Sussex County Council Approves Foreign Trade Zone & Defers Vote on Change of Zone Application

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The Sussex County Council was back in action after a week off. The meeting started with a tribute by County Administrator Todd Lawson for National FFA Week. Several FFA members from Sussex Central High School were in attendance to receive the honor for the school’s FFA program.

A presentation on the Milford Shipyard was given to the Council by Dan Bond and Sher Valenzuela. The project was started about a year ago and Bond says the shipyard is a valuable resource as part of the history of the region. Milford was a shipbuilding town – and at one point had seven active shipyards. The Vinyard Shipyard was the last to still build wooden ships – even after most shipyards were moving to metal. the last Vinyard yacht was built in 1951 – but repaired ships into the 1970s. The property was bought by a local couple who have restored the shipyard – with shops, a small museum and parts of the original works – and they are hoping to have the shipyard become part of the Milford Riverwalk and linking to the Abbotts Mill and Dupont Nature Centers – making a 12 mile greenway from Milford to the Delaware Bay. Bond says they’re looking at expanding the use of the property. The group is asking the Sussex County Council to put $20,000 towards a study that will ensure the restoration and preservation of the shipyard continue and help to raise funds to take the Riverwalk even farther. There was no commitment from the Council after a question from Councilman Burton asking the County Administrator if the council has ever paid for a study for a non-county initiative, which Lawson said they have not.

A new person has been nominated for a vacancy on the Board of Adjustment. Councilman Doug Hudson nominated John Williamson for the position. The council will review his qualifications and bring him before the council at a later date for a public interview.

The County’s Economic Director, Bill Pfaff, revisited the topic of a Foreign Trade Zone with the Council. This was discussed in November as the program was described by State officials, how it would work and the benefits for the county. Pfaff asked the council to have the Delaware Coastal Airport, Business and Industrial Park designated as a Foreign Trade Zone – then later a building or warehouse would be the activated sight. Attorney Scott Taylor told the county in November that with the expanded tariffs placed by the President, he’s seen more warehouses activated as Foreign Trade Zones in the past half year. This would also give the county another tool to use to bring tenants into the Business and Industrial Park. The council has approved making the designation and providing up to $25,000 from the contingency fund to cover the attorney costs to put the program in place.

Several ordinance amendments were brought to the Council by Planning & Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell – most were tweaks to the Comprehensive Plan regarding permitted uses, assisted living, changing reference names and addressing remaining comments from the state. The four ordinance amendments were all introduced and will be brought for public hearing at a later date.

The Sussex County Council also heard a subdivision appeal. The subdivision, Streams Edge, would be located near the intersection of Robinsonville and Kendale Roads west of Lewes – in the area of the electric substation. Planning & Zoning has denied the subdivision because of questions of safety. The property is on the edge of a brownfields site where a lumber operation existed until 1975. Chemicals used to salt treat lumber, which are no longer used, can still be found in the soil, although the plans call for moving the contaminated soil to an adjacent site that would not be developed. Because of the amount of testimony provided to the Council they have deferred a decision on the subdivision.

During the afternoon session the Council held public hearings on three applications. They approved a conditional use (No. 2155) for Stockley Materials for a borrow pit off Route 404 near Gravelly Branch Road. The vote was unanimous.

A change of zone application (No. 1870) for Coroc/Rehoboth, LLC was a request to change an AR-1 property behind the Tanger Outlets off Holland Glade Road in Rehoboth to a C-3 heavy commercial zoning. Multiple people spoke during the public hearing and the Council deferred a vote until they can review all the information.

A second conditional use application (No. 2157) for Country Lawn Care & Maintenance, LLC off Hollymount Road just off Beaver Dam Road brought a lot of opposition to comment during the public hearing. There has not yet been a recommendation from the Planning Commission, so a vote to defer was the Council’s only option. The Planning & Zoning Commission doesn’t meet again until February 28th – that meeting’s agenda has not yet been posted on the County’s website.

The Sussex County Council meets again next Tuesday at 10am at the County offices on the Circle in Georgetown