UPDATE: Sussex Planning and Zoning Recommends Approval of Gills - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

UPDATE: Neighbors React to Recommended Approval of Gills Neck Village Center in Lewes

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The new proposal calls for under 75,000 square feet on less than 12 acres of land (Source: WBOC) The new proposal calls for under 75,000 square feet on less than 12 acres of land (Source: WBOC)

LEWES, Del. - The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a controversial shopping center proposal, with a long history on Thursday night. In a unanimous vote, the commission gave the nod to the Gills Neck Village Center, proposed for the intersection of Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road. Ultimately the final decision will be up to the Sussex County Council, which will hold a public hearing on the topic on Aug. 23. 

The proposal has been debated by neighbors for much of the last decade. The most recent proposal has been greatly reduced in scope and size, and is currently proposed for approximately 75,000 square feet over approximately 12 acres. 

Nadine Wick from the Lewes Partnership for Managing Growth said that the vote was "disappointing."

"They were not listening to the public's speaking at the P&Z meeting," she said. "When you had so many that were opposed for good reason, and only one person presented why it should be approved, there's something very wrong there." 

At the meeting commissioners credited the developers - JG Townsend Jr. and Company for reducing the project. In fact, the application has been scaled back by approximately 85 percent since 2008. 

Commissioner I.G. Burton made the motion for approval, and said the reduction in zoning to what's called "B-1" was a main factor. 

"The B-1 is very limited," he said. "It's the most limited zoning Sussex County has. So it states you can only have this business, this business, this business."

Neighbors have raised concern with both traffic and environmental damage. The new proposal is still in close proximity to the town's well head, and so neighbors urged town leaders to voice their opposition at a public meeting in July. 

At that meeting, Mayor Ted Becker expressed his concern with the project, after looking over both a traffic study and an environmental impact study on the proposal. 

"I think our position will be in the long-run to express concern," he said. "And hopefully convince (council) that their decision has a great impact on our community."

Meanwhile Wick said there were also concerns with precedent, leading to more development on the land around this proposed lot. 

"There's all that open space," she said. "And it's not going to be left open if they have anything to do with it. They're not going to leave it open. It's worth too much money."

Proposal History:

When the plans were first released in 2008, the developer, JG Townsend Jr. and Company, wanted to build a 521,000 square foot shopping center and housing development on approximately 68 acres. This plan and many that followed were denied by the Sussex County Council, amid neighbor opposition. 

In 2015, a downsized proposal was pitched by the developers, which cut the plan drastically. This proposal was for a 215,000 square foot shopping center, a proposal which was approximately 40-percent of the size. At the time of the proposal, developer Bryce Lingo, from Jack Lingo Asset Management, told WBOC that the plan would be a good fit. 

"We have listened to the people," he said in August of 2015. "And lessened the size by half. And if people get the facts, and look at it with an open mind, they will support it."

Even before this proposal was finalized, "Say No to Lingo" signs started spreading through town, and opposition formed from neighbors.

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