Allowed uses for Dagsboro’s town center district may change

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 11/17/21

DAGSBORO — The town center zoning district is undergoing scrutiny and a potential change in its permitted uses along the in-town thoroughfares of Del. 20 and Del. 26.

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Allowed uses for Dagsboro’s town center district may change


DAGSBORO — The town center zoning district is undergoing scrutiny and a potential change in its permitted uses along the in-town thoroughfares of Del. 20 and Del. 26.

Any alterations in the allowed uses would require a public hearing and Town Council’s blessing.

“We (have) been looking the last few months to change some of these ordinances and tighten them up, in lieu of the liquor problem — with the definition of liquor — to make it easier for businesspeople to know exactly what is allowed and not allowed,” said Brad Connor, Dagsboro Planning Commission chairman, during Monday’s Town Council meeting.

“We went through all the permitted uses that are allowed in the town center district, went back through all of them,” said Kyle Gulbronson of the planning firm AECOM. “We cleaned up a lot of them, deleted some of them.”

There is a long list with dozens of permitted uses. A sample of them are business/professional offices, churches, schools, libraries, parks, fire departments and ambulance services, coffee shops, laundromats, dry-cleaning facilities, barber and beauty shops, theaters, lodges of fraternal organizations, medical and dental offices and temporary stands.

Three are specifically targeted to be prohibited:

  • Businesses involved in production, storage, distillation, manufacturing, processing, distribution and wholesale retail sale of beer, liquor, wine and hardened cider.
  • Storage and sale of pornographic materials, which is currently allowed in the zoning.
  • Medical cannabis dispensaries or related businesses.

Dagsboro Town Administrator Cindi Brought said cannabis dispensaries could be allowed in the town’s highway commercial district, which spans portions of U.S. 113.

“We’re just looking at the future for that,” she said. “That is probably a topic that, if it ever does come this way, we’ll have to discuss. But definitely not in town.”

The TC district zoning review was spurred in part by a request by Clay Snead/Snead Property Management to locate an upscale liquor store on Vines Creek Road, near the Del. 26/Del. 20 split.

Back in September 2020, council approved the preliminary plans for the liquor store by a 3-1 vote, but in December, council — acting on legal advice from town solicitor Gregory Morris — voted 4-0 to rescind it.

The subsequent change to an office/apartment use for the property meant that the town was able to cancel plans to canvass residents, possibly through a public referendum, following a December survey.

“That,” said Ms. Brought, “is why the town center (zoning) came up because there was a huge thing over the definition of a ‘beverage.’”

Currently, restaurants within the TC district are permitted to serve alcoholic beverages, as long as the food/alcohol percentage of sales is met.

“Several years ago, we went through and specifically made requirements for food versus alcohol sales and percentage of the facility that can be bar areas. None of that is changed,” said Mr. Gulbronson.

Ms. Brought said Monday that Councilman William Chandler III, not in attendance at the meeting, was concerned about some proposed uses, such as outside parking for a classic car-restoration business and a convenience store with gas pumps.

Mr. Gulbronson explained that the convenience store/gas pumps option is listed because “we have an existing facility in the town center district. And the concern was that if a new owner would buy that property, if it wasn’t a permitted use, he would have problems getting funding to improve the site. It is hard to get financing for a nonconforming use. We didn’t want things to get worse as opposed to making them better.”

On-street parking will also be addressed. Such parking is allowed on Main Street in proximity to several businesses, including the Clayton Theatre, but had not been included as a permitted use at a now-closed produce stand.

“That is how it was drafted initially,” said Mr. Gulbronson. “But maybe what we should do is say, ‘No parking in non-designated areas of right of way.’ We do have on-street parking in certain sections. We should modify that language.”

Councilwoman Teresa Ulrich agreed.

“The theater, they park on the street. So why can’t a farmer’s stand? That one, I would definitely change,” she said.

Survey results were incorporated in the compilation of the lists. One poll was carried out during the Downtown Development District initiative, said Mr. Gulbronson.

“Also, when we did the comprehensive plan, we updated that survey. These were the uses that people indicated that they wanted to see downtown, as opposed to other locations in town,” he said. “Once this is finalized and everyone is happy with it, it is a zoning change, so we’ll have to have a public hearing to update the zoning code.”

Dagsboro Mayor Brian Baull added, “We did a survey when we worked on our updated comprehensive plan and asked people what they wanted in certain parts of the town. We’ll incorporate all of that. So it’s a process. Planning and zoning will send it to us. We’ll say, ‘We like this. We don’t like this.’

“It’s like tennis. We’ll send it them. They’ll look at it, tweak it and send it back to us. And hopefully, we’ll all get our heads wrapped around it.”