City approves new zoning to boost business downtown

By Tony E. Windsor

After months of planning and researching, the Main Street Program and the Downtown Seaford Association have been successful in gaining a new zoning ordinance to promote planned development of Seafordís downtown area. During the Tuesday, Dec. 13 meeting of Seaford City Council, Robert Palmer presented a final draft of a special Riverfront Enterprise Zone proposal. Palmer, who along with Seaford businessman George Ruff has spearheaded the effort for the new zoning, said the proposal was recently taken before Seafordís Planning and Zoning Commission and given its recommendation for approval. The new C-3 Enterprise Zone is designed to enable downtown residences to have a streamlined opportunity to convert a home to a small business, while also keeping store fronts along High Street as retail operations. The zone incorporates both residential and commercial zoning. As proposed, the area from Cedar Avenue, east to Herring Run, and from the south curb line of East King Street, south to the Nanticoke River, will be rezoned C-3 to accommodate the new Riverfront Enterprise Zone.

City building official Charles Anderson said the only exception to the C-3 zoning came as the result of a local businessmanís concerns that the new zoning could affect his business. Byron Palmer of Soil Services, which is located on the Nanticoke River, requested that his properties remain as C-1, which is for commercial entities. Planning and Zoning recommended that Palmerís properties remain as they are. However, it was pointed out that a section of Palmerís properties are currently residential, so that portion will remain residential while the other properties remain commercial.

The city council approved the new C-3 Riverfront Enterprise Zone, as the chamber audience, made up of mostly downtown business owners and members of the Downtown Seaford Association and the Mainstreet Program, applauded. City manager Dolores Slatcher said the zoning will go into effect. However, no property taxes will change in the newly zoned area unless the use of the property changes. Also in council action, a decision was made to develop a policy regarding whether the city will allow new businesses to pay water and sewer impact fees over time. During a recent meeting of Seaford City Council, a local man who is involved in the opening of a new restaurant in the city requested to be allowed to pay half of the impact fees to get necessary permits and then pay the balance over a 12-month period.

The businessman, Bruce Johnston, withdrew his request and will pay his restaurantís impact fees as directed by the city. Slatcher said a request like Johnstonís could set a precedent for the city that could affect how the city collects impact fees from new businesses. Two impact fee payment proposals were drafted for the councilís consideration. One allows a payment schedule over 12 months. The other stipulates that the entire impact fee must be paid before a building permit will be issued by the city. The council voted to accept a new policy, which states, ďThe Seaford City Council sets as its policy that all impact fee charges are to be paid prior to the issuance of a building permit.Ē

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