DOVER — City council debated rezoning a property at the intersection of Mifflin Road and Forest Avenue in Dover before ultimately voting against the change during a Monday meeting.
The property, located at 4 Mifflin Road, is zoned commercial professional office as are the surrounding properties. It is for sale, but is currently owned by Peter and Bonnie Reidy.
David Hugg, director of planning and inspection and economic development, said that in 2012, the Reidys and the owners of the surrounding properties successfully rallied for council to approve CPO zoning for the property.
The proposed new zoning of limited central commercial or C-2A would have opened the Reidys’ property to the construction of retail stores, various kinds of offices, professional services establishments, restaurants, general service establishments, hotels, place of public assembly and drive-thrus, among other uses.
Mr. Hugg noted the proposed zoning was consistent with the city’s comprehensive land-use plan.
The application for rezoning was considered by the Planning Commission about a month ago and ended with a tie vote as one member of the commission was absent. City staff did recommend approval for the rezoning.
Dover City Council denied the zoning change, 5-4, however, with councilmembers Fred Neil, Tricia Arndt, Gerald Rocha, Ralph Taylor and Council President Roy Sudler voting against it.
Councilmen David Anderson, Andre Boggerty, William Hare and Matthew Lindell voted in favor of the motion to rezone the property.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Boggerty noted that council was “toeing the line” of dictating what businesses can open in the city, as there was discussion during the meeting against the possibility of a car wash opening on the property if the zoning was changed.
“I’ve been paying attention to how we decide to rezone properties. We’re always focused on the usage of those properties, which in theory I understand, but is the rezoning separate?” Councilman Boggerty asked.
“I think we’re toeing the line and we could get ourselves into some issues if we’re focused on usage and we’re deciding what businesses can open and what can’t.”
Councilman Sudler said he is pro-growth and pro-business, but not at the expense of the people who live near where that growth could take place and could be impacted by it. He also noted changing the zoning for one property would make the area inconsistent in its zoning.
Councilman Neil also said he does not want to dictate to landowners what they can and cannot do with their property, however he had concerns over adding traffic to an already congested intersection.
During a public hearing, neighboring property owners voiced their concerns that new construction on the property — a car wash — would add traffic.
While Mifflin Road resident Rose Harrison said she understands the public hearing is for rezoning and not for a site plan, she said the proposed zoning change would allow for businesses to come into the area that would “only be successful with a high volume of customers.”
“A high-volume business would add additional stress to an already busy intersection that is regularly used by pedestrians of all ages, bicyclists, horse and motor vehicles,” Ms. Harrison said.
She said Dover’s Bike and Pedestrian Plan already identifies Mifflin Road as an impediment to safe travel in the city.
Mifflin Road resident Joseph Malloy also testified during the hearing. Given his job as a mail carrier, he said he has noticed there are always lines at car washes. He raised concerns that a car wash or any other high-volume business would add further traffic.
Jonathan Street, the lawyer representing the property owners, said traffic is a burden but necessary to growing the city. He also said Forest Avenue or Del. 8 is becoming a “gateway” to the city from the west.
“We want a growing traffic. We want a growing population,” Mr. Street said. “We want existing businesses to expand and we want new businesses.”