Sussex approves botanic gardens plan$50 million project near Dagsboro could take decade to complete
Sussex County Council has approved a conditional-use request sought by Southern Delaware Botanic Gardens Inc. for Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek.
Council voted 4-1 during its Oct. 8 meeting to approve the project, which garden officials have said could take a decade to complete and cost as much as $50 million. Voting against the project was Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown.
The project is expected to be built in phases, with the first phase opening in June 2016. Garden officials say they plan to plant 8,000 shrubs, 2,000 trees, 150,000 perennials, 600,000 bulbs and 100,000 native plants. Many types of gardens are planned such as historic, vegetable, children's, meadow, water lily, forest and sand gardens as well as bogs and vernal ponds.
The project would feature a large canal complete with waterfalls, bridges and boat rides. Also planned is an amphitheater, conservatory, greenhouse, farm, garden cafe and gift shop, nature center, visitor center and a pier adjoining Pepper Creek for eco-tours.
The gardens will be built on a 37-acre tract near Dagsboro, known as the Cannon Tract. Under the proposed deal, the land trust would lease the property for 99 years to Southern Delaware Botanic Gardens Inc.
Before taking a vote, council had requested a legal opinion on whether the project met the mission statement and goals of the land trust. County attorney David Rutt said after a review of the mission statement, it was clear the project was consistent with the trust's goals of protecting natural, cultural, and agricultural resources through land preservation, stewardship and education.
Councilman Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, who has been critical of the project said he would vote for the project because its components meet a memorandum of understanding between the land trust and Southern Delaware Botanic Gardens.
Wilson said he was concerned that the land for the gardens would be needed by the county for future expansion of the Dagsboro-Frankford sewer district. “This will require the county to buy more land,” he said.
Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, disagreed. “This land is probably not a suitable area for spray irrigation,” he said, adding the project would provide a economic boost to Sussex.
“This is a rare opportunity for the county,” said Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach. She thanked the volunteers who she said have donated countless hours and their own money to get the project off the ground.