Cape Gazette
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Council: Three requests, three different answers

Zoning change applications approved, denied and deferred
By Ron MacArthur | Apr 09, 2014
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Owners of the former Veggie Shack on Route 9 near Harbeson want county officials to rezone the property to commercial.

Location, location, location may not only apply to selling houses. It also makes a difference when applying for a zoning change in Sussex County.

County council heard three zoning change applications during its March 25 meeting and voted on them three different ways.

Council denied an application to rezone a parcel to commercial along Route 1 near Milton; voted to approve commercial zoning for another parcel on Route 16 near Milton; and deferred a decision for yet another commercial rezoning application for a parcel along Route 9 near Harbeson.

Council agreed with a planning and zoning commission recommendation that applicant Zhenguo Zhang should reapply for a conditional-use for a 2.3-acre parcel along Route 1 near Hudson Road, Milton. Zhang was seeking a change from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CR-1, commercial residential, to open a medical office.

In the 3-2 vote, Council President Mike Vincent, R-Seaford, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, and Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, voted for denial. Councilman Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, and Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, voted to approve the application.

Council agreed with the planning and zoning commission recommendation that a change to commercial zoning would open development up to a large number of possible uses; a conditional use is more restrictive.

“I agree with planning and zoning,” Vincent said. “A conditional use makes more sense because CR-1 would have too many potential uses.”

Deaver said a conditional use was more appropriate for the parcel because it was not located near another commercial area.

Phillips disagreed saying commercial zoning was within a few hundred yards of the parcel. “This is not spot zoning and the intended use would not be a high impact use,” he said. “We have given commercial zoning to other properties on Route 1 with less commercial zoning in the area. This is not a precedent.”

Council also voted to waive the application fee for Zhang to reapply for a conditional use.

Council then approved CR-1 rezoning for a 19,000-square foot parcel along Route 16 near Milton that is surrounded by other properties with CR-1 zoning. Council approved the request 5-0 to change zoning from AR-1 to CR-1. “This is a perfect example of in-fill,” Cole said.

Charles and Chrisy Greaves of Milton plan to convert a house on the parcel to an antique shop with office space. “This parcel is worthless as a residence,” Charles Greaves said. “I want to reinstitute value for this property. Sussex County is dotted with abandoned houses and I would not like to see this happen here.”

Phillips asked if the applicant was asked to apply for a conditional use.

“We always offer that option when someone applies,” said Lawrence Lank, the county's director of planning and zoning.

“I just got a lesson on how important conditional uses are, and it seems odd it didn't come up,” Phillips said.

In a third decision, council voted to defer an application filed by Phillip Cross and Prentice Watkins to convert a 4.8-acre parcel along Route 9 from a conditional use to CR-1 zoning. Cross said the property – the former location of the Veggie Shack and greenhouses – is for sale and a change to commercial zoning would not place a limit on use of the property. The planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the application.

“That means a shopping center could go here,” Phillips said.

Deaver made a motion to approve the application but her action died for lack of a second from another council member. Following that, a motion to dismiss the meeting also failed.

“I guess we will just sit here,” Vincent said.

“What just happened?” Deaver asked.

Eventually council voted to defer on the application.

This property along Route 16 near Milton has been rezoned to commercial and will be the site of an antiques store and offices. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
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