Apartment complex near Ocean View set for Oct. 24 hearing

Ocean View residents opposed to a 45-unit apartment complex proposed for the Muddy Neck Road area have sent hundreds of letters to the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission, asking for denial of the zoning-change request.

The property is 3.93 acres west of Muddy Neck Road and northwest of Parker House Road. Opponents are objecting to a request to change zoning from AR-1 to GR, saying apartments don’t fit in with the neighborhood. AR-1 is an agricultural zoning designation that allows two units per acre. GR is a general residential zoning designation allowing three units per acre, Lauren DeVore, Sussex County planner, explained.

The matter is set to go before the commission at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 24. The hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 17 but was rescheduled.

“Six hundred letters is definitely more than we usually receive. Every now and then we’ll have one come through and we might get 20 letters, but this was a contentious item and we received a lot of opposition,” DeVore told the Coastal Point.

The letters were mostly copies of an original, each with a different signature, and a petition was also sent.

“All the information goes into a paperless packet and can be seen at www.sussexcountyde.gov, under upcoming meetings. The paperless packet will go to the planning commissioners to see a week in advance. Normally they will defer action on the night of the meeting so they have another week or two to make a decision,” DeVore explained.

The next meeting after the Oct. 24 session will be on Thursday, Nov. 14.

“There could be a decision then, but it’s not likely before that. On that day, or later, they approve or deny based on everything they have seen,” DeVore said.

In mid-September, Diana Emlet, who has since 2005 been a part-time resident of Ocean View’s Providence community, near the site in question, said she is among those in the Muddy Neck and Parker House roads area asking the Planning & Zoning Commission and Sussex County Council to deny the request by the property owner, Gulfstream Development, based in Ocean View. The architect is Land Tech Planning in Bethany Beach.

“Anybody who purchases land has the right to develop it, but AR-1 zoning should be for stick-built, modular homes and farm use. That would fit with the neighborhoods that are there now,” Emlet said.

“Neighbors are very concerned it doesn’t fit into the neighborhood of all single homes.

“I’m concerned about density of homes on a relatively small parcel of land, and I’m very concerned about the traffic on Muddy Neck and Parker House. That is already a very bad intersection, so I’m very concerned about the traffic,” Emlet said.

Opponents are asking that medium-density housing, including apartment complexes, be denied.

“We just can’t have 45 news homes in such a small, dense area,” Emlet said.

A similar zoning change request was turned down by Planning & Zoning following strong community objection in 2009.

“We faxed hundreds of letters. We had petitions and we spoke at the public hearing,” Emlet said.

DeVore said objections are “certainly not unusual.”

“We usually get a lot of pushback, especially if you’re increasing the density in that area. It’s for affordable housing. In the past we have had a lot of people very concerned about affordable housing and what that means for their property values, although they have to present proof when they make their argument,” she said.


By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter