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Sussex denies industrial rezoning for Milton-area parcel

A proposed rezoning to pave the way for an industrial park west of Milton was unanimously denied by Sussex County Council at its April 20 meeting.

Reed Farms LLC had filed a rezoning application from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to HI-1, heavy industrial district, for a 67-acre parcel along Route 30 (Milton-Ellendale Highway).

In addition, the developer’s application for an amendment to the county’s future land-use map to change the designation of the parcel from low density was also denied.

District 4 Councilman Doug Hudson and District 5 Councilman John Rieley read long statements explaining their reasons for voting against the applications. Both said the upzone is not appropriate for a low-density area.

“I do not support an amendment for least intense-use area designation to most intense-use designation,” Hudson said. “Such a significant change undermines any predictability of the comprehensive plan and its future land-use map.”

Hudson said the comprehensive plan and future land-use map designate the area as low density envisioned for residential, business to support residential development and agricultural uses. He said the map provides expectations on how lands will be used.

“People and businesses rely on it so they know what to expect regarding future possible development around them,” Hudson said. “The scale and intensity the [amendment] would allow is not consistent with nearby residential zonings and uses.”

“HI-1 is not appropriate in a low-density area,” Rieley said.

He said an existing HI-1 zoned parcel adjacent to the property is less than half the size of the proposed rezoning and is surrounded by low-density land. “The record does not support HI-1 for the parcel,” Rieley said, noting there was significant opposition to the application from the nearby Pemberton community.

“They purchased with the knowledge the land around them is zoned AR-1, and although there is no guarantee the land would not be developed, there is, however, a reasonable expectation the land would be zoned for uses compatible with low density,” he said.

Reiley said while the planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the application, he did not agree with their reasons. He said the commission used the parcel’s proximity to two truck routes and a railroad spur as part of their rationale.

“The railroad itself does not justify an upzone,” he said.

He said other uses are permitted in AR-1 zoning to take advantage of highway and rail options.

Rieley pointed out that HI-1 zoning permits buildings as tall as 125 feet. “The 30-plus uses allowed could all be the tallest buildings in Sussex County and in a rural area,” he said, adding the maximum height allowed in other zoning districts is 73 feet lower.