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Village Center rezoning request on hold

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Sussex awaiting revised application

There could be a new application in the works for the proposed Gills Neck Village Center.

The current rezoning application filed Oct. 9, 2015, has been placed on hold pending receipt of a revised application seeking B-l neighborhood business zoning instead of the requested CR-1 commercial zoning. That's according to Lawrence Lank, director of Sussex County's planning and zoning department,

Lank said he has been advised by the developer that a revised application would be submitted. "But we won't know for sure until we receive the revised application forms," Lank said.

Representatives of the developer could not be reached for comment.

B-l zoning is more restrictive than C-l zoning, especially in the size of commercial projects. In B-l zones, the total gross area of any building or group of buildings must be less than 75,000 square feet, which is about a third of the size of the proposed 215,000-square-foot shopping center.

According to county code, B-l zoning is for retail and personal service uses to "serve the needs of a relatively small area primarily near rural low-density and medium-density residential neighborhoods."

The Oct. 9 application filed by developer J.G. Townsend Jr. and Co. requested rezoning from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to CRT, commercial-residential, for a 33-acre parcel along Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road. That request would pave the way for a 215,000-square-foot shopping center.

The Oct. 9 plan called for dedicating an additional 10 acres of undeveloped land for a cultural center and 19 acres of land to YMCA of Delaware for a new Lewes site. Recipients of the land donation would then submit land-use applications to the county.

If the rezoning application refiling to B-l zoning occurs, it would be a change in direction for the project.

In a flier sent to Greater Lewes Chamber of Commerce members last fall, the developer stated reasons for not requesting B-l zoning.

"B-l is limited to a project not to exceed 75,000 square feet, which is not large enough for the variety of businesses we envision within the Gills Neck Village Center," the flier stated.

"There will not be big-box stores, auto sales or auto lots. The plan is for a moderately sized grocery store along with other amenities.

"We are working to attract businesses that will be compatible with our existing communities, and we are working diligently to create an architectural design that meets the characteristics of this unique coastal region."

The Village Center plan was first heard by state agencies nine years ago. In 2007, the developer proposed 279,000 square feet of retail, 120,000 square feet of office space and 48 residential condominiums on 68 acres.

That application was withdrawn before a county council vote.

A downsized plan was submitted to to state agencies in April 2009 for a 387,000-square-foot center that was later pared down to 300,000 square feet on 46 acres.

The commercial rezoning required for that project was rejected by county officials.

That action resulted in a federal lawsuit filed by the developer against the county. An agreement was reached between the two parties for a stay to allow the developer to submit a new rezoning application and new Village Center plan, which was filed in early October at the county's planning and zoning office.

John Mateyko, representing the Lewes Partnership for Managing Growth, said if the rezoning refiling is submitted, it would be a step in the right direction.

"But the developer needs to take two steps," he said.

He said members of the partnership want the parcel to remain its current AR-1 zoning with a conditional use for the project not to exceed 30,000 to 40,000 square feet on four to five acres of the parcel.

THE VILLAGE CENTER PLAN WAS FIRST HEARD BY STATE AGENCIES NINE YEARS AGO.



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Original Publication Date: January 29, 2016



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