Proposal Still on Hold
Struggling with Decision
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The controversial Americana Bayside proposal for Route 54 west of Fenwick Island remains on hold while Sussex County Council members study the project's impact.
Council President Lynn Rogers and councilman George Cole both said on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2000, that council members still had too many questions to act on a proposal that would have such a major impact on the county's popular coastal region.
The project would put 2,200 homes on 865 acres and would include shopping and medical centers, a golf course, and a hotel. When completed, it would be the largest community in the county during the summer and one of the largest during the off-season.
The developer, Carl M. Freeman Communities, is seeking a change of zone from AR-1 to MR-RPC. The AR-1 zoning would permit anywhere from 800 to 1,900 homes depending on the calculation of wetlands on the site.
The county's planning and zoning commission has recommended approval of the project with a maximum of 2,200 homes after Freeman requested 2,900 units. The commission's recommendation includes 20 conditions that must be met for approval.
Rogers said he has looked at the proposal "seven or eight times" but has been unable to make a "good land use decision" because many of the impact questions have gone unanswered by the Delaware Department of Transportation.
DelDOT, Rogers said, is in a state of flux as it prepares for a new administration. Both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ruth Ann Minner and Republican candidate John Burris have promised to fire DelDOT Secretary Anne Canby when they take office.
"We're getting no dialogue from DelDOT," said Rogers.
Cole is the councilman from the district of the proposed site. Council members typically allow the councilman from the district of a rezoning request to bring the issue to council, but Cole said neither Freeman nor the other council members are pressuring him to bring the issue before council.
He said, however, that he would bring the issue before council "before the end of the year."
Rogers said he and other council members have received numerous phone calls from constituents in the district affected by the proposal.
He said that in addition to the land use questions, council members must consider the precedent that would be set if they approved such a large development project. He said other developers are likely watching this decision closely.
"We can't stop growth," said Rogers, "but we can control it and we must preserve our quality of life. This can't be a knee-jerk decision."
A public hearing in April drew 300 citizens in support of and opposition to the project. Most of the supporters were Freeman employees and real estate agents. The opponents included state and municipal officials.
Supporters point to the project's tax and employment potential, while opponents point to the overcrowding, increased traffic, and environmental impact the project might cause.
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