Here's a look at news and events from around southern Delaware this week.
Residents decry the pace of development in Sussex
The crowd, like last time, held signs with messages like "Slow growth," "Enough is enough," and "Save Sussex Cty. woods and wetlands." Occasionally, passing traffic honked in support.
In a reprise of last September's protest of the county's policies on development, a crowd organized by the group Sussex 2030 gathered outside the county administration building Thursday before the planning and zoning meeting to protest what they are calling overdevelopment. The crowd had formed before the scheduled start time of 2 p.m. and soon numbered around 100 or more.
The county has grown by 40,000 people or about 20 percent over the last decade, according to the latest Census, and that rapid growth has sparked tension.
Sussex 2030 is concerned about the pace of growth, as well as the increase in traffic and the environmental impact of development, as well as specific proposed projects up before planning and zoning. (The commission ended up denying approval for one of those projects, Coral Lakes, in their meeting later Thursday.)
Sussex 2030's Jill Hicks said Thursday that though they feel like their movement has momentum, they are holding another protest in opposition to proposed developments and because of the upcoming County Council election this fall.
"It's time to make people aware ... let them know that they do have a voice and can make a difference," she said.
Here's the Delaware Independent story from last fall on the issues being debated.
Jersey Mike’s coming to Seaford
Southern Delaware has its share of former New Jersey residents, including the sub chain Jersey Mike’s, which is adding a location in Seaford. The chain, which has more than 2,000 locations nationwide, started in Point Pleasant, New Jersey in 1956. It has six other locations in Delaware, per its website, including in Rehoboth Beach and Millsboro. There’s another just across the line in Salisbury. The Seaford site is not yet listed on the Jersey Mike’s website, but Kyle Potvin, a spokesperson for the chain, confirmed it is coming to the city. He said in an email that the opening date is still fluid but they expect to open later this year. Per City Council member Matt MacCoy, it will be located at the other end of the shopping complex housing Texas Roadhouse off Route 13.
Speaking of Seaford
The city began its annual fire hydrant flushing on Monday, it said on Facebook. The work will take about four to six weeks to finish, and the city said it’s important for people to check their water quality before washing clothes, running the dishwasher or “any other sensitive use,” i.e. things you don’t want to use dirty water for. The flushing will take place 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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Former Milford doctor gets 20 years for opioid distribution
Former Milford doctor Patrick Titus, 58, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday, March 1. A federal jury convicted him last year on 13 counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances, and one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises.
Evidence was presented that Titus distributed powerful opioids like fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone unlawfully, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.
“Titus operated an internal medicine practice where he frequently prescribed these dangerous controlled substances in high dosages, sometimes in combination with each other or in other dangerous combinations, mostly in exchange for cash,” the department said. These had no meaningful medical purpose, the department said, but were prescribed to patients Titus knew were addicted or who gave clear signs that the drugs were being abused or sold on the street.
“Evidence at trial showed he distributed over 1 million opioid pills,” the Department of Justice said.
Authorities also announced on Wednesday that 45 people had been arrested after an investigation into a major drug operation in southern Delaware, Delaware Online reported. Others were still wanted, including a Bridgeville man accused of being the ringleader. The operation involving police agencies in Delaware and Maryland. They seized more than 2.3 kilos of heroin, cash, guns and more. Read Shannon McNaught's story here.
Greenwood small business faces zoning conundrum
A Greenwood woman who has started a business caring for older people in her home and in a residence next door has discovered she is out of compliance with zoning regulations in the town.
Queena Mast, who lives on First Street, has experience as a certified nursing assistant working at the Country Rest Home west of town, which her father owns. In December, she started caring for older people who don’t need nursing home-level care, but do need assistance. She told Greenwood Council on Wednesday she thought it would be allowable to do that as a tenant arrangement.
That does not appear to be the case, though, and Mast is asking to have the property rezoned from R1 to R3 – that is, from a typical residential zone to one allowing a conditional use that would include rooming or boarding houses, offices, medical clinics or nursing homes.
Mast said she has worked hard calling state officials about how to set up her business, but has had a hard time getting answers. She said there’s no clear box for her vision of independent living with care. She wants to care for a maximum of five people at a time.
