County Council approves written requests for land-use application extensions

GEORGETOWN – Facing a New Year’s Eve deadline, developers whose land-use applications are set to sunset Jan. 1, 2016 can officially seek a temporary six-month extension.

Sussex County Council at its final scheduled meeting of 2015 unanimously approved an ordinance amendment that allows applicants to seek extension of time for approvals for subdivision applications, conditional-use applications and residential planned community districts – upon written request.

In August 2011 and January 2013, County Council adopted blanket ordinances that allowed extension of the time for all subdivision, RPC and conditional use approvals.

On Jan. 1, 2016, upward of 200 land-use applications are set to expire.

Written applications have to be made by Dec. 31 to the County Planning & Zoning Office.

Requests will be addressed by County Council on a case-by-case basis.

“I am glad we are doing it this way,” said County Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Lewes. “I think we should be looking at each one and I think it’s a fair system.”

Councilmen Rob Arlett, R-Frankford; George Cole, R-Ocean View; and Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, also voted for the ordinance. Councilman Sam Wilson, recovering from a stroke, was not in attendance.

Lawrence Lank, County Planning & Zoning Director, said the P & Z Office had received 30 requests as of Dec. 14.

“Before the end of the year we anticipate a few more,” Mr. Lank said.

County Attorney Everett Moore stated that under the ordinance amendment, the applicant must:

  • Submit their request in writing by the end of the calendar year, Dec. 31, 2015;
  • Include a schedule or plan of the project describing steps that have been taken up to this point;
  • Explain how they anticipate completing within that six-month time period; and
  • Provide an explanation of why if they don’t already have the approval, what specifically were the conditions beyond their control.

“Some of the letters that we received have been very vague; we are writing letters out to them and have given them the opportunity to add additional comments to the letter requesting. So we have substantial information to make a decision and recommendation to the council,” said Mr. Lank.

In response to a question on the agenda timeline and expectations from Mr. Arlett, Mr. Lank said upon ordinance approval expectation is requests could be on County Council’s agenda possibly by late January or early February 2016.

A few projects set to sunset, or expire, date all the way back to 2004. Most of them are 2005 and 2006 and some are more recent ones, Mr. Lank said.

Some requests are from developers who have purchased property from an original developer and they now want more time to get preliminary and/or final approval. Others are in need of agency approvals, such as Sussex Conservation district or DelDOT.

If approved by council and recorded, under the time extension developers receiving final approval have five years from Jan. 1, 2016 to have their project substantially under construction, Mr. Lank said.

Slow recovery from the economic recession in some areas of the County has factored in requests for extensions.

“The market dropped a few years ago, and hasn’t come back totally more on the western and middle of the county, where on the east side most of those projects are getting started,” said Mr. Lank.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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