Water park, mini-golf revamp gets planning approval from county

The Viking Golf Amusements and Thunder Lagoon Waterpark have been landmarks of the area for nearly 20 years, sitting at the intersection of Routes 1 and 54, ready to tempt vacationing families with its water slides, miniature golf and concessions.

Dansk LLC, owners of the business and property since 1987, recently applied to county officials for approval of a conditional use to revamp the business with new water slides and an additional mini-golf course.

They found objections from some of the business’ neighbors, with concern about parking, noise, late-night hours, a lack of striping on the streets, the height of the miniature golf displays, night lighting, safety concerns, fencing heights, debris and trash, what they said are inadequate toilet facilities, as well as Dumpster locations, the nearby wetlands, the capacity of the pools on the water park and congestion.

After deferring a decision on the application on several occasions, Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commissioners at their Sept. 19 meeting said they had tried to address those concerns, as well as those among the commission, in adding a series of conditions and stipulations to the project’s approval from the commission.

Those conditions and stipulations include:

• The provision of 39 parking spaces on the property, with the parking spaces clearly marked on the final site plan;

• A stop sign located at the parking lot exit, per a Town of Fenwick Island request for safety purposes;

• Dansk LLC will clarify on the site plan the exact location of the DelDOT easement on Route 54;

• A barrier between Route 54 and the project will be shown on the site plan and be adequate to provide separation between pedestrians and patrons on the site, and vehicular traffic on Route 54;

• A boardwalk pathway will be built along the entire length of Virginia Avenue and the Virginia Avenue right-of-way for pedestrian safety;

• The restroom for use of the business’ patrons will be shown on the site plan and will be adequately sized to serve the larger park and miniature golf business.

• The business will open no earlier than 10 a.m. and close by midnight.

• Lighting, including that on the slides, mini-golf and parking, will be screened to only shine onto the project and not neighboring property.

• A concept plan will be submitted to the county engineering department; and

• Approval of the project is subject to the review of the P&Z.

Commissioner Michael Johnson of Georgetown questioned on Wednesday how the size of a bathroom would be determined to be adequate. Commissioners acknowledged that building requirements exist to specify such things as a size required to serve a number of customers, that such is understood in the construction industry, but Johnson said he would prefer that the commission have better assurance of its adequacy.

The commission amended the condition to specify that the bathroom would be “enlarged and sized appropriately,” and that it would be shown on the site plan, stating that the change “would better address the concerns stated by the public” during the hearing on the application.

The commissioners noted during their discussion of the application that their concerns with the project had related less to the conditional use for an amusement business in the C-1 district, where such businesses already exist in number, than with the site plan for the renovations.

They said the conditions had been intended to allay those concerns, and with them in place the project would not have an adverse impact on the neighboring properties and community.

They granted it unanimous approval Wednesday, with those conditions and stipulations in place.

The plan for the revamped business calls for modernization and improvement of the site west of alley-like Virginia Avenue, to the west of the existing mini-golf and go-cart track. The 1.35-acre parcel currently houses the water park, with its slides and Viking-themed children’s pool, and 18 paved parking spaces, as well as a parking for 15 vehicles on gravel and room for seven more in a grassy area designed for overflow parking.

Dansk LLC is asking to modernize the water park facility with taller, more modern water slides, and to add an additional miniature golf course along the front and west side of the parcel. The plan also calls for relocation of the existing parking area from Route 54 to the rear of the site.

Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen McGrath told the Coastal Point that she had supported the project before the P&Z because it was a needed improvement to ensure the business can continue to exist. “Their goal is to improve the current slides, which are outdated, so that they can remain competitive,” she said.

“I absolutely support it,” McGrath added. “There are not that many things to do in the Bethany-Fenwick area. This is an important component of what the place has to offer.”

Endeavoring to address some of the concerns, Dansk LLC’s Tor Anderson, attorney Dennis Schrader and Ken Christenbury of Axiom Engineering told commissioners they would post signage to designate parking areas for the customers — something the commissioners put into writing in the approval conditions to try to resolve complaints about customers, even now, parking on neighbors’ property.

The water park is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, seven days per week from mid-June to Labor Day. The new proposed golf course will be open for limited hours from April or May to September or October, and full-time during the summer months.

The new water slides are planned to reach no more than 42 feet at the top of the tower, with a platform at 33 feet above grade. Privacy fencing is to be erected for screening.
Also on Sept. 19:

• Commissioners unanimously recommended final approval of the subdivision application of Bethany Short Properties LLC to divide 20.08 acres in the MR Medium Density Residential District (Environmentally Sensitive Developing District Overlay Zone), located west of Route 1 and 3,500 feet north of Fred Hudson Road (Road 360), into 49 lots. The Watermark project met all conditions of its preliminary approval and has received all needed agency approvals.

• Autoworks also received unanimous preliminary approval for a new auto-body/repair shop on U.S. Route 113, on Country Garden Lane near Route 20. The 2.08 acre property currently has a garage on the site, which will be replaced with a larger building, and 50 parking spaces will be provided, including eight spaces in the front right-of-way area (subject to site plan review). A landscaped buffer is required, and a plan will have to be provided prior to final approval.

• Commissioners unanimously recommended preliminary site plan approval for the final phases of the Bethany Bay community, with three sections. The first section would contain 24 units in four multi-family buildings, with nine two-car detached garages and 68 parking spaces. The second would contain 36 multi-family units in six buildings, with 15 two-car detached garages and 103 parking spaces. The third section would also contain 36 multi-family units, with 22 two-car detached garages and 128 parking spaces. Central sewer is provided by the county, with the project being completed with 549 of 550 permitted units.

• The commissioners granted approval of a final record plan for The Marina at Peppers Creek, under the same plan for 122 lots preliminarily approved in July.