said. “But I didn’t. I don’t want to be looking at the back of a strip mall or a Dumpster. Providence doesn’t even have Dumpsters for that reason.”

Thomas E. Frank and Heidi Balliet, an attorney from Tunnell & Raysor P.A., and Mark Davidson of Design Consultants Group L.L.C were present at the hearing to submit the application, which included a site plan proposing three buildings, totaling 27,448 square feet, with an entrance off of Road 361.

At the hearing, they responded to questions and acknowledged that the commission must consider if whether uses permitted in a B-1 district are appropriate for this location; and that the purpose of a B-1 District is to provide primarily for retail shopping and personal-service uses.

They noted that the area has several different uses, for example, Melson’s Funeral Home in a B-1 district, GR-General Residential subdivisions, RPC-Residential Planned Communities, a “nonconforming produce stand”; and noted that “AR-1 zoning may be out of character, non-compatible and offensive to some of the residents in the area due to some farming practices that cause dust, odor and noises.”

They also submitted certain limits to the property’s uses: “a 6-foot-high privacy fence to be planted along the common boundary line of the property and Shady Dell Park Subdivision; all lighting will be downward illumination and will not encroach onto adjacent properties; all trash Dumpsters will be located at least 25-feet from all boundary lines; all required DelDOT road improvements will be completed at the developer’s expense prior to issuance of Certificate of Occupancy by Sussex County; any commercial ventilation fans, vents and heating and A/C units will be placed on the roofs of the building and will be placed at least 30 feet from the adjacent boundary lines.

In addition, they said, the front and side view of the buildings will reflect the architectural style and look of a residential-style structure in the community; pedestrian walkway access will be provided to adjacent properties as shown on the plan; no outside open storage of pallets, crates, or building materials will be permitted; no outside speakers, bells or ringers will be permitted for any use”; hours of operation shall be limited to ending at 11 p.m. in the evening.

Emlet stated that that most of the residents she had spoken with opposed such a property going in and are worried about noise and crime. She acknowledged that Melson’s Funeral Home is across the street but emphasized that the type of change rezoning the additional four acres would make.

“Melson’s is across the street, but I knew that when I bought the property. Once the business is re-zoned, he can do anything he wants. Why have zoning laws? We all purchased our properties knowing it was agricultural/residential and thinking it would stay that way.”

At the hearing, Lori Fry, a Shady Dell resident, read and submitted a statement and submitted petitions in opposition from residents of Shady Dell Park Subdivision, Providence RPC, Summerfield Subdivision and Hunter’s Run RPC, containing approximately 112 signatures in opposition.

Sandy Pool read and submitted a statement and submitted petitions in opposition from residents of Plantation Park Subdivision, Plantation Park Marina Subdivision, Kensington Park RPC, Forest Reach RPC, Ocean Air Subdivision, South Hampton RPC, Summerset Subdivision and Silverwoods, containing approximately 175 signatures of the 186 people contacted. According to the minutes of the meeting, there was no citizen present in support of the application.

“If the commercial was there first, that’s one thing,” Emlet continued. “But you don’t just stick commercial in with the residential, especially when the community doesn’t want it.”

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, during the Sussex County Council meeting in the County Council Chambers, County Administrative Office Building, Georgetown. Because Planning and Zoning deferred a decision at their April meeting, County Council does not yet have a recommendation from them.

P&Z’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, May 20, at 3 p.m. Once Planning and Zoning gives a recommendation, the council has the ultimate authority to approve or deny an application.

At the same public hearing session on Tuesday, May 19, there will be a public hearing on a conditional-use application of land in an AR-1 agricultural residential district filed on behalf of Timothy Elder for antiques, gifts and produce and barbeque sales to be located on abut an acre of land on the westerly side of Double Bridges Road (Road 363) and 700 feet south of Muddy Neck Road (Road 361).

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