Commentary: Proposed store detrimental to Sussex way of life

I am a new resident to Sussex County and Angola by the Bay community as of June 14. I am very concerned that within six months of residency I am compelled to submit a email of response/comments to the extremely short five-day comment period on the conditional use permit application CU2176 for a 24/7, 365-day-a-year gas station and convenience store at the intersection of John J. Williams Highway and Angola Road.

This application is notably out of scope from the “purpose” and “permitted uses” clearly outlined on the Sussex County Zoning website for AR-1 permits at https://ecode360.com/8883922. I moved here in large part for the ecologically important ocean, bays and waterways, and to explore the coastal wildlife. I now fear these could be endangered if the above noted application is approved.

I don’t understand why the conditional use application is under consideration, noting the Sussex County zoning requirements. On the website, the first paragraph under “Purpose” should suffice in justifying a denial of this application:

“The purpose of these districts is to provide for a full range of agricultural activities and to protect agricultural lands, as one of the county’s most valuable natural resources, from the depreciating effect of objectional, hazardous and unsightly uses. These districts are also intended for protection of watersheds, water resources, forest areas and scenic values … compatible with residential surroundings.”

The listing of conditional uses under Section 115-22 of the same website clearly omit the type of business operations described in the application for a 7-Eleven convenience store with multiple gas pumps at the intersection of Angola Road, Robinson Road and John J Williams Highway (Route 24). The potential danger to our water sources and pollution of the inland bays and Herring Creek should be a priority concern for this Council.

Voting approval of the application against the very purpose of the existing uses will raise serious questions about the priorities of elected council members — clearly sending the message your priorities are not the local residents, or visiting tourists. As you should be aware, existing gas and convenience operations are readily available nearby on John J. Williams Highway, in both directions of the proposed site.

Another gas station is not needed so close to waterways and residents. If this conditional use application is approved despite the obvious documented reasons not too- the very core of the beauty and attraction of this area will be severely threatened by other developers seeking similar Council workarounds to make money at the expense of residents and the environment.

The responses by DNREC to recent council questions also raise further concern to the lack of policy and coordination of agencies regarding testing and monitoring for local waterway, wellheads, and public water testing/analysis for the contaminants that can be released by the proposed business, including the close proximity of proposed gas tanks to various natural resources and wild life species. If my facts are correct, the last Angola Water Source Assessment was in 2004.

That depicts either lack of resources, lack of priority setting, or lack of current technology to assure accuracy in reporting current water safety information to residents. Adding a mulit-tank gas station with these noted reporting delays important for communicating public safety information will also speak volumes to your constituents about your commitment to residential safety and welfare.

Traffic congestion and vehicular safety are already of considerable concern as posted to local papers over the last six months. Per local residents that have lived here for more than 15 years, the volume of residential development is unprecedented, with inadequate roadways still in existence for rural, agricultural communities.

The DelDOT improvement plan for the next four years has shown lack of planning for that development, particularly at Angola ROAd where the proposed business site will have access limitations. Currently, traffic that is backed up on John J. Wiliiams Highway prohibits traffic to use the right-hand ramp onto Angola ROAd during many travel times, as I frequently experience with considerable frustration coming home from errands in Long Neck. During this past summer, I frequently had to wait two or three lights to turn left from Angola Road onto John J. Williams Highway – the exact location outlined for entering and exiting the gas station.

Considering the noted errors in the recent DelDOT report that included omission of several new communities, and the unprecented community development already impacting local traffic commutes, an evaluation of proposed road improvements and traffic flow changes as they are completed along Route 24 should be publicly reported. The reporting should include transparent accident and traffic statistics to verify that improvements are successful with the increasing community populations – before additional business applications are considered at busy intersections.

After my own traffic experiences this past summer on Route 24, Route 1 and Rehoboth Avenue, I have already had friends and family say the traffic is not worth the visit to this resort area. Not what I envisioned when I moved here in June.

Personally, on Aug. 17,, coming from Long Neck to Angola Road, I sat in a backup from Sloan Road to Angola Road at 10:57 a.m. in the morning. I was so frustrated as I sat near Dorman Road. This was prior to any of the nearby residential developments at Sloan Road, Holly Mount, and Angola Roads getting underway. That is downright scary.

The current roadway infrastructure is poor, outdated and council consideration of any potential busy business would be negligent to the needs of residents in this area before any actual/future road improvements are actually evaluated for efficacy.

Also, consider this: with elementary and middle schools just down the road, any rise in crime that can be perceived or proved to be associated with approval for the type of proposed business in this application will also be an interesting project for this new resident/writer/researcher who relocated here for a more serene, coastal life.

Barbara A. Dailey, BSN, MS is a resident of Angola by the Bay.