County moves forward with sale of Ocean View property

Sussex County Council members at their March 22 meeting accepted a $20,500 bid from Robert Witting to purchase a 75-foot-by-242-foot piece of county-owned land at 16 Daisey Avenue in Ocean View.

The completion of the purchase is expected to take some months, and the council will have the option to call off the sale or extend the purchase contract after a year. The delay is due to the need for Witting to get subdivision and variance approvals from the Town of Ocean View in order to use the property. Witting was the sole bidder in the process that was opened up by the county at the request of neighboring property owners.

Also on March 22, Councilman Vance Phillips introduced an ordinance that would extend approvals of all subdivisions, residential planned communities and conditional uses approved by the county since Jan. 1, 2010, to three years, instead of the usual year. The ordinance is designed to compensate for a lagging economy by allowing developers additional time to get their projects going without their approvals lapsing.

Councilman George Cole said he had concerns about whether all projects should get a blanket extension to three years, since he believed some developers may not have been making earnest progress on their projects while others may have been. He suggested the council continue to extend approvals on a case-by-case basis and said he believes the council consensus does not support the blanket extensions.

Phillips said he hoped the public hearing process for the ordinance would allow the public to give input on the idea.

At public hearings in the council’s afternoon session, the council also approved, 4-0 (Cole abstaining), the rezoning of 1.33 acres owned by Stephen Bilobran south of Burbage Road and west of Windmill Drive. The property is an unincorporated enclave surrounded by incorporated Millville, and the zoning is changing from AR-1 agricultural-residential zoning to B-1 neighborhood business. Bilobran said he plans to develop three storefront units, with residential use above each, on the property over time, including his own real estate and wholesale businesses.

The council also approved, 5-0, rezoning nearly 21 acres of land in the Bayside community near Selbyville to medium-density residential-planned community (MR-RPC) for development as a 55-unit extension of the existing community there. The parcel was one Bayside’s developers had originally tried to purchase as part of the initial plans for the community but was only able to be purchased after approval of the existing RPC.

Located in an environmentally sensitive zone, the project will include buffers from both state and federal wetlands.

Finally, the council voted to re-establish a moratorium on applications for casinos and/or gaming facilities, for another six months. The previous moratorium had expired about two months ago, but work is continuing on an ordinance that would govern where and how such facilities might be developed in Sussex County.

Phillips said he believed the ordinance was being held up by waiting for state legislators to act on legislation that could expand permission for casinos to operate outside existing venues, and he championed the moratorium being re-established in the meantime.

Cole, however, expressed concerns about the pace of the work on the county ordinance, which he said he believed should not be delayed by the pace of the state legislation. Should the state expand gambling venues, he said, the county should be prepared and already have its ordinances in place at that time.

Cole initially supported only a three-month extension of the moratorium but did finally support the six-month extension on the grounds that the county’s legislative process could take more than three-months to get the casino ordinance in place.

Pick up the April 1 edition of the Coastal Point for more in-depth coverage of these stories.