Letters to the Editor — Dec. 29, 2017

Date Published: 
Dec. 29, 2017

Reader weighs in on zoning change

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission, regarding change-of-zone application #1841, “Lemuel H. Hickman GST Exempt Trust fbo Brenton Archut,” and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.

Seventy-five years ago, a local farmer bought land that is the subject of this application to the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission. I reside a mile from this property. A grandson seeks to change the zoning of a small portion of that land from “agricultural/residential” to “Neighborhood Business” use. If approved, five business buildings will be erected that will include “landscaping facilities” and a “convenience store.”

The grandson believes this proposal for a “convenience store” will benefit the thousands of soon-to-be residents of the 700 homes in the midst of construction within a quarter-mile of his planned businesses. I would prefer the Planning & Zoning Commission await the views of the thousands of soon-to-be nearby residents before acting on this application.

Quality-of-life issues abound within this application, foremost of which is its eerie resemblance to the recent Route 54 furor over the birth of a new Royal Farms in an already congested traffic area. Despite the presumption this application enjoys that traffic on Double Bridges Road is less than 50 vehicles per hour and 500 vehicles per day, such a presumption is grossly misleading given present day traffic along this road.

My observations from traveling Double Bridges, Camp Barnes and Bayard daily are that this fictional presumption will be rendered even more unrealistic once 700 nearby homes are occupied by about 1,750 residents. Indeed, after new construction concludes in the near future, Double Bridges, Camp Barnes and Bayard will remain what they are today: overburdened roadways, in need of repair and upgrade, with ditches for shoulders and “telephone poles” for guardrails.

It is also inescapable that this application will inexorably change the nature of the immediate area insofar as no other retail establishment of any kind is located within 3 miles of this plot. In this sense, an approval of this application lets the nose of the camel into the tent and thereafter, applications for similar commercial activities in areas adjacent to this 5 acres surely will follow.

The Planning and Zoning Commission should embrace this application as an opportunity to announce its views on future rezoning requests in similar circumstances.

This application also impacts the settled expectations of thousands of soon-to-be residents who will have bought homes in the Woodlands and the Estuary, knowing that all nearby and adjacent land is zoned “agricultural/residential.”

These settled expectations have been put in place by the very government body that now debates this rezoning request. No doubt, sales contracts at these developments have been signed based on the representation that the surrounding area is zoned “agricultural/residential.” Certainly the County has learned lessons from other developments where home sales have been based on illusory marinas, deeded boat slips, bike paths, tennis courts, etc.

New residents who make a significant investment in Sussex County through home purchases inevitably feel local betrayal at a sleight-of-hand rezoning that will leave no remedial recourse, much like home purchasers who buy and move in to an area only to discover they are next to the future home of an airport or bus depot.

Sussex County is at a housing development juncture where signs of unbridled and unsustainable growth are clear and unambiguous. After granting building permits for over 700 homes in this one tiny bit of Sussex County, wouldn’t it be prudent to take a 5- to 10-year intermission to allow for the observation of the continuing effects of such development on the surrounding area before proceeding with inevitable requests for rezoning in nearby and adjacent areas?

Indeed, such an intermission would allow the State and County to implement appropriate infrastructure improvements to address the bow wave of development that has already passed over Sussex County in general and this tiny area in particular.

Additionally, the application is based on the flawed information that Double Bridges Road handles under 50 vehicles per hour. Adding to roadway degradation seems ill-advised upon the threshold arrival of thousands of new soon-to-be residents. Further, such an influx of new residents leaves safety as an unaddressed issue in this application.

If granted, the effect on traffic will be considerable, the effect on the roadway decline will be significant, the effect on traffic safety will be dangerous and pronounced and the views of hundreds of soon-to-be neighbors will never be factored into your deliberative process.

Advancing technological applications also portend trouble for our roads in the days ahead. GPS functionality in our automobiles now allows motorists to venture off of Routes 24, 26 and 54 to find shortcuts to their destinations. Invariably, these shortcuts will overwhelm our sleepy country lanes, such as Double Bridges, Camp Barnes and Bayard, to name only a few, with traffic seeking alternative access to points north, south and east.

Such technology presents the Planning & Zoning Commission and our Board of Supervisors with the opportunity to step back from applications for zoning changes until the full effect of on-going residential construction can be measured and absorbed against commuter technology. Moreover, the number and volume of vehicles seeking access to our attractions already presents formidable challenges to neighborhoods throughout the eastern part of Sussex County.

Against these public-policy and practical-impact considerations lies the weight of the harm to the applicant if the application is not granted. Of course, there is no harm, as the Planning & Zoning Commission leaves the grandson in the same status he has enjoyed for many years: in full possession of significant acreage zoned “agricultural/residential” with all the economic promise such a designation enjoys.

The potential harm to the surrounding area of granting this application far outweighs any community benefit and, for the reasons set out above, I urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to deny the application.

James Angus


Christmas CHEER thankful for support


For almost 50 years, CHEER has been making an impact on the quality of life for senior citizens in Sussex County. As a non-profit organization, this would not be possible without the generous support of our extended list of volunteers.

Twenty-five years ago, CHEER began to brighten Christmas Day for seniors who had no one else to share the holiday. Volunteers give up a few hours with their family and friends to deliver meals and gifts to Sussex County seniors living alone. This year, Operation Christmas CHEER had more than 70 volunteers visit 260 isolated seniors in the oldest and largest Christmas spirit sharing operation of its kind in Sussex County.

On behalf of the CHEER Board of Directors, administrators, staff and seniors, I would like to thank our volunteers for their selfless acts of kindness on Christmas Day. Many of these volunteers have been coming back year after year and bringing their families. The seniors have come to know them and are excited to see them on Christmas Day because that is probably the only people they see on Dec. 25.

The visiting volunteers come bearing gifts that are supplied by the generous people of Sussex County. CHEER would like to thank the members and customers of the following organizations for all the gifts that supported the success of Operation Christmas CHEER 2017:

• Gifts and canned goods — Karen Adams, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Coastal Leisure CHEER Center; County Bank, Long Neck; Dublin Hill 4-H Club, Greenwood CHEER Center, Harbour Lights CHEER Center, James H. Groves Adult High School, Rehoboth K-Mart, Long Neck CHEER Center, staff of Delmarva McDonald’s, Meike Car Care of Lewes, Milton CHEER Center, Betsie and Ken Moore, South Coastal Delaware Chapter 5226 AARP, Susan Deery and Phillip Showell Elementary School, Sussex County Court System, and Tabatha Circle of Georgetown Presbyterian Church;

• Food items — Mountaire Farms, Short Funeral Services and Sussex Tech High School;

• Monetary donations — Joan Brasure, Margaret Brasure, Rodman and Nancy Kushela, Mid-Del Foundation in Harrington, and Dolores and Robert Streko;

• Pet food — Joan Brasure, Margaret Brasure and Del Tech FFA, through the generosity of PetSmart of Dover;

• Poinsettia plants — DelTech Applied Agriculture Department;

• Christmas cards — Long Neck Elementary School;

• Labor to assemble baskets and meal trays — DelTech FFA and Applied Agriculture Department, Delaware Valley University FFA and Sons of Isaac Lodge.

And to the dozens of unnamed elves in Sussex County who wrapped a gift for a senior and gave anonymously, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for your generosity in helping brighten the holidays of a senior. You will never know to what extent these simple gestures of good-will have in enriching the lives of someone less fortunate.

May everyone have a blessed and happy new year.

Kenneth S. Bock, Chief Executive Officer