By Susan Canfora

Despite nearly five hours of testimony on Tuesday, March 25, opposing building 200 apartments  at the intersection of Railway and Old Mill roads in Ocean View, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval.

At the Thursday, April 8 meeting, the project was recommended for approval  by a 4-1 vote, with Commission President Robert Wheatley and Commissioners J. Bruce Mears, Holly Wingate and R. Keller Hopkins in favor ad Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson opposed.

Although requirements were made before approval, one of the residents opposed, Dave Bartlett, called them “boilerplate conditions” such as asking that trees are planted and existing soil not be disturbed and verifying where the bus stop will be for students attending Lord Baltimore Elementary School.

“It’s amazing they won’t listen to reason. It will never change. It will take a Biblical event for that to change,” Bartlett said about Commission members he said he feels “rubber stamp every development.”

“It is truly disappointing they just didn’t hear what we had to say. Not surprising, but disappointing,” he said.

Tom Goglia of the Evans Farm Watch Coalition told Coastal Point he and fellow opponents are “obviously disappointed in the Commission’s decision.”

“We feel strongly that they have ignored the voices of the citizens they are empowered to represent. They have either ignored or failed to properly consider the major issues and concerns we raised at the public hearing. Our community is more at risk today as a result of this decision,” he said.

The matter will go before the Sussex County Council at the Tuesday, April 20, meeting and Bartlett said he and an assembly will attend, hoping to persuade the Council to stop the project.

At the March hearing on the matter, P&Z Commission members listened to dozens of reasons the apartments shouldn’t be built from 6 p.m. until nearly 11 p.m.  but nobody spoke in favor.

Among objectors was a woman who compared overdevelopment in the county to a cancer that will continue to grow simply because residents want to say they live at the beach and several who said their peace and quality of life are being compromised because of too much development.

Goglia called the proposed apartment complex “the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time” especially since traffic is heavy now and when beach traffic arrives this summer, drivers will sit at some intersections for five traffic light cycles before being able to turn, he said.

Attorney David Hutt of the Morris James law firm in Georgetown, representing the developer, Linder and Company, said the proposal is for 17 buildings containing 200 units, with the entrance off Old Mill Road. A looped parking lot would connect all buildings. There would be a large area in the middle of the buildings that is undeveloped and an interior sidewalk, giving residents a large area to walk and participate in activities, plus traditional sidewalk on the outside.

Single-story garages would be across the street, so every unit would have a garage.

There is a proposed 30-foot landscape buffer around the perimeter and 3.6 acres of wooded wetlands that would remain undisturbed and be part of that buffer, Hutt said.

Stormwater management is proposed along Railway Avenue. Across the street, there is a farm house and chicken coop, which would be removed and replaced with a maintenance building. Older buildings have asbestos, but Hutt said it would be abated during removal.

Apartments would be annually leased, with rent ranging from $1,300 to $1,900 monthly, with a maximum of two people per bedroom  The number of apartments would be equal to 113 single-family homes, he said.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.