Ordinance introduction sets sun-setting extension proposal in motion

GEORGETOWN — An ordinance that could provide a temporary six-month extension to land-use applications set to sunset with 2016’s arrival was formally introduced at the Nov. 10 County Council meeting and is in the procedural pipeline.

The proposed amendment to County Code would allow applicants to seek an extension of time for approvals for subdivision and conditional-use applications and residential planned community districts upon written request.

With ordinance approval, the written request would go to the Planning and Zoning Director for staff review and any other pertinent entities. Planning and Zoning would report and offer a recommendation to County Council, which would determine the fate of the request.

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

“So we will see every request but the staff will say, ‘we do recommend …,” said County Councilman George Cole.

At the Oct. 19 County Council meeting, County Planning & Zoning Director Lawrence Lank estimated that about 30 to 40 percent of those projects “are totally dormant, with no activity.”

Of the estimated 200 projects facing expiration, the County has received only a handful of requests for extension.

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

On Jan. 1, 2016, more than 200 land-use applications are set to expire. Written applications would have to be made by Dec. 31

The ordinance draft notes that “County Council continues to be concerned that the approvals and/or permits that have been granted by it and the County Planning and Zoning Commission may lapse due to delays prompted by circumstances outside of the applicant’s or County’s reasonable control; and … the process of obtaining approvals and/or permits can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive for both the applicants and the County Government.”

Requests could impacted by the legal dispute over Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s continued enforcement of regulations found to be “unlawful” by a Sussex County Superior Court judge in October.

County Administrator Todd Lawson said there are specific requirements of applicants, including a written request, schedule, plan to detail the project and “steps that they must take,” an explanation supporting the reason for the time extension request and other information.

The ordinance process includes public hearings before the County Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council.

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

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