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County OKs rezoning for 372 homes, grocery

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GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council on Tuesday, July 23 approved 4-1 two rezoning requests for a project on Route 54 west of Fenwick Island that will bring a grocery store and 372 homes.

The projects, to be known as Fenwick Station shopping center and Swann Cove, are proposed for the north side of Route 54 just east of the intersection with Sussex Road 381.

Council member George Cole ojected to the rezoning of about 10 acres for a grocery store, other retail, and three free-standing stores, saying he believes developers Trout, Segall and Doyle Development Co. L.L.C. are attempting to build more than the "neighborhood business" for which they sought to rezone the land from agricultural-residential.

County Director of Planning Lawrence Lank said the developers plan to develop the three pad sites as separate parcels from the 63,256 square feet to be taken up by the grocery store and adjacent retail. The square footage for the pad sites has not been determined, but Lank said the proposed pad sites cover about 3.25 acres.

Cole said that leads him to believe the developers could very well end up with more square footage than is allowed under the county's zoning code. "The application is for one parcel, so they're playing games with you," Cole said. County zoning requires that any commercial space over 75,000 be zoned commercial rather than neighborhood business.

The zoning code calls for C-1 zoning for projects that are located on major arterial roads, whereas neighborhood business zoning is reserve for those that "serve the needs of a relatively small area, primarily rural, low-density or medium density" residential areas. While recently approved projects in the surrounding area have been zoned medium-residential, some have been quite large, including the proposed 1,700 home Americana Bayside project located about a mile from the site of the Trout, Segall & Doyle project.

"We're going to have an end run on our zoning," Cole said. County Attorney Eugene Bayard said the Planning and Zoning Commission will police the development of the site when it evaluates the developers' site plans. "That's what concerns me," Cole said.

Council vice president Lynn Rogers said he believes the developers "should have just asked for commercial zoning," instead of the neighborhood business zoning." Traffic will always be an issue there, Rogers said. "I hope as we continue with the land use plan, we remove as many as these gray areas as we can." He also said he hopes the site plan review process will keep the shopping area from becoming more than the zoning allows.

Council member Dale Dukes said he felt the project would "keep people off roads, keep them from going to Fenwick Island, Selbyville, Roxana or wherever they go" for day-to-day shopping. He also said he understood that the property has been in the Swann family for more than 50 years, and that the current state of the corn crop on the property reflects the increasingly difficult life for farm families. "The corn they've got there looks like pretzels," he said.

The council also OKd the adjacent 106-acre residential portion this time with little discussion, except a review of the 15 conditions the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended for the project.

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In Other Business ... A Frankford area resident seeking sewer service to his .4-acre property came closer to that reality on July 23 when the Sussex County Council approved a request from the county engineering department to post notices of the request and to set up a public hearing. A hearing will be held on Sept. 10 on the request byAnthony Manuel of Honolulu Road to be annexed into the Dagsboro-Frankford Sanitary Sewer District. The county council approved the annual payment by the federal government in lieu of taxes for the 11,000-acre Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The payment is up considerably this year, totalling $62,931 compared to last year's $37, 263. The increase is partly due to an increase in the acreage of the refuge, according to County Administrator Robert Stickels. County Council vice president Lynn Rogers registered his displeasure that the local fire companies serving the refuge don't receive more of the annual payment. The council also set a $35 fee for residents seeking to upgrade the classification of their manufactured homes in order to obtain better mortgage terms.

  • Council approved the following grant requests:
    • Milford Community Parades Inc., $400;

    • Delaware District III baseball tournament, $500 for uniforms for teams $100 each from youth activity funds;

    • Delmar School District, $500 toward new library media center; and
  • American Co-Ed Pageants, benefiting Make A Wish Foundation, for contestant Brooke Alexandra Mitchell of Dagsboro, $100.
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