Sussex County Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

Council Rejects Extension
Request on Fannin Project

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council rejected a request to extend the public record on a change of zone application by Elmer Fannin for a controversial townhome project at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman George Cole absent, council denied the request of several citizens organizations and the Delaware Sierra Club to leave the public record open until Feb. 22 for the introduction of additional evidence from expert witnesses in their opposition to the project.

Fannin has requested a change of zone for his proposed Woods Cove project from an AR-1 District to an HR-RPC High-Density Residential District for 193 townhomes on 30.63 acres in Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred.

Council originally extended the public record to Feb. 8, 2002, following a hearing on Jan. 8.

The groups opposing the project said their expert witnesses were unable to meet the Feb. 8 deadline due to the complexity of the project. James Griffin, the attorney for Fannin, said in a letter that allowing the public record to remain open at this point would lead to an unending parade of extensions because each side would need time to present their rebuttals to any new evidence presented.

Bayard agreed.

"My own view is that the people asking for the extension are not unsophisticated," said Bayard. "We see them at many hearings. On the other hand, they well know that expert testimony has to be presented either prior to or at a public hearing. It's permitted by way of rebuttal or by way of additional record material at the hearing. If it's not presented then, as Mr. Griffin points out, there will never be an end."

Each of the council members, in turn, agreed with Bayard's assessment.

"I respect the process and the extension of the original public comment period could already be seen as somewhat extraordinary," said Councilman Vance Philllips. "This could set a bad precedent and cause a lot of problems in the future."

"We're here to listen to our constitutents," said Councilman Lynn Rogers, "and when they wrote their letter (asking for extension), I questioned Mr. Bayard about the legalities of it and the precedents we could be setting and he believes we'd be opening a bucket of worms. I believe there has to be closure. With as many cases as we have on the table right now, looking over them, if we extended just a few of those that are controversial, there would be no end."

The groups opposing the project had submitted a letter stating that Community and Environmental Defenses Inc. had expressed its opinion that Tidewater Utilities Inc., the supplier of central water to the area, did not have adequate supply for the project. TUI vice president Gerard Esposito, however, disputed that claim in a letter also presented to council.

The county Planning & Zoning Commission recommended denial of the application on Dec. 13, 2001, due to concerns that the proposed development was not in character with the surrounding area, that no recreational facilities were planned, and that the proposed number of units was too high compared to the surrounding area.

Fannin originally proposed 214 townhomes on the site but by the time of a public hearing before council on Jan. 8, 2002, had reduced the number to 193 with 20 units built per year. Fannin also included recreational facilities such as a bocci court, bike paths, fitness stations, pavilions and playgrounds.

Council Honors Chaffinch ...

Council approved a proclamation declaring Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002, as Aaron Chaffinch Day.

The proclamation honors the lifelong Sussex County resident for his appointment as Colonel of the Delaware State Police by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner on Friday, Feb. 8.

Chaffinch is a 1970 graduate of Woodbridge High School and a 1974 graduate of the University of Delaware.

He joined the Delaware State Police in 1978 and has served as a road trooper, a troop commander, and an undercover officer.

The proclamation honors Chaffinch for "his commitment to providing public safety to all citizens of Delaware".


Bridle Ridge Approved ...

Council approved the application of Bridle Ridge Properties LLC for a rezoning from an AR-1 District to a MR-Medium Residential for a 277-lot subdivision on 105.43 acres in the Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred.

With a 4-0 vote, council approved the development of single-family homes on the southeast side of Route 285 and the southwest side of Route 275. The county's Planning & Zoning Commisson had also recommended approval of the project being developed by Preston Dyer, Gary McCrea and Joe Reed.

County Administrator Robert L. Stickels and Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank presented 22 findings of fact regarding the proposed development.

