County denies conditional-use application for ‘tiny home’ campus

The Sussex County Council voted unanimously this week to deny a conditional-use application for a “tiny home” campground in the Long Neck area.

Architect and property owner Joy Marshall Ortiz told the council she wanted to create a small, sustainable small-home community on her 4.199-acre property, located on the north side of Cordrey Road, approximately 800 feet west of Streets Road.

Ortiz said the property, which is zoned AR-1, could house 10 to 15 units, with the average home in the community being 250 square feet in size.

“We wanted to create an environment that would not impact the land or the community,” she said.

The property, which is located behind a once-family-owned parcel, would be accessed through a 50-foot easement owned by the neighboring property owner. The neighbor was not in attendance at the June 20 meeting; however, Ortiz said she was willing to take over maintenance of the road.

Ortiz said there would be a common parking area, created using crush-and-run, as they would want to create little impact to the land. She added that the homes would use solar energy, composting toilets and rainwater collection units.

The homes would be built off-site and brought in on trailers once completed.

“The idea is that each would be designed a little differently but all compatible,” she said. “We want to create a place where people can come and be a part of the community.”

The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission had recommended against approving the conditional use, stating they felt it was not an appropriate use for a campground as written in the county code.

Ortiz said she and her husband were trying to work around the constraints of the code, as a zoning classification for such a community currently does not exist.

“I understand that that is maybe where you’re going, but when you look at the actual impact of what these tiny homes could be, it could be far less impactful on the homeowner than if I were to build a home that I want,” she said, noting she could create a pig farm, build a pole barn to store farm equipment or store as many personal vehicles as she wanted on the property.

The homes would not be for sale but would be rented for short-term, long-term and seasonal use.

Planning & Zoning Director Janelle Cornwall said, as the code is currently, the tiny residences would be classified as manufactured homes and would thus require a 450-square-foot minimum size.

Councilman I.G. Burton asked whether County staff were looking into adding any kind of zoning to its comprehensive land-use plan that would enable such a community to be built.

Cornwall said they are currently looking to add it as an alternative housing idea in the community housing section of the plan.

Councilman Rob Arlett said that, while he liked the concept, he had concerns about the easement.

The council voted 5-0 against approving the application.

“I totally think this is a good concept,” said Council President Michael Vincent. “I certainly hope that you will not forget about this and that you will try to figure a way… I think your concept and ideas are certainly something that would benefit our people.”