Tie Vote Derails, For Now, Proposed Route 54 Hotel, Restaurant Project

Tie Vote Derails, For Now, Proposed Route 54 Hotel, Restaurant Project
The site plan for the project on Route 54 and Bennett Avenue is pictured. Submitted Image

GEORGETOWN – A motion to approve a conditional use request for the development of a hotel and restaurant along Route 54 failed this week following a tie vote.

On Tuesday, the Sussex County Council voted 2-2 on a conditional use request from the Carl M. Freeman Companies to develop a hotel and restaurant on a 9.2-acre parcel off Route 54.

Councilman Mark Schaeffer and Councilwoman Cynthia Green said they supported the request, as the developer’s application addressed entrance and roadway improvements and imposed site conditions that limited the impact on wetlands and neighboring properties. Schaeffer added the project supports the economic development goals of Sussex County’s comprehensive plan and is within an identified growth area.

“The site is in close proximity to Route 54 and other properties zoned C-1 Commercial and is adjacent to land zoned B-1 Neighborhood Business and Marine,” he added. “Numerous business uses are located in the general area, including a spa, a marina and two restaurants, which are just east of this site.”

Council President Michael Vincent and Councilman John Rieley, however, argued the conditional use request was too intensive for the surrounding area and that the development was better suited in an area with major arterial roadways. They listed traffic congestion along Route 54, environmental impacts to surrounding wetlands and waterways and increased emergency response times as reasons to oppose the application.

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“The existing residential use of this AR-1 zone is the most appropriate use for this property at this time given the location of the property and its surroundings,” Rieley said. “Based upon the record, the application would be detrimental to the health, safety and general welfare of the public, neighboring property owners, pedestrians and boaters in the area, in that it is out of character with the surrounding area, which mostly consists of residential developments of various sorts.”

It should be noted that Councilman Douglas Hudson recused himself prior to discussions on the conditional use application. The motion to grant the request ultimately failed as a result of the tie vote.

“The motion is defeated,” Vincent announced.

Earlier this year, the Carl M. Freeman Companies presented the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission with a proposed conditional use request of land in the AR-1 district for the development of a 70-room hotel and 8,500-square-foot restaurant at Route 54 and Bennett Avenue.

The applicant’s attorney, Jim Fuqua, told commissioners at the time the conditional use request – unlike a zoning change – would allow for restrictions on the property. The project also called for wetland buffers and a traffic signal to address environmental and road safety concerns.

Several nearly residents, however, have voiced their opposition to the project, arguing it would bring more traffic to Route 54 and impact quality of life. Other topics of concern relating to the proposed conditional use application included pedestrian safety

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.