Planning panel eyes controversial rezoning near DE Turf again

DOVER — After having most of their 25-acre property near the DE Turf Complex in Frederica rezoned from agricultural conservation to general business last July, Robert and Catherine Murphy are seeking another amendment.

At their 6:30 p.m. meeting today, the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) is scheduled to vote on a new proposal that would rezone a section of the property that was left as agricultural conservation last year as part of a compromise with neighbors.

“It’s just under five acres that were specifically excluded from the rezoning by Levy Court when the original application was heard last year,” said Kent County planning director, Sarah Keifer. “Now they’re asking for those acres to be included in the general business zoning.”

Kent County’s planning department has recommended denial of the proposal. Their decision owed to a number of factors including public testimony, concerns about a commercial entrance at the rear of the property, the fact that the location is outside the “growth zone” identified in the county’s comprehensive plan and environmental concerns related to nearby wetlands and a stream. DNREC also weighed in on the county’s recommendation report, noting that because the property is adjacent to the boundary of Milford Neck State Wildlife Area activities on the property may negatively impact reserve.

Background

The proposed zoning changes have been a matter of considerable controversy among nearby neighbors since the Murphys applied for them.

The property is about a mile south of DE Turf and has frontage on both Del. 1 and, although narrowly, on Milford Neck Road at its rear.

Originally, Kent County Planning Services recommended denial of the proposal to the RPC last year, noting again that the subject site was outside the county’s “growth zone” and that commercial development of the property did not seem “feasible.”

Nevertheless, the RPC voted at their June meeting to recommend approval by a 4-3 vote.

Concerned neighbors have repeatedly spoken out during public meetings with concerns about increased traffic, a change in the character of a traditionally rural area and creation of a commercial eyesore in their backyards — even though a dense swath of forest (not owned by the Murphys) does separate the neighbors from the site.

Although the property has frontage on Del. 1, it’s unknown whether accommodations can be made for a commercial entrance and exit there. Because of this, neighbors at the time expressed concern that an entrance would be made at the narrow “finger” of land at the back of the property that connects with Milford Neck Road.

By way of compromise, the Murphys included a stipulation in their proposal that the rear “finger” portion of the property be deed restricted and subdivided to keep its agricultural conservation zoning so an entrance would not be built there.

Ultimately, Levy Court commissioners voted 4-3 to conditionally approve the rezoning. At the time, many of the neighbors who’d gathered in opposition noted that subdividing and deed restricting the “finger” portion of the property was a satisfactory solution to their concerns.

Round two

After the RPC makes a decision, the proposal will again be subject to a public hearing and a vote by Levy Court commissioners.

“Because zoning is a legislative decision, the final say rests with the Levy Court,” said Ms. Keifer.

Faye Yonker, who says she lives near the property in question, said that her and her fellow neighbors’ dissent to the proposal remains the same.

“Neighbors are again upset that planning commission would consider putting this ‘finger’ back on the table,” she said. “It is a very dangerous area coming directly in the path of a turn (on Milford Neck Road) as we stated before Levy Court back in July and August.”

The Murphys did not reply to a request for comment.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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