The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission this week deferred a decision after a public hearing on a conditional-use application from Jeremy W. Smith of Ocean View. Smith’s application is for a yard waste and composting facility, proposed to be located on 17 acres within a 39-acre parcel of land west of White’s Neck Road and south of Old Mill Road, near Millville.
About 20 people spoke in opposition of the application, and 40 people raised their hands in opposition when asked their opinion at the meeting. In addition, 149 area residents signed a petition in opposition, citing reasons ranging from truck traffic to noise to odor.
Bonnie Patrick, a resident of Squirrel’s Run, said her next-door neighbor, who would be the closest resident to the facility, had not been notified of the public hearing.
“I understand these facilities are needed, but not in the middle of residential neighborhoods,” she said. She also expressed concern over the proposed operation hours of 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., six days a week, with Sunday hours by appointment or demand.
“This needs to be located like the facility in Frankford – in a field, not surrounded by homes and residences.”
She also asked if their groundwater would be tested because of fertilizers and pesticides that people use on lawns, which would then be brought to the site through the yard waste, with the potential for runoff.
Angela Frey – who, with her husband, has been very outspoken against the application – said it was “despicable and deplorable” that they even had to discuss such a facility so close to the bay.
“This is appalling” she said.
Several commission members and residents asked what would be composted, and repeatedly, Smith and Davidson answered that it would be organic yard waste, and not kitchen scraps, or solid waste of any kinds, which would be in violation of the use.
Accepted materials would be pieces of wood less than 4 inches in diameter, grass clippings, tree debris, etc.
Several people questioned the advertisement of the public hearing on a road that has been closed for sewer installation. P&Z Chairman Robert Wheatley asserted that there were “no problems in the way it was advertised.”
“People are frequently concerned that they don’t get a personal invitation, but somehow you all made it here. I find it rather far-fetched to think that it was not properly noticed,” he said, noting that there will be another public hearing on the application, in front of county council, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 1:30 p.m.
“We make a recommendation to council, but the council makes the final decision. So, Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m. – tell all your friends.”
Answering some of the questions about his claim that the facility, if approved, could possibly increase neighboring property values and would have no detrimental effect on them, Smith said “between the acceptable uses under AR-1, this is the best one, because it is a green activity.”
“Ultimately,” he continued, “If this is a success, I would like to build a house and live there, so I would be a neighbor and it would be in my back yard.”
“So you’re the one!” joked Wheatly, referencing an earlier question by Pen Frey, who spoke in opposition and asked which one of his neighbors would like to live next to such a facility.
Permitted uses-by-right in an AR-1 district for farm parcels of 5 acres or more in size include agriculture, including horticultural, hydroponic, chemical or general farming; truck gardens; cultivating of field crops; orchards, groves or nurseries for growing or propagation of plants, trees and shrubs; forest use (tree farming), including use of heavy cultivating machinery; spray planes or irrigating machinery; dairy farming; keeping or the raising for sale of large or small animals, reptiles, fish, birds or poultry; and structures for processing and sale of products raised on the premises, with conditions.
Also permitted are dog kennels, grain storage structures, and hospitals or clinics for large or small animals. The property could also be subdivided, making for lots for as many as 100 residences, commissioners pointed out this week.
Davidson explained that the P&Z recommendation and, ultimately, the County’s decision on the conditional use application, is the first step. Other permits, such as an air and noise permit from DNREC, are necessary before the facility could be used.
The county council will hold its public hearing on the application on Tuesday, Nov.15, at 1:30 p.m. It can also be heard online at www.sussexcountyde.gov.