GEORGETOWN — By a unanimous decision, Sussex County Council on Tuesday affirmed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s July 8 approval of preliminary plans for Terrapin Island, a 42-lot subdivision on 32 acres near Lewes that spurred opposition and an appeal signed by more than 160.
Council President Michael Vincent’s motion to agree with P&Z’s decision was supported by colleagues Mark Schaeffer, Cindy Green, Doug Hudson and Vice President John Rieley.
“The commission’s findings speak for themselves and demonstrate that the commission ‘engaged in an orderly and logical review of the evidence and involved the proper interpretation and application of the (applicable zoning) chapter,’” Councilman Vincent said.
The appeal, presented to County Council on behalf of appellants by Michelle Forzley and Keith Steck on Oct. 19, challenged that the commission’s approval was based on an incomplete record, inaccurate/inconsistent information, errors in the minutes, failure to adhere to county ordinances and insufficient consideration of issues raised.
At the appeal session last week, Richard Forsten, the attorney who represented the Terrapin Island developers, discounted the bulk of the appellants’ concerns, stating that the vast majority of what was presented was “entirely unrelated.”
“Does this subdivision plan qualify for preliminary plan approval or not?” Mr. Forsten said at the hearing, presided over by retired Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver IV.
Councilman Vincent, in making his motion Tuesday, said the “commission’s findings include detailed reasons for its vote to approve the application, including the fact that the property is located in an AR-1 zoning district, which enables the applicant to develop up to 2.17 units per acre by right.”
Furthermore, he said the commission adopted 22 conditions of approval that would minimize any adverse impact on the property owners and residents in the area.
“In fact, the conditions for this approval are among the longest the commission has ever placed on a preliminary subdivision approval,” Councilman Vincent said. “This clearly demonstrates that the commission used careful consideration in its review and approval of the application. The preliminary subdivision plan further defines additional requirements that must be met for the applicant to obtain final subdivision plan approval, which is a prerequisite to the project’s commencement.”
Councilman Schaeffer agreed.
“I’ll say Mr. President, your conclusions were well-stated. I concur. I, too, read the PZ record thoroughly. I believe their decision was based on logic and (was) an orderly decision based on the county ordinances.”
Mr. Steck said Tuesday that the appellants are “considering next steps.”
According to county code, “any party aggrieved by the decision of the county council may appeal to the appropriate court” but only after all remedies made available in the code have been exhausted. Any such appeal would be heard in Superior Court.
“We need to evaluate what the options are and what we are going to do. That option could include going to court to challenge this,” Mr. Steck said. “We haven’t ruled out anything, essentially.”