Mike's Take on Tall Buildings in Sussex

Oct 30, 2013 -- 1:54pm


WIL Sussex bld loophole



I lived here for a few months last year when I took the job with WGMD with my good friend until my condo became available in Ocean City.

Sussex County Rep. George Cole weighed in on 60 ft buildings in Sussex County like the Vineyards and said:

“The playing field has been 42 feet, and 99 percent of the development has complied with that,” Cole said. “We’ve had that even playing field all these years. This has changed the equation. This has changed the game. ... It was kind of like a hidden change that nobody was aware of.

What do you mean no one was made aware of and what change? Check the law, it's been documented since it was written and is pretty obvious. No one it appears was trying to be sneaky here, the provision is pretty darn clear to me.

A section called ‘height regulations’ states that “public and semi-public or public service buildings, hospitals, institutions or schools, when permitted in a district, may be erected to a height not exceeding 60 feet.”

Then there is much ado about nothing. The Vineyards (which by the way looks very aesthetically pleasing to me!) or the hotel being built across from Rehoboth Mall fall under the provision of public or semi-public. Why was there not outcry from Rep. Cole back in 2007 when the Schell Brothers got their approval to build based on their lawyers interpretation which was backed up by the county's lawyers. The Vineyards is supposed to be a mixed use property with commercial businesses that open up the bottom of the building which is primarily residential to the public which makes it semi-public. Now so far that has not been the case in terms of getting businesses in on the bottom floors but that is because of the economy and probably the proximity to Lewes-Village of Five Points. 

County Administrator Todd Lawson told Cole a discussion of the issue had been on a county meeting agenda for June 5, 2007, after Vineyards Communities got its approval. The minutes of that meeting show a planned agenda item about height-limit exceptions was deleted from the agenda at the outset, by a unanimous vote.Cole, who was a councilman at the time, says he’s certain the deleted agenda item never resurfaced at a later meeting.

If this was such a big deal to Rep. Cole, why back in 2007 after the Vineyards got their approval was the topic stricken from the Town Council Agenda and never put back on? Why did Rep. Cole not put it back on? Why did it dissapear and never return well at least for six years? Hmmm? I respect Rep. Cole's opinion on the height of buildings but I think this is an issue that the residents of unincorrporated Sussex County ought to vote on as to what revisions, substrations or additions to the code should be made.

Back to the hotel in Rehoboth being built across from the Mall.

As the hotel developer Christian Hudson said, the relaxed limit on his project allowed him to build a four-story hotel with attractive features.

The 42-foot restriction “would have severely limited what we could do with that site,” he said. “We would have had less amenities. In general, it would cater to a completely different clientele than what we’re able to do with it.”

I have no problem with 60 ft hotels being built in Rehoboth along the highway. Rt. 1 in Rehoboth is one big giant shopping strip (not that there is anything wrong with that) so what's the big deal? No one thinks that the Rt. 1 corridor between Rehoboth and Lewes is the most sceneic. It's better if it is put there than say a 60ft or (even 42 ft for that matter) hotel off of Rt. 9 next to housing community that looks out of place.

His 94-room hotel will be run by a nationally known hotel chain, he said, and is expected to open in late spring 2014. Look what that will do for the area, more jobs and the ability to bring more people into town.

“If you want to control sprawl, you have to have density in places that make sense. And density means you have to go up,” said Christian Hudson, the developer of a hotel being built on Route 1 across from the Rehoboth Mall." I couldn't agree more!

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