Posts Tagged ‘Sussex County Planning and Zoning’

Open up site-plan reviews

July 16, 2010

There is a major flaw, as I see it anyway, in Sussex County’s zoning-change application process.

After a zoning change is approved, the proposed project proceeds to the site-plan review stage conducted by planning and zoning commissioners – without public input. Although the review is conducted during a public meeting, no one from the public can speak.

It doesn’t seem fair that a zoning change can be granted with public hearings while the site-plan review takes place without any public comment at all.

Although the zoning-change process is important, the actual ins and outs of a site plan are equally important. It’s left to the discretion of the planning and zoning commissioners. County council does not even get involved other than to act on the zoning-change request.

So here is where it gets a little weird. During the hearings, county officials are told time and time again to judge the application on the merits of zoning only – not the project. They must apply county code to the request for a zoning change only. Yet, for every zoning-change application I can recall, details of the project are discussed.

Take the denied Townsend Village Centre project for example. Although the application was for a zoning change from AR-1 to CR-1, just about every comment made during 10 hours of testimony at two hearings involved the merits of the shopping center – not if CR-1 zoning was acceptable for the parcel along Kings Highway.

To get the process centered and fair for all, a change to allow public input on site reviews needs to be instituted. It would add another layer and public hearing to the system, but if conducted in the proper way, this change would allow those who are affected by a project a chance to have a say in what that project looks like.

Circle off limits to Lewes protesters

September 18, 2009

Prior to the Thursday, Sept. 10, Sussex County Planning and Zoning public hearing on the Village Centre rezoning request, several Lewes residents planned a protest on The Circle to draw attention to their opposition to the application.

As the protesters, holding up their signs in a pouring rain about 5 p.m., assembled along the curb around The Circle, Georgetown Town Manager Gene Dvornick greeted them.

He explained to the group they weren’t permitted to gather on The Circle because irrigation work was taking place. A yellow rope tied to light posts encircled the circle warning people to stay away.

The Lewes group was asked to take their protest to the sidewalks in front of the administration building, as long as pedestrian access was not denied.

During this discussion, Georgetown Mayor Ed Lambden and two Georgetown police officers also appeared. The mayor must have just come from work because he was still in his U.S. Postal Service uniform.

Some of the Lewes protesters got into rather long discussions with the officers, but eventually all moved off The Circle. That group must have been reliving their days of taking it to “the man.”

Although there has been some controversy about other crowd estimates in the news lately, this group of protesters was easy to count and numbered about 30. What was the average age of the protesters? Let’s say most qualified for Social Security several years ago.

I guess the Georgetown officials were expecting a gang of Lewes hooligans and were prepared for a large-scale protest.

To be honest, it seemed a little surreal to see the highest-ranking officials in Georgetown and two police officers watching over a small group of mostly senior citizens huddled together in the rain holding up signs.

John Mateyko, organizer of the Lewes protesters, said the city manager told him “you can’t be here.” He said the group did not have a permit, but one is not needed in a public area like The Circle.

“We had a personality breakdown, and I decided not to push it,” Mateyko said.

And what about the closing of The Circle, the most logical of all places to voice your opinion in Sussex County?

After some investigative digging, I uncovered some information in the Georgetown Town Council minutes that irrigation work was scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10. According to the minutes, pedestrians were to be kept off The Circle between noon and 2 p.m. for an irrigation inspection. Maybe the inspection went a little longer than anticipated.

The Lewes groups have planned another protest starting at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29, prior to the county council public hearing. One can only wonder if more work will be taking place on The Circle.