County P&Z hears, defers two change-of-zone applications

Date Published: 
Dec. 29, 2017

After holding public hearings on Dec. 21 for two local change-of-zone applications, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously voted to defer their decisions on both.

One application, for a parcel located at the southeast corner of Bayard and Double Bridges roads, filed by Lemuel H. Hickman GST Exempt Trust fbo Brenton Archut, requested that a 5.11-acre area of their overall parcel, which measures 24.8 acres, be rezoned from AR-1 (Agricultural Residential District) to Business-1.

The property is vacant, with no improvements, and is currently being used for farming.

“We’re not trying to overreach,” said the applicant’s attorney, Dennis Schrader of Morris James. “What my client would like to do is a small retail, garden center in this location.”

Schrader said the Delaware Department of Transportation’s Level of Service indicates the level of service at that parcel would likely be less than 50 vehicle trips per hour or 500 trips per day, therefore not requiring a traffic impact study.

“It’s been in our family for approximately 75 years,” said Archut of the property, noting that, over the years, the property has started to be surrounded by development.

“Above us, completely surrounding us, is a new subdivision being built,” he said. “Currently, there’s probably 25 to 30 homes already built or under construction. And the full subdivision, by the time it’s over, will be 88 homes. Just down Camp Barnes Road … is where The Estuary is being built, and that’s approximately 700 homes, 40 to 50 of which are already built or under construction.”

Archut said a small subdivision was also being built across Bayard Road from the property, and noted that, about one mile away is Forest Landing, which is close to being built out. Sections of Millville By the Sea will stretch to Peppers Corner Road, about one mile away, as well.

He said the property had been used as a poultry farm by his grandfather until the early 1980s. The chicken houses were taken down in the 1990s.

“It’s been share-cropped ever since.”

Along with the garden center, Archut said his family hopes to potentially construct a “small convenience-style” store, similar to Quillen’s Market, which used to exist just up the road.

“We don’t envision any petroleum products,” he said. “We just want a place … where all these 800-some homes can possibly get something to eat, potentially a gallon of milk and any other necessities they may need that would prevent them from going out on busy roads like Route 54 and Route 26.”

Archut said the closest stores of that type would be Uncle Willie’s on Route 54 and the Royal Farms in Ocean View, which is a few miles away.

The proposed plan would include a total retail space of approximately 7,000 square feet, while the greenhouses would equal approximately 3,500 to 4,000 square feet.

“I have been approached by three landscapers looking for space in this area,” said Archut. “On the concept plan, there are 50 parking spaces, but the way the property is set up … there could be significantly more, if necessary.”

Under the proposal, significant space would be dedicated for stormwater management. While DelDOT does not require a traffic impact study for the site, they did increase the designation of the road to a major collector.

“There’s been increased traffic on the road,” Archut stated. “If anything, we know we’re going to have to do road improvements, intersection improvements, potentially road improvements down both sides of the road, which we’ll be more than willing to do when it becomes necessary. If anything, it would probably make the area safer than it is now.”

Schrader noted that, while the change-of-zone application gave details related to the desired use for the land, if the request was granted, they would still be back before the County with preliminary and final site plans.

No one at the hearing spoke in favor of or in opposition to the application. The commissioners voted 4-0 to defer their decision.

The commission that night also heard a change-of-zone request filed by Preston and Brenda Brasure for their 2.72-acre property on the west side of Roxana Road. The Brasures requested that the property, which has been in the family since 1946, be rezoned from AR-1 (Agricultural Residential district) to a CR-1 (Commercial Residential district).

The applicants’ attorney, Shannon Carmean Burton of Sergovic, Carmean, Weidman, McCartney & Owens P.A., noted the owners have no intentions of developing the property at this time.

“I’m in poor health, and I figured it would do my family good… I don’t plan on doing anything with it,” said Preston Brasure.

Brasure also stated that he and his wife moved out of the family home on the property in 2005 because they wanted to live in a more rural area. Since then, they have had renters at the property, but that experience, he said, has been “hectic.”

Engineer Steve Hutchins of Axiom Engineering stated that the parcels are located in an area that has “been trending commercial for some time.”

Hutchins said the County’s commercial land use and development plan shows the property in a projected commercial growth area.

Burton noted that the “majority of the lands in close proximity to the Brasures’ property are zoned CR-1 or C-1,” calling attention to Hocker’s Super Center, Bob’s Marine and Creative Concepts. She added that the adjoining parcel to the west, while zoned AR-1, is owned by 84 Lumber.

“Although the Brasures do not plan to develop the land at this time, they do recognize the change in the character and quality of the area, and believe that the property has limited value as residential property at this point.”

She added that the rezoning would “provide compatibility with these neighboring uses” and that they do not believe it would have a negative impact or cause detriment on neighboring areas or uses in the area.

Kelly Jansen of Bridgeville spoke in favor of the application, noting that the applicants are her parents.

“He had a boat before he even had a bicycle,” she said of her father. “Moving inland was very difficult for them… It’s not a question if it’s going to be zoned commercial, it’s a question of when.”

Jansen said the roads are already full with traffic, and what they are asking for would not change the character of the area.

“I don’t like the area becoming commercial, either… but it is. This is always been something they’ve talked about… They are not trying to change the character of the district.”

Brenda Bove, who owns the horse farm immediately adjacent to the Brasures’ property, spoke in opposition to the application.

“The property currently is a small property. It has two rentals, one of which has a failing septic system and it doesn’t have access to County sewer,” she said. “Until it has access to County sewer, it should not be rezoned commercial.”

Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson said the commission would have to have some discussion before taking action on the application.

“That one was just purely speculative, but there were legitimate reasons for it,” he said.

“Speculative zoning is not appropriate. We don’t change zones just so people can sell their land for more money. There has to be another compelling reason,” said Commissioner Bob Wheatley. “In this case, while the applicant presented the profit motive as being one of their arguments, it wasn’t their only argument. And I think their other arguments were compelling.

“There’s a lot of other development in that area,” Wheatley added. “I certainly feel for the horse-farm folks, but they’re probably going to be subsumed by all of it at some point.”

The commission voted 4-0 to defer action on that application as well.