Kent County zoning code gets caution flag

DOVER — A Kent County Levy Court commissioner said Tuesday the county’s zoning code may need revisions related to speedways.

Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson said the commissioners are waiting to see how the county’s Board of Adjustment handles an appeal related to the Silo Speedway dirt track, near Felton.

Neighboring businesses, including the Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery and Seafood City restaurant, have asked the Kent County Board of Adjustment to reconsider a permit issued by the county Department of Planning Services.

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Eric Buckson

The issue will be heard by the board on Jan. 21.

“I think if the Board of Adjustment decides to approve the planning services decision, then I think Levy Court needs to go back and make changes regarding the matter,” said Commissioner Buckson. “In order to clean up a potential loophole, I think we need to go back and clearly define that aspect of it.”

Silo Speedway owner Ron Faison’s plans call for racing on Friday nights from March to October.

The cars will have one- to four-cylinder engines, he said, and race on the quarter-mile dirt oval now under construction behind his Delaware Auto Exchange auction business on U.S. 13.

The property is zoned General Business.

The certificate of use approved by the county labels its proposed use as a “Commercial Recreation Facility.”

The county’s zoning code lists miniature golf, tennis, racquetball, handball courts, skateboard parks, skating rinks and batting cages as “Commercial Recreation Center” examples. It does not list race tracks.

Kent County Planning Services Director Sarah Keifer said the commercial recreation facility wasn’t specifically outlined in the zoning ordinance, so officials used the manual of the Standard Industrial Classification Code.

The Fairlane Acres Speedway, an 1/8-mile kart track south of Dover Air Force Base off Kitts Hummock Road which is similar to the Silo Speedway, is what they based the permit on for approval. Fairlane Acres is in an Agricultural Residential zone.

At its Dec. 1 meeting, Levy Court commissioners discussed creating the use category of Motorsports within Chapter 205, Zoning.

Ms. Keifer presented a draft ordinance during the Levy’s Court Meeting on Dec. 1. The ordinance she first proposed would create motorsports as a conditional use, requiring site plan review in the Agricultural Conservation (AC), Agricultural Residential (AR), and Limited Industrial (IL) zoning districts.

The draft would require site plan basic changes that will include setbacks, buffering, noise, hours of operation and lighting.

The ordinance also would create a definition of “commercial recreation facility” in an effort to clarify the distinction between a motorsport and a commercial recreation use.

Commissioner Jody Sweeney was hesitant about the proposed ordinances.

“The ordinance covers the AC, IL and AR zones, but the case that prompted this was the zoning BG (General Business),” Commissioner Sweeney said during the Dec. 1 meeting. “If we’re not fixing anything under the BG zoning, what prevents this from happening again in the BG Zone?”

Ms. Keifer said it would give the planning services better guidance if another race track was proposed.

“Motor sports are not specifically listed in the ordinance and in recent events they were classified as a commercial recreation facility,” Ms. Keifer said during the meeting. “We were asked to create an ordinance specific to motor sports. I think if there is another race track proposal in the county it will give us guidance.”

In the proposed zoning ordinance discussed on Dec. 1 the commercial recreation facility will be a place designed and equipped for the conduct of sports and leisure-time activities operated as a business and open to the public for a fee.

Examples of such uses include, but are not limited to, playing fields courts, swimming pools, batting cages, miniature golf, skateboard parks, skating rinks, as motorsports activities and tracks wont’ be considered a commercial recreation facility.

The zoning ordinance said motorsports will be competition around any facility, track, or course upon which racing or timed events are conducted using motorized vehicles, including but not limited to automobiles, motorcycles, dirt bikes, go-karts, and ATVs.

This also includes incidental use such as driving schools, practice sessions, test sessions, exhibitions, visitor track days, and repair or modification of vehicles.

The conditions of this use would be that all racing facilities including track and grandstands should be setback a minimum of 100 feet from all property lines, screening should be provided along all property lines adjacent to the use.

At minimum, screening should consist of a 50 foot wide planted buffer and berm of sufficient opacity and height to achieve a substantial visual barrier as well as mitigate noise and dust.

During the discussion, Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange suggested it might be best to simply note where motorsports is excluded.

Commissioners at the Dec. 1 meeting deferred action on the ordinance.

After lengthy discussion, Mr. Buckson cautioned making immediate changes and questioned whether the county planning office should have based the Silo Speedway permit on what was done for Fairlane Acres.

“There might be two things,” said Mr. Buckson during the Dec. 1 meeeting. “One is we may not have a problem.

“We used a precedent which, in fact, wasn’t a precedent. It was a bad precedent and we don’t need to fix anything because it’s not permitted. Or we decide that it is and we do have a change to make and I would take a simple route that doesn’t add a bunch of new language.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Buckson said he believes the regulations that are currently in place are just fine and doesn’t want to make any additional changes to the ordinance until a decision is made on Jan 21.

“I think the rules that we have in place don’t’ need to be changed,” Mr. Buckson said. “Why make changes to something that’s already fine? The regulations are fine as stated. I think the people, who are appealing the their case are basing it off of those facts.

“I would rather wait and see if what decision is made, but if the Board of Adjustment decides to agree with the planning services than I think we (Levy Court) need to go back and change the language to make sure everything is clear moving forward.”

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