Cape Gazette
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Love Creek RV Park: The abuse of common sense!

By Dan Ahearn | Sep 03, 2013

I attended the Aug. 22 Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, which made me lose even more faith in county government and the integrity of the bureaucratic process to do what’s best for the general public.

I’m referring to the 4-1 commission vote recommending approval of the overwhelmingly opposed Love Creek RV Park and campground resort.

The citizens of Sussex County deserve better than to be subjected to the random decision making of a group of appointed commissioners, whose recommendations will adversely impact the lives of many county residents for generations to come. The increased traffic of 600 additional RVs, will affect the health, safety and well-being of those who drive on the inadequate road infrastructure during the peak summer season.

While we were informed that this proceeding was “not a popularity contest,” it appears that the commissioners seemed convinced that they don’t have to be guided by concerns of the local residents, supposedly non-credentialed citizens who opposed this project.  This is truly a disturbing thought.

Yes, we may not be experts or credentialed in a legal sense, but we are the ones who will have to bear the consequences of the decisions of out-of-area commissioners who represent us, but who themselves will not be affected by their actions.

As an example, a commissioner cited that no data was provided supporting our contention that property values would diminish if this project was approved. Common sense would dictate that even a village idiot would be able to figure out that if the existing narrow roads were heavily traveled and backed up with over-sized vehicles, it would detract from the desirability of living in nearby homes and thus diminish their values.

Obviously, putting a commercial resort in the middle of surrounding residential developments would not enhance property values and will negatively impact their values.

Additionally, this project decision will one day create various other issues: impeding  the evacuation process of people trying to escape storms in a timely fashion with many over-sized vehicles on the narrow roadways; possibly adding to flooding due to the reduction in drainage and creek shifting patterns; harming the ecological balance of both wildlife and plants; and eventually costing Sussex County taxpayers time and money due to providing increased emergency services, road provisioning and maintenance, increase overcapacity and the placement of public sewer pipes not yet connected (although cited as one of the reasons for approval of the project); and last, the potential loss of additional transfer tax revenues to Sussex County if the property were to be developed in an alternative fashion.

Many of those in attendance at the Aug. 22 meeting had to endure hearing the astonishing accolades from two commissioners about the applicant’s “generosity” in making never before seen “voluntary” revisions to the original plans.  Their admiration for the developer sounded more like testimonial than legitimate reasons for recommending approval of the project!

Was it really necessary to cite more than 15 frivolous and bogus reasons why one commissioner thought the project would be beneficial to us, the nearby residents?   Did these comments rationalize the guilt of making an unfavorable decision to those he supposedly represents?

Additionally, do the commissioners honestly believe that the handful of minimum-wage seasonal jobs to be created will shrink the unemployment ranks and benefit the coffers of Sussex County?

In retrospect, the commissioner seemed to do a more enthusiastic job of defending the project than the applicant’s team did at the earlier council hearing!

This commissioner's list of conditions was even more excessive than his reasons for approval. However, who is going to inspect and enforce those conditions and what will happen if the conditions are not met after the project is completed?  As an example, it was stated no alcohol would be sold on the premises, but the fate of the proposed tiki bar was not mentioned nor denied.  Can a tiki bar function if it cannot sell alcohol?  Was it purposely omitted on the record so that it can be resurfaced at a later date?

Limiting the use of the amphitheater to operate between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. allows it to be used for up to 15 hours a day with possible music, movies and or services.  Does that mean that nearby residents can look forward to hearing the reverberation of the sound system throughout Love Creek for most of the day?  Will we need to bother the police to enforce noise pollution if it occurs?

We’re also confused about the conditional dates of operation which were somehow expanded from the previously proposed dates stated by the applicant at the Feb. 19 county council meeting. Somehow, the dates went from April 1 through Oct. 31, to March 15 through Nov. 15.  Does the applicant even know that he should be opening earlier according to these conditions?  Should the commission be thanked for the extended bonus period?

Unfortunately, this now adds another month of higher traffic volume to the nearby middle school as buses pass right by the RV resort to pick up and drop off students. The RV park would now be open simultaneously for at least five months with the Cape Henlopen school system. Unfortunately, it will only take one incident involving a RV and a school bus on the narrow shared roads to realize that this potential incident could have been prevented. Hopefully though, this will never happen.

One also wonders when DelDOT plans to complete the road improvements that it recommended in reviewing a traffic study conducted by the applicant.  Does its budget allow for these improvements and weren’t some of these improvements already delayed?  Will the park open prior to these improvements or should we expect the park to open first and then have massive traffic problems with oversized vehicles traversing the roads while they are under construction?

The commission stated that it expects 80 percent road improvement funding from the state’s allotment from the feds, but only 20 percent of a portion of the improvements to be paid by the applicant.   Additionally, with the task force that is currently investigating improvements for pedestrian safety on Route 1, how will this be impacted by the increased RV traffic?  And more important, how will this affect the RV traffic?

Another point is how is the RV project going to be compatible with the ongoing search for a new elementary school site which has been narrowed down to two possible locations out of four, which are located fewer than two miles from the RV park?

Also consider that a new RV site, capable of holding another 300 RVs, has just been approved six miles away from the proposed Love Creek site.  This means that within the next few seasons, if the Love Creek RV Park is ultimately passed, we would have an influx of more than 900 additional RVs travelling on many of the same roads to get to this area.  Can no one envision miles and hours of backups throughout the area?  These long waits might even cause some tourists to reconsider coming to the area for weekends as they may spend frustrating hours stuck in traffic.

The smart thing to do would be to build the roads first and have them come instead of having them come first and then building the roads!  Is there no planning ahead to evaluate what the cumulative impact to total traffic will be on the area or is it all done on a project-by-project basis?  
Please realize that this is not an opposition to RV'ers, but instead an opposition to the location of the proposed site as well as to the existing road infrastructure. It will create chaos and inconvenience to nearby residents and others coming to the beach areas.

One needs only to drive by the narrow roads that will access the park and experience the frustration of the already existing traffic of Route 1, Plantation Road, Route 24, Robinsonville Road and the nearby connecting roads.  Route 24 is already decorated with memorials to those who were killed in traffic accidents. Inserting larger vehicles on busy one-lane roads can only add to these tragedies. Therefore we again stress that this is not the appropriate location for up to 600 additional RVs and even more personal vehicles that will be associated with this project!

Finally, while some commissioners realize that they are immune from accountability to the public for their voting decisions since they are appointed for long terms, I offer that their accountability will come in the form of their legacies and reputations. If this park creates any of the economic, ecological, safety and adverse traffic conditions previously voiced in our letters and at the hearings, I propose that we constantly remind everyone of any public official’s roles in allowing and approving this preventable and ill-advised project.

Perhaps, we can erect a plaque or a sign forever acknowledging their involvement.  Of course, if this project is the massive success that they believe it will be, then they’ll be perceived as those who knew what was best for their “non-credentialed citizens.”

However, if there are any future disasters or adverse consequences associated with this project if it was to pass, we’ll be sure to write to the papers and remind everyone again of any public official’s names and that of the developer, whose participation contributed to this misplaced albatross. They had been advised of the potential adverse conditions and harmful consequences, but will have chosen to ignore these ominous warnings. They must obviously believe in the merits of their judgment, so it shouldn’t bother them to be forever associated with their decisions.

It appears that greed, profit and possible business cronyism might be at the root of this project’s approval, but for whatever the reason, we have 1,200-plus signatures on a petition opposing this project and it is a shame that these voices are being ignored. We have little recourse to hold officials accountable and to see so few selfishly profit from this project at the expense of many.

The future character of Sussex County will be forever impacted by this decision, and it is a true travesty of the abuse of common sense. This type of project has already been denied in other parts of the county with fewer disadvantages than this proposed site, so one can only wonder how it could ever possibly be approved.

Finally, I do want to thank P&Z Commissioner Rodney Smith, who was independent enough to vote based on his convictions, and was not necessarily influenced by his connections.  We all hope that the Sussex County Council will have that kind of courage and use common sense in making their final and binding decision!

Dan Ahearn
Lewes

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