Approval by FAA
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GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council approved the controversial Softball World project at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2001, in the third attempt by the developer to obtain a conditional use for the proposal.
Softball World, a proposed camp for softball players around the country, had been rejected on two previous occasions after neighbors at those sites strenuously objected.
The approval that council gave on Tuesday will allow the developer, Wallace P. Townsend Jr., to move forward with some parts of the project, with the remaining parts dependent on Federal Aviation Administration approval due to the site's proximity to the Sussex County Airport.
The 95-acre site is located south of Route 9 in Georgetown Hundred, 4/10 of a mile west of Road 321 (Industrial Park Boulevard). Proposed are eight softball fields, soccer fields, dorms, a dining hall, a pool and playground.
Council approved the conditional use application with six stipulations:
Only Councilman George Cole voted against approval, not because he opposed the project and location but because he felt council was "putting the cart before the horse" by approving the conditional use request before receiving comments from the FAA when the FAA could reject the project and make council's vote moot.
"Why don't we defer this until we get comments from the FAA and then make a decision?" Cole asked his fellow council members. "I don't know if it's suitable or not without comments from the FAA. I think this is a bogus approach."
County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said it made sense to do it this way rather than waste the FAA's time on a three- to four-month process on a project that council might choose to reject later. He added that he doesn't believe the FAA will reject the proposal but will make recommendations for alterations to the project.
"He (Townsend) can start doing the site work if you approve this," said Stickels. "He can start development at his own risk."
Derek Sapp of the county's engineering department said the county has modified the proposal six times just based on telephone conversations with FAA officials. Stickels said it will take the FAA three to four months to develop its final comments.
While other council members expressed concern about approving the proposal before receiving the FAA's comments, they felt that the stipulations presented by Stickels and Planning and Zoning answered those concerns.
After the discussion, Councilman Vance Phillips moved to approve the project. He said based on the stipulations that he felt the project could be approved by council without jeopardizing FAA recommendations.
Councilman Lynn Rogers expressed greater reservations about the project's impact on the nearby Sussex County Airport and whether it could hinder economic growth at the airport by limiting what the airport can do due to safety concerns.
"My concern is the airport and not jeopardizing the economic growth that the economic development office has going out there," said Rogers. "I would hope the FAA would not come back with a political answer by saying we're giving you the information and you made the wrong decision and have jeopardized the money (for the airport's continued growth). I'm not against the project. I just hope that through the site plan review that they can put the brakes on anything that would concern the airport.
Council denied previous proposals for the complex at the old Angola Landfill off Del. 24 and across from the Indian Mission on Del. 5 in Harbeson.
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