Among the findings from Planning & Zoning staff and the Delaware Department of Transportation were that:

  • The project is in a development district as defined by the county's 1997 Comprehensive Land Use Plan;
  • Its density is appropriate for the area as anticipated by the land use plan and is actually 100 homes lower than the 377 that would be permitted under the MR zoning;
  • It is consistent with the character of surrounding communities;
  • It is in line with state infrastructure spending strategies and DelDOT's long-range transporation plan;
  • It will have relatively little impact on traffic congestion in the area;
  • It will cause no detrimental impact on the environment with central sewer and water facilities;
  • It will provide a beneficial economic impact on area residents and businesses;
  • It will not have an adverse impact on neighboring property values.

"With the facts of finding and the low density with the applicant coming down 100 homes, I vote yes," said Councilman Lynn Rogers. "Even though we are in the midst of a State Route 1 corridor study, this field will be developed in some manner."

Opponents had expressed concerns about unsafe traffic conditions, the cumulative impact of ongoing development in the area, that the quality of life of area residents will be threatened, and that allowing 277 homes on 100 acres was not responsible land use.


In Other Business ...
  • Council approved by a 3-0 vote an appeal date for Gary Watson of March 26 at 11 a.m. Council will hear arguments regarding the recommended denial of Waton's proposed subdivision by the Planning & Zoning Commission. Councilman Dale Dukes abstained due to a potential conflict of interest.

  • County Administrator Robert L. Stickels informed council that Walter Wilson had withdrawn his application for a conditional use for commercial businesses within his approved subdivision north of Route 88 and Route 1. Wilson was originally denied a change of zone for the commercial uses in the subdivision. The Planning & Zoning Commission then chose not to make a recommendation on his conditional use application.

  • Council unanimously approved a change order to replace a lagoon liner for $20,438. Loran George, district manager for the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility, told council that it was discovered that the lagoon liner had been damaged and needed to be replaced. George said the project will still be under budget with the change order.

  • Council approved another change order for the Sussex County Airport terminal building construction project that will increase the cost of the project by $5,666.66. The change increases the total project cost to $1.6 million.

  • Council approved a beneficial acceptance for the wastewater facilities for 9 townhomes in the Dolphin Manor subdivision in the Bethany Beach Sanitary Sewer District.

  • Council approved bids for three contracts for elevating homes in flood hazard areas to elevations above the 100-year flood plain. Council approved a bid of $183,000 from Sun Marine, to raise four homes, with two homes in Oak Orchard, one in Dewey Beach and one in West Beach. Council also approved a bid of $267,000 from Sun Marine to elevate four homes in Oak Orchard on alternate foundations. And finally, council approved a bid of $93,000 from Venture Crain Inc. of Frederica to elevate one home in Oak Orchard on to a wood piling foundation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency pays for 75 percent of the project, while the homeowner is responsible for the other 25 percent.

  • County Administrator Robert L. Stickels announced that county offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 18, in observance of President's Day. Offices will reopen at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

  • Stickels informed council that a ground breaking ceremony for the Ellendale Sewer District will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 9 a.m. at Ellendale Town Hall at 300 McCauley Ave.

  • Stickels told council that surplus county equipment will be sold in the county administration building lobby from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21. Any unsold equipment will be sent to Wilson's Auction for sale on March 2. Anyone wishing to inquire about equipment to be sold should contact Frank Shade, the county's Director of Purchasing, at 854-5382.

  • Council heard the intoduction of a proposed ordinance to change an AR-1 District to HR-1 RPC High Density in Baltimore Hundred for Providence Land Limited.

  • Council also awarded the following grant requests:
    1. A $500 grant for the alumni scholarship basketball game of Minority Leadership Alliance;
    2. A $250 grant to the Ellendale Community Civic Improvement Association's fund-raiser for sewer hookup fees;
    3. A $100 grant to the Sussex Chix fastpitch softball team for uniform and equipment expenses;
    4. A $500 grant to the Milford Memorial Hospital Auxiliary for the 45th hospital fair;
    5. A $100 grant to the Sussex Central High School Music Boosters for their fourth annual dinner and auction fund-raiser;
    6. An $800 grant to the Sussex Fire Chief's Association for travel expenses for the organization's president to attend a conference in Annapolis;
    7. A $1,000 grant to the Sussex County Veterans Council to purchase 12x18 flags for grave markers.

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