Oakwood Homes applications deferred, again

Date Published: 
Nov. 10, 2017

The Sussex County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to again defer their vote on a special-use exemption applications filed by Oakwood Homes.

The company is seeking two special-use exceptions to permit manufactured homes on two separate lots, each measuring less than .75 acres — one located on Hoot Owl Lane near Dagsboro and the other on Julie Court near Frankford.

The applications were first discussed at the board’s Oct. 3 meeting, where more than a dozen residents of Hoot Owl Lane attended to voice their opposition to the application.

At that time, Gil Fleming of Oakwood Homes said his company had been informed that the homes had been placed on undersized lots after the County had provided his company with two separate permits to place the manufactured homes.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, board member Bruce Mears said he was ready to make a vote on the application regarding the mobile home placed on Hoot Owl Lane.

“I’ll stand by my earlier comments that, it’s a mobile home in a housing community and it significantly impacts the homeowners’ values,” he said, adding the mobile home did not look like any of the other homes in the neighborhood.

Board Member E. Brent Workman said he was still unsure, as to what to do.

“They got the permit and everything else,” he said of Oakwood Homes. “The County messed up. He went off of that. I’m somewhere in between. I feel sorry for that guy, and I feel sorry for what he did…”

Chairman Dale. A. Callaway requested the board consider deferring the application for a third and final time, so the members could have additional time to consider the request.

Board Member Ellen Magee, who was not in attendance at the public hearing, but read through the record, said she felt confident to take a vote that evening.

“I think that even though an employee may have made an error, we have to go by this book that we’re given to go by. The applicant knows what they’re doing. They’re in the business and they know,” she said. “We have to go by the ordinances of the County.”

Board Member John Mills said he wasn’t sure if the board received “solid or firm” evidence that the mobile home would substantially affect diversely the values of neighboring properties.

“I was really disappointed that there wasn’t something hard copy. It was more of an opinion or what have you.”

Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp noted to the board that two opinions from appraisers were provided to them by one of the residents in the opposition of the application.

The board voted unanimously to defer their decision until its Monday, Nov. 20 meeting.

As for the Julie Court application, Mills again said he didn’t believe there was substantial evidence presented related to property values.

“In regards to the neighborhood, we didn’t see evidence submitted that demonstrated that it was not allowed,” added Workman, noting he did not see a noticeable difference between the surrounding homes and the mobile home in question.

Magee opined that that would not necessarily be an issue, as the permit given to Oakwood was not for the parcel on the special-use application.

“I believe what happened there is, the applicant owns two parcels, had a home on one parcel that was damaged in a fire and had come to the office to place a home on another lot. There was an error on the permit as to which parcel the home was to be on,” explained Sharp. “The fact that the home was given a permit for that perhaps in error, I don’t know if that’s relevant to the issue before you all. The issue before you all is whether that home will affect adversely the uses of neighboring and adjacent properties. That’s really the issue before you all today.”

Mears said he believed the testimony in opposition to the application was powerful.

“I heard two single ladies come in and express their concerns about their property value if a mobile home was placed adjacent to their property. That impacts my decision.”

There was question as to whether or not a mobile home was prohibited in the restrictive covenant. A copy of the covenant was supplied during the public hearing, supplied by the applicant. Staff said copies of the document would be made and given to the board for review.

The board voted unanimously again to defer their vote until the Nov. 20 meeting.