Rehoboth

The Sussex County Council on Tuesday affirmed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to approve a preliminary plan for Terrapin Island, in the Angola area of Lewes, despite a citizens’ appeal. 

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President Michael Vincent made the motion at the council’s Oct. 26 meeting. It passed unanimously, allowing Riber Development to move forward in submitting a final site plan for the 42-lot housing development on Rehoboth Bay.  

The council heard arguments Oct. 19, with Michele Forzley and Keith Steck  representing the 165 citizens who filed the appeal. Forzley lives in Bayfront at Rehoboth, neighboring the Terrapin Island property on Camp Arrowhead Road, while Steck lives in Milton.  

Attorney Richard Forsten represented Riber Development. 

Retired Delaware Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver IV was hired to preside over the hearing at the recommendation of the county’s legal team, according to County Administrator Todd Lawson.  

map: An illustrative rendering of the proposed Terrapin Island housing development, off Camp Arrowhead Road in the Angola area of Lewes. © Courtesy of Pennoni Associates Inc. An illustrative rendering of the proposed Terrapin Island housing development, off Camp Arrowhead Road in the Angola area of Lewes.

Toliver’s job was only to rule on matters of procedure, he said, while the council decided whether the Planning and Zoning Commission's July approval "was the result of an orderly and logical review of the evidence” and involved the proper interpretation and application of the county code. 

map: The Angola-area parcel proposed to be developed into the 42-home Terrapin Island. The empty area to the right is Rehoboth Bay. © Courtesy of Sussex County The Angola-area parcel proposed to be developed into the 42-home Terrapin Island. The empty area to the right is Rehoboth Bay.

The appellees argued otherwise.

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Steck claimed at the hearing that there are many errors and omissions in the Terrapin Island application, the documents submitted in support of it and the county’s records of planning and zoning meetings. 

He said the developer’s lawyers misrepresented the characterization of the property and parts of the county comprehensive plan, and relied on various yet-to-be-issued permits and approvals to make their case. 

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Forzley cited numerous discrepancies with wetlands and buffer measurements. Ribera Development is proposing to pave over about a fifth of an acre of nontidal wetlands to connect to Terrapin Island’s four easternmost lots, which requires a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

“This whole discussion around these areas of disturbances was not done according to the code, it was not logically organized, there were statements made by the applicant that were not correct and the file shows how those statements were not correct,” Forzley said. 

Forsten told the council that much of what Forzley and Steck said was irrelevant to the matter at hand. 

“It’s an absolute bedrock principle of law that if you don’t raise something in front of the body, in this case the planning commission, you can’t then complain on appeal that a particular issue was not addressed,” Forsten said. 

Parts of wetlands behind Jeff Nayda's home, in Bayfront at Rehoboth, are set to be paved as part of the proposed Terrapin Island development, off Camp Arrowhead Road in Angola. © Courtesy of Jeff Nayda Parts of wetlands behind Jeff Nayda's home, in Bayfront at Rehoboth, are set to be paved as part of the proposed Terrapin Island development, off Camp Arrowhead Road in Angola.

Arguments that were not addressed before the Planning and Zoning Commission were much of Forzley and Steck’s case. Vincent, in explaining his motion to affirm Planning and Zoning’s decision, agreed with Forsten on this point. 

Vincent also noted the approval is preliminary and many of the “technical” errors and omissions in the application will be addressed as part of the final application approval. 

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"The applicant now has to follow up with all other state, county and possibly federal agencies. If the applicant does not get these approvals, the project does not get built,” he said.  

Despite public opposition to Terrapin Island, the commission can’t legally deny an application that adheres to the county code, according to Vincent. 

Next steps

“The appellants regard this as just one battle in the war, and the war is not over yet,” Forzley said. 

She said she and her co-appellants are considering their options now that their appeal has been lost. 

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“We would much rather see the council take steps to reform planning and zoning procedures and appeal procedures” than make more appeals or take further legal action, Forzley said. 

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Terrapin Island appeal shot down by Sussex council

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/terrapin-island-appeal-shot-down-by-sussex-council/ar-AAQ2Rx9

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