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Sussex County Council is not satisfied with amendments proposed to the county’s C-4 planned commercial zoning district.

The district is designed for large-scale commercial development with limited residential use and requires a site plan as part of the rezoning process – a first for Sussex County.

At its June 4 meeting, council voted 3-0 to deny the proposed amendments, which were supported by the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission.

After officials updated the commercial zoning districts last year, staff found that some revisions were required in the C-4 district, including the minimum lot size, parcel size and the percentage of residential use permitted in the district, which was the sticking point for council.

Officials were looking to strike a better balance between commercial and residential development in the C-4 district.

The original ordinance allowed for up to 20 percent residential development within the district. Last year, county council suggested a change to 40 percent, and the planning and zoning commission recommended a change to 65 percent.

Up to 12 units per acre are permitted in the district.

Councilman I.G. Burton said at 65 percent, a development would end up as a high-density residential subdivision with a commercial component. “I think it lost the original intent,” he said. “Twenty percent residential to 65 percent is a big switch. If we want high-density residential, let’s do that, but not through a commercial zone. The ramifications of this percentage need to be looked at.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the minimum lot size was 75 feet in width and 100 feet in depth on a minimum 3-acre parcel, which can be composed of several parcels.

The county has not received any rezoning applications requesting C-4 zoning.

The proposed ordinance set the percentage at 40 percent – not the recommended 65 percent – but council members still denied it. Burton, Councilman Sam Wilson and Council President Mike Vincent voted against it. Councilmen John Rieley and Doug Hudson were not on council when public hearings took place late in 2018.

“We now start the process over,” Vincent said.