Sussex County Council, at its Tuesday October 12 meeting, is expected to vote on whether to allow the Carl M. Freeman companies to build a hotel and restaurant off Route 54 near Fenwick Island .
The vote on the controversial issue will come more than two months after dozens of local residents, along with the lawyer representing Freeman, set out the reasons for and against the project in public hearings at the July 27 council meeting. and during the planning and zoning of July 8. Committee meeting. The commission did not recommend approval of the request, tied 2 to 2, with a commissioner’s abstention.
After lengthy testimony at the county council meeting on July 27, Councilor John Rieley addressed the crowd that was still gathered in the council chamber well after 5:30 p.m.
“You have to understand, we have received a huge volume of information,” he said just before the board voted 4-0 to postpone a decision. Earlier today, Councilor Doug Hudson recused himself and left the council chamber.
Council adjourned on July 27 without saying when the matter would be back on its agenda. It was finally put on the agenda for the October 12 meeting, and several weeks passed.
Council Chairman Michael Vincent and City Councilor John Rieley declined to comment on the draft this week or reveal how they plan to vote. The two said they were advised against commenting, by legal counsel.
Those who oppose the project feel as strongly as they always have, said Kirsten McGuigan-Kleinstuber, who helped form the Fenwick Protection Project, at Coastal Point this week.
If the council approves the project, opponents will explore the remedies available to them and continue to fight “to the end,” she said.
âI would love to be there,â she said of the October 12 board meeting.
Freeman is proposing the construction of a 70-room hotel and 8,500-square-foot restaurant on a 9.2-acre parcel just west of the ditch that connects Little Assawoman Bay to Big Assawoman Bay, which is partially a wet area. It would be off Highway 54 near Lighthouse Road, close to Treasure Beach RV park and campground and Papa Grande’s and Catch 54 restaurants.
âEveryone who opposes it is on the same page,â McGuigan-Kleinstuber said. “We’re all hoping that the board votes for what the voters want, and whatever we can do, if they make a decision in favor, we will.” So many owners along Route 54, in my experience, are against it. Some of them spoke to lawyers.
âI understand the council can’t tell private landowners what to do with their land, but that doesn’t match the character of this area. We will fight it in any way we can, âshe said.
Samantha Danaher, who also attended the Fenwick Protection Project training, was among those who spoke at the P&Z public hearing, saying: The beach. “She said a hotel and restaurant are going against the character of Quiet Resorts.
The location is close to the Delaware-Maryland border.
âIt would paint me to see Delaware become as populated as Ocean City, with all the hotels and skyscrapers,â she said.
What she grew up with “is being taken from us faster than we can keep up,” she said.
âTo be able to run in the swamps when we were children, to run in all the woods that have been cut down. Now this land is the last scenic land on Route 54, âshe said, calling for the land to be preserved.
After the Planning and Zoning Commission did not recommend approval for the project, McGuigan-Kleinstuber said the commission made the right decision. She worried “about the impact on the community, the quality of life in general,” she said.
âWe all live here because it’s ‘The Quiet Resorts’. We appreciate the natural beauty, the slower kind of lifestyle. In Fenwick we only have a few hotels. It is not a big hotel town. I think that’s why people live here and love it here.
âWetlands are found all over this area. I’m sure a buffer zone will be needed before they can build, but even the simple placement of impermeable surfaces – the pavement – and the development of this zone will have a major impact on the whole, âhe said. she declared.
Others, in public hearings, spoke out against overdevelopment which they feared would force them out of their homes and said that when rescuing the injured by airlifting them to a hospital, the property in question is one of the safest areas for a helicopter to land because other places have too many poles, wires, people, and vehicles.
Opponents also said they feared there might not be enough parking at the hotel, that 70 rooms mean hundreds of people causing foot traffic and traffic jams, and called for an independent study. impact on traffic. They claimed that Freeman had no right to “violate our lands and take our wetlands,” saying it was possible on some Saturdays to jog from Route 54 to Fenwick Island beach faster than drive there. âEnough is enough,â they said.
Farmer Henry Bennett, whose ancestors once owned the property Freeman wants to build on, has said he loves Sussex County, but the constant ‘buffering’ of development makes life difficult. Farming is still the # 1 business in Delaware, but getting equipment from one side of the road to the other is difficult due to heavy traffic, he said.
âSurrounded by sprawl, we cannot continue to cultivate. I strongly oppose this project, and I think it’s a little ridiculous that we have to quit work in the middle of our busiest season to come here and ask the departmental council not to approve this project. â¦ Your property rights end when they infringe upon ours, âBennett said.
He claimed that the landscaping around the hotel and restaurant would cause toxic chemicals to flow into the bay during high tide or during a storm.
âNo one will catch crabsâ¦ or anything for generations,â he predicted.
At the County Council Public Hearing, Rieley commented, âSaturday morning on Highway 54 isn’t fun, let’s be honest. And we’re going to add something like 1,200 more trips. â¦ It’s like blowing more air into a balloon that’s already full enough, âsaid Rieley.
But attorney James Fuqua, representing Freeman, said the worst summer traffic was usually over by the end of July, that the area was a tourist destination “and that’s it.”
Fuqua told the council that a land use decision is not a popularity contest and should not be made by them based on objections heard at the P&Z hearing, at a meeting of the advice or in writing.
He said Freeman is not automatically entitled to approval, but because the project is on a main road, would be served by water and central sewers, is a mile from Fenwick Island and seeks to maintain the county’s objective as a tourist destination “these considerations, in fact and in law, entitle them to your approval.”
Fuqua assured the council that there would be 237 parking spaces at the hotel – more than needed – with lighted parking areas, and that the restaurant would be upscale and not a fast food establishment. The outdoor dining area would be on the west side of the building, with a view of the wetlands and the bay. Eating out would end at 10 p.m., and music and entertainment was not allowed outside, to make sure it wasn’t noisy.
A landscaped buffer zone is also planned along Route 54 and on the west side of Bennett Avenue and throughout the parking area.
Fuqua said Freeman is asking for conditional use and not a zone change, allowing council to place conditions on the project if approved.