State planning office OKs Dover zoning change that will aid speedway

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The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway hosts the Firefly Music Festival each June. (Submitted photo/Firefly Music Festival)

DOVER — The city of Dover and Dover International Speedway are continuing to take the necessary steps for the annexation of 260 acres from Kent County.

Currently, 295 acres of The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway — which hosts events like the Firefly and Big Barrel music festivals — sit outside of city limits.

The city made adjustments to its comprehensive plan to change the zoning of the property from an agriculture use to a commercial use, which was approved by the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination during its preliminary land use service meeting on Wednesday.

“What we did was we revamped our recreation and commercial zone, so it addresses the issues of events like music festivals,” said Ann Marie Townshend, Dover’s director of planning and inspections.

“It gives criteria for how these events need to be managed, like the permitting processes and the camping that’s associated with it,” she said.

The permitting issue has come to light since the speedway began hosting the Firefly Music Festival in 2012. Organizers have had to fill out two sets of permits, one for the county and one for the city.

While most of The Woodlands is set to be transferred to Dover, a 35-acre portion will remain the sole domain of the county.

Dover International Speedway hasn’t yet requested the land to be annexed, but Ms. Townshend said she is anticipating its application next month.

Last year. the city council discussed an amendment to allow temporary special events and temporary camping areas within the recreation and commercial zone.

The amendment proposes an activity and camping permit fee, as well.

The ordinance would move auto, horse and motorcycle race tracks from the conditional-use section to the permitted-use section.

“It adds parameters for the temporary outdoor events and camping areas,” Ms. Townshend said.

“We started talking about if the remaining properties zoned will allow for camping and festival uses,” Ms. Townshend said. “We realized that we can’t rezone them without a comprehensive plan amendment, so we’re bringing this plan amendment forward.”

David Edgell, principal planner for the state planning office, had a few concerns at Wednesday’s meeting.

“There is no objection to the change, but it does open the door for development in a much more intense manner,” Mr. Edgell said.

“My concern is when you change it from the agricultural to commercial zone you can do a lot of different things in that zone. They can build another hotel there, or casino.”

Ms. Townshend agreed, but believes that isn’t the intent of the zoning change.

“They technically could, but we know they’re in this long-term agreement with Red Frog, so we certainly know for the next nine years or so it will be used for festivals,” Ms. Townshend said.

Mr. Edgell said he wants everyone to “be on the same page.”

“When they submit their application and other plans regarding the annexation, anything we can do with the language in that plan to put on the record that this is clearly the intent I would be fine with,” he said.

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