County BOA defers Oakwood Homes decision, for a second time

Date Published: 
Oct. 20, 2017

The Sussex County Board of Adjustment has chosen to table, for a second time, their decision on two special-use exception applications filed by Oakwood Homes.

The company is seeking two special-use exceptions to permit manufactured homes on two separate lots, each measuring less than .75 acres — one located on Hoot Owl Lane near Dagsboro and the other on Julie Court near Frankford.

The applications were first discussed at the board’s Oct. 3 meeting, where more than a dozen residents of Hoot Owl Lane attended to voice their opposition to the application.

At that time, Gil Fleming of Oakwood Homes said his company had been informed that the homes had been placed on undersized lots after the County had provided his company with two separate permits to place the manufactured homes.

At the Oct. 16 meeting, Board Member E. Brent Workman said he believed the County’s mistake in providing the permits overrules the fact the homes do not meet the County code for those lots.

“He was doing his job after the permit, and he was doing what he thought was right. The County messed up…”

“I believe Mr. Workman hit on something there… The County has put us in a very difficult situation because they’ve approved it, yet there’s strong argument … considering the restrictions,” agreed Board Member John Mills, adding that he feels the board is now “between a rock and a hard place.”

Board Member Bruce Mears voiced his disagreement, stating he believed the mobile home would “deplete the value of existing properties” in the neighborhood.

“I feel the homeowners have stated a legitimate complaint that this mobile home will impact the value of their property. You require three-quarters of an acre for a mobile home, and even though a permit may have been issued, there’s some accountability for knowing the code.”

Mears said that perhaps other members of the board who are not in the building industry may not have known the code; however, someone like Fleming, who has been in the industry for years, would know it.

Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp told the board members that their decision needed to come down to whether “those restrictive covenants prohibit what the applicant proposing here” or “does that use substantially affect adversely the uses of neighboring and adjacent properties.”

“This has got to be one of the hardest ones I’ve had in my time here,” said BoA Chairman Dale. A. Callaway.

“The fact that [the homes are erected] is entirely relevant,” replied Sharp. “Because other than the fact that you have something there... Normally we get special-use exceptions, and they’re proposed… The fact that it’s there really just goes to, will this substantially affect adversely — that’s the threshold, really… The code presumes that a property owner knows the code that is applicable to his or her property.”

The board voted 4-0 to table their decisions related to the two applications until its Nov. 6 meeting.