Rural property owner near DE Turf seeks rezone to commercial


FREDERICA — Robert and Catherine Murphy, who own just over 25 acres about a mile south of DE Turf Sports Complex outside Frederica, sought a rezone and amendment to the Kent County Comprehensive plan at a Levy Court meeting Tuesday night.

The decision on the matter was tabled.

The Murphys, represented in part by Gregg Moore from Becker Morgan Group, are seeking the rezone to have their property developed.

They believe their proximity to the newly popular DE Turf makes the piece of property and ideal location for amenities, such as restaurants and hotels, and can spur economic growth in the area.

“Kent County is in a transition phase, especially this part of the county,” said Mr. Murphy during the hearing. “The adage, ‘build it and they will come’ — well, they’ve come. This part of the county isn’t just a pass-through place any more, it’s a destination spot.”

Their proposal, which includes changing the zoning from agricultural conservation/low density residential to general business/highly commercial, was fielded at an earlier Regional Planning Commission meeting on June 1 and ruled on at the subsequent business meeting on June 8. The commission voted to recommend approval to the Levy Court — citing the opportunity for economic development in the area.

The property is southeast of the Rt. 1 intersection with Milford Neck Road and has frontage on both Rt. 1 and, although narrowly, on Pritchett Road at its rear.

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. However, support was far from unanimous. Almost ten 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.

A particularly enthusiastic dissenter, Alex Schmidt owns a home behind the property and has a backyard that faces it. Before beginning his testimony, Mr. Schmidt pointed out that Mr. Murphy has already listed his property for sale for $7.5 million dollars and marked the zoning commercial as if the meeting with the county were a “foregone conclusion.”

“It’s completely out of character with the way the area is now,” he said during the hearing. “The folks there don’t want to live right next to a Wawa and hotels. There are many other properties close to the turf field that have better access and less impact on residents — those should be considered first.”

Ultimately, Levy Court commissioners decided unanimously to table the matter for a ruling on a later date. It will be rescheduled for another public hearing in approximately 30 days (exact date unknown). Commissioner Eric Buckson, who presides over the district in question, said that tabling the matter would give the applicant an opportunity to examine alternatives to a commercial lot entrance that would likely have to be built on a narrow strip of the property at its rear.

“I am willing to support a rezone if they can figure out a way to make it work and eliminate an entrance on Pritchett Road,” said Mr. Buckson.

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