To allow the use, Council would have to first amend the comprehensive plan, then change the zoning in what would create an island of R-3 surrounded by a residential area. Council members questioned Mast on whether her proposal is really more of an assisted living setup than independent living, and why the details weren’t nailed down ahead of time.
“You should have left the ship tied up to the dock until you had this done, instead of you loading the ship up and taking off from the pier,” Mayor Donald Donovan said.
The planning and zoning commission has already held a hearing. It recommended that the record be left open to allow town staff to get comments from state officials, then that another hearing be held. The Council voted to allow Mast to continue operating her business until the issue is resolved.
Disclosure: Mast is a longtime friend of this reporter.
Cornerstone Community Center marks one year in operation
Bridgeville’s nonprofit Cornerstone Community Center, which aims to connect local residents to “education, health and financial resources,” plans to celebrate its first year in operation with a community fair on April 3. It has not yet announced a location for the fair; stay tuned for more details on the organization’s Facebook page.
For background, we had a story about Cornerstone Community Center and its work last September.
A different kind of vaccine event
We’ve written about a lot of vaccine events lately, but this one is for animals. The Brandwine Valley SPCA will be offering free vaccines for pets on Saturday at the state fairgrounds in Harrington. Shots available include for rabies, distemper and FVRCP (the latter protects cats from a long list of difficult to pronounce and spell ailments). There will also be a pet food pantry. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No advance registration is required. The event is drive-thru; cats should be in carriers and dogs should be leashed, the SPCA said.
Memorial Day parade planned for Harrington
The Greater Harrington Historical Society is planning a Memorial Day Parade starting at 9 a.m. on May 30. There will be a ceremony following at the Norman Barlow Pavilion near the police department and city hall.
To participate, sign up here.
The Bridgeville Library is offering computer and technology assistance on Thursdays from 3-5 p.m. Their tech volunteer will help people with issues with laptops, tablets, e-readers and more. Each session is an hour long. Registration is required; call 302-337-7401, ext. 101 to schedule.
Here’s where to find out what’s going on at other local libraries:
'Cabaret' comes to the Milton Theatre
The musical “Cabaret” is coming to the Milton Theatre for eight performances starting Friday, March 18 and running through Saturday, March 26. The story is set in a Berlin nightclub in the late 1920s as the Nazis rise to power, and contains the kind of themes you might expect of a musical with that setting. (Recommended age is 14 and up.) Tickets are $35. You can see some of the cast interviews here.
Postponed father-daughter dance is this weekend
The Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church’s annual father-daughter dance, postponed earlier this year because of the pandemic, is now scheduled for Saturday, March 12, from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Seaford High School gym. With recent changes to COVID restrictions, masks are optional, per the event website. The dance aims to give fathers – and father figures – a special night with their little girls (no matter their age), the site says. Tickets are $16 online.
Food bank mobile pantries continue
The Food Bank of Delaware will hold drive-thru food pantry events in Sussex and Kent counties again this month.
One will be Monday, March 14, at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Road, Georgetown, Georgetown. The other is Wednesday, March 16, at Dover International Speedway in Dover. Both start at 10 a.m.
The food bank said it can serve up to 1,000 households at each event, first come, first served. It asks people to register in advance to speed up the process, and to make sure trunks or back seats are cleared out so volunteers can load food. Proof of Delaware residence is required, like a state-issued ID, a utility bill or a SNAP card.
A better news week on car crashes
It seems like we’ve been on a bad run with fatal crashes, but this week as I was putting together the newsletter I realized I had none in the area to write about. Since I habitually drop grim and depressing news about these deaths in the weekly update, I figured I would put in a note about the happier alternative: Nothing to write about.
Delaware restaurants are still in trouble, industry rep says
With many pandemic restrictions lifting, it may seem like things are getting back to normal but one business leader warns that many more restaurants may close in the coming months. Delaware Restaurant Association President and CEO Carrie Leishman told the Delaware Business Times that many restaurants are vulnerable because of struggles finding workers and profits remaining low or nonexistent. Read the whole article by Katie Tabeling here.