Planners vote against Castaways project

After months of hearing arguments concerning a proposed campground and water park on Cedar Neck Road, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted last Thursday night to recommend denial to the three applications submitted by Castaways LLC.

This has been a long and complicated process, fueled by the base conflict between permitting a landowner to build what he or she wants to build, and reaction to the proposed project by the public. It has involved P&Z officials sifting through mountains of letters submitted by those opposed to the project, listening to people voice their opinions in meetings and phone calls and politicans weighing in (or not weighing in) with their views before November’s elections.

As proposed, the water park would have been open to both campers and visitors to the rental units, as well as members of the public. The project’s attorney argued that the property would be developed in phases, would bring jobs to the area and is consistent with the County and State’s plan for tourism.

Some of the complaints voiced by those opposed to the proposed project included increased noise from the water park, a stress on traffic on an already-stressed Cedar Neck Road and, as P&Z Commissioner Rodney Smith stated, the “proposed use as a water park with the accompanying traffic, noise, lighting, waterslides and other amusement structures is not compatible with residential properties that exist up and down Cedar Neck Road.”

We agree with P&Z’s decision to deny this project for a few reasons. First, if they couldn’t justify a change in zoning for the property, then there would be no possibility of Castaways being what developers envisioned, anyway. Second, the outcry from the public in that area was so great that to ignore it would have been a clear example of not listening to your constituents.

That’s bad business. And bad politics.

That being said, it’s hard to deny that a project like this wouldn’t be welcomed somewhere else — perhaps a place that didn’t have as many residences in the immediate area, and roads that would be more able to absorb the added traffic. Camping is a popular pasttime for many people, and the nearby beach makes it all the more attractive to people who might wish to go camping over their vacations. It’s been a rough economy for several years now, and the more people we can attract to the area, the better.

Now, keep in mind that Sussex County Council will ultimately have the final say on this issue, and it would not be unprecedented for them to act in opposition to P&Z’s recommendation. For those opposed to the project, it might be a good idea to stay on top of this as it moves to that point.