County approves medical facility near Bayside

The Sussex County Council on Jan. 8 granted unanimous approval of a conditional use for PMP Associates, which plans to bring a facility for healthcare and medical offices to a location near the intersection of Routes 54 and 20.

The 33.04-acre parcel on Zion Church Road near Bayard Road contains roughly half of that space in wetlands, and plans call for the front, non-wetland half of the property to be developed into as many as six buildings that could house a variety of medical practices, and possibly an immediate-care facility that could perhaps be serviced by a helicopter.

PMP Associates, which is owned by two Wilmington-area dentists and an orthodontist, had requested the needed conditional use for the project back in October of 2007, before the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission, but that body deferred action on the request, as did the county council in mid-November, lacking comments from the state’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS).

With those comments not received until mid-December, planning commissioners voted 4-0 to recommend the approval of the conditional use, citing the semi-public nature of the project and its potential benefits to the area’s population, which has been and is expected to continue growing rapidly with the construction of the Bayside development just 2 miles down the road.

Commissioners made their recommendation contingent on a series of requirements, including hookup to central water and sewer, ongoing plan reviews as phases of the project proceed, a limitation to medical-type services, and a minimum 50-foot buffer required between the facilities and the wetlands at the rear of the property.

PLUS comments received Dec. 13 by the county noted that the project is within the state’s Level 4 area, meaning that the state plans to provide no support for infrastructure in what are generally environmentally sensitive or rural locations. But county officials on Jan. 8 noted that the parcel is inside a county-designated growth area, despite the state’s Level 4 designation.

Council members on Jan. 8 also noted the potential benefit to the community of the project, particularly with a more senior population likely to focus in that area. They asked that the developers provide a formal landscaping plan for the project to planners during their review process and otherwise generally agreed with the requirements planners had made in their recommendation of approval, voting unanimously to approve the conditional use.

Development of the project is expected to take place over a number of years.