Kent County Levy Court to decide on controversial rezoning near DE Turf

Update: 9:35 p.m. Tuesday, Kent County Levy Court voted, 4-3, to approve the zoning change and included a stipulation that a portion of the property be subdivided to protect the neighbors’ interests.

At a recent public hearing, neighbors living behind the property by the intersection of Milford Neck Road and Pritchett Road complained that they didn’t want large businesses cropping up in their backyards. However, a thick buffer of heavily wooded land lies between their property and the subject site. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

DOVER — At a meeting starting at 7 p.m. today, Kent County Levy Court commissioners will decide on a proposed rezoning of a 25-acre property near the DE Turf Sports Complex.

The landowners, Robert and Catherine Murphy are looking to alter the zoning from agricultural conservation/low density residential to general business/highway commercial. The property is about a mile south of DE Turf has frontage on both Rt. 1 and, although narrowly, on Milford Neck Road at its rear.

During their June business meeting, after a public hearing, the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) passed the proposal on to Levy Court with a recommendation to approve it. Commission members said their reasons for recommending approval included the creation of economic development for the county, enhancements for the recently established Sports Complex and accommodations for people visiting the county. The vote was a close 4-3.

5th District RPC commissioner Paul Davis voted to approve because he feels it’ll open the door for economic development which will ultimately help all residents.

“I think the sports center is a great thing for Kent County and I view this thing as an economic development driver for the county,” Mr. Davis said. “In Delaware and nationwide, the creation of jobs is incredibly important. When I look at that area, being close to Frederica, I think jobs are absolutely crucial. When you construct a facility the size of DE Turf, you need some things that go along with that. People that come from out of state will need places to stay and eat — they’ll need services.”

The county’s Department of Planning Services’ staff, on the other hand, had recommended denial of the proposal. In its report, staff noted that the subject site is located outside of the county’s growth zone, between Frederica and the City of Milford. While they too recognized the opportunity for economic development near the DE Turf complex, they pointed over 36 acres of vacant commercial zoning located inside of the growth zone along Route 1 near the subject site, that could serve as an alternative development area. Site configuration was a problem for staff too.

“Due to the subject site’s location between Route 1 and Milford Neck Road and configuration of the subject parcels along with environmental impacts restricting egress from the site, it does not appear development of the site for commercial purposes is feasible,” their report read.

The owners of a 25-acre about a mile south of DE Turf Sports Complex outside Frederica, are seeking a rezone and amendment to the Kent County Comprehensive plan. The change would alter the zoning from agricultural conservation/low density residential to general business/highway commercial. The property, as shown on the above zoning map, is southeast of the Del. 1 intersection with Milford Neck Road and has frontage on both Rt. 1 and, although narrowly, on Pritchett Road at its rear. The proposal will be ruled on after a public hearing tonight.
(Submitted map)

At the Levy Court’s public hearing on June 27, about a dozen community members and leaders, including Frederica Mayor William Glanden and ex-county commissioner Bradley Eaby turned out to offer their support for the rezoning at the meeting, but resistance to the proposal was strong. Almost 10 residents who have homes directly adjacent to the property in question were concerned about increased traffic and changing the character of what has traditionally been a rural area. Neighbors by the intersection of Milford Neck Road and Pritchett Road complained that they didn’t want large businesses cropping up in their backyards. However, a thick buffer of heavily wooded land lies between their property and the subject site.

The matter was ultimately tabled at that meeting.

Members of the public have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rezoning at the Levy Court meeting at 7 p.m. in the Levy Court chambers, Room 203 of the Kent County Administrative Complex, 555 Bay Road in Dover. More information on the proposal can be found at co.kent.de.us/boards-committees/regional-planning-commission.aspx.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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