On RV park, crawl before walking
Sussex County Council will soon vote on the Lingo-Townsend application for a rezoning and conditional use to allow a 600-unit recreational vehicle park on land near the headwaters of Love Creek. Most of the extensive debate has focused on traffic and environmental concerns.
Applicants say road widening and intersection improvements, along with public transportation provisions, should mitigate any problems that would otherwise arise from project traffic. They also say they are protecting the environment by voluntarily doubling the width of required buffers between their sites and adjoining waterways – from 50 feet to 100 feet – and protecting Welch’s Pond, a rare natural feature. They further note that by having the RV park closed for at least four months of the year during the winter, the proposed use will create less overall activity than the 300 to 400 year-round housing units current zoning allows.
Opponents say despite those provisions, a 600-unit recreational vehicle complex in a sensitive natural area, surrounded by singlefamily housing communities, where roads are already congested by summertime traffic when park usage would peak, can’t help but exacerbate congestion and pose safety issues.
The applicants have a track record of developing quality residential projects, but this one is different. No doubt the quality will be there, but none of us really knows how this project will affect traffic or the environment.
Citing positive economic benefit and extra measures taken by the applicants, Sussex County’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval. Knowing the uncertainty, if Sussex Council follows planning commission’s recommendation as it usually does, members should at least split the units permitted by the conditional use into two 300-unit portions.
The first 300 units would be permitted immediately. The second 300 would only be permitted – by another council or planning commission vote as stipulated - after the first 300 were constructed and in operation for a couple of years.
A tiered process would give applicants and neighbors a chance to see what reality brings, and give the county an opportunity to require further improvements if experience proved them necessary.