Dagsboro imposes six-month moratorium

Dagsboro residents can still repair their houses, they can still apply for commercial permits or building permits (for single-family homes only), and they can still apply for minor subdivisions (four or fewer lots). But Dagsboro Town Council put the brakes on new annexations, rezonings and major subdivisions at the Jan. 24 council meeting — if the initial application wasn’t in by last Tuesday, it’ll have to wait until July 24.

The vote was a close one, coming down to Mayor Wayne Baker’s tiebreaker. Council Members Andy Engh and Kurt Czapp opposed the moratorium, Council Members Patti Adams and Cathy Flowers — and finally Baker — supported it.

But it wasn’t nearly the moratorium the commission had recommended. P&Z Chair Marge Eckerd initially asked that council hold up all but the three projects closest to actual groundbreaking (Cummings & Clark, Savannah’s Square and Chapel Crossing).

“We have 15 new developments and projects waiting for our review, and we don’t want to work under duress,” she said.

Further, Commission Member Terry Hearn detailed an objectives list, which included review of: 1) the cluster ordinance, 2) a recently-adopted street-widths ordinance, 3) a pending ordinance related to apartments, 4) landscaping and buffer standards, and 5) future land use, among other topics related to development in a more general sense.

“Are you talking about creating new ordinances that would be retroactively applied to the 15-or-so projects in the pipeline?” asked attorney Dennis Schrader, representing developers for the big, 430-unit General’s Green project.

He recognized that development standards always changed. “But at some point, we need to know what to comply with,” Schrader said. “We all have vested rights, and case law says that those rights become vested a lot earlier than preliminary site plan approval.”

Schrader suggested retroactive application of ordinances to projects already in the pipeline would be at least inappropriate, and possibly illegal.

“The intent is to try to make different ordinances agree with one another,” Hearn countered. “Some overlap, others are somewhat contradictory.”

Hearn and others suggested the commission needed breathing room, to work through its objectives list.

While the moratorium may have been the linchpin, council and commission spent much of the evening wrestling toward common ground on some of those specific objectives.

Take road widths: As Eckerd reported, the more lenient standards for interior streets in subdivisions remains controversial with the fire department.

But after a considerable rehash, council decided to leave the new standards alone.

(As Gulbronson reminded them, only “sub-collector” streets, and only where on-street parking was prohibited, could be reduced to the new minimum 25-foot width. And 25 feet was still wider than either the state or the county required, he added.)

A council majority seemed more receptive to the P&Z’s recommendations regarding the apartment ordinance, though. As proposed, the ordinance would have allowed up to 20 apartments per building. The P&Z recommended that remain at 10 per building, and council would eventually ask Town Solicitor Tempe Steen to re-draft the ordinance in such a way as to preserve that existing restriction.

Steen expected the ordinance could be re-advertised and re-introduced in time for council reconsideration sometime in March.