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Sussex council defers vote on Phase 2 of Burton's Pond

Officials seek timetable on proposed signal at Route 24 intersection
The right-hand side of the the revised Burton’s Pond Phase 2 site plan shows a larger buffer for the proposed project along Route 24. DAVIS, BOWEN AND FRIEDEL GRAPHIC
June 19, 2017

Story Location:
Sloan Road
Millsboro  Delaware
United States

The developer of a proposed townhouse community near Long Neck has filed an amended site plan with a wider buffer after nearby residents opposed the original plan. 

During a June 13 hearing before Sussex County Council, Zac Crouch, engineer for developer Burton’s Pond LLC, said the buffer between the proposed development and adjacent Pinewater Woods would be increased from 20 feet to 50 feet.

After receiving approval for a 265 single-family home community, Burton's Pond LLC filed a conditional-use application for a second phase of development, across the road from the first phase. Plans call for 100 multifamily townhouses on a 31-acre parcel of medium-density-residential land, MR-1, at the Sloan Road-Route 24 intersection.

Following the hearing, on the suggestion of Council President Mike Vincent, R-Seaford, council voted 3-1 to defer a decision to allow absent Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, to review the record and listen to the audio of the public hearing so he could vote on the application. Councilman Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, voted against the motion.

In addition, council instructed Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell to write a letter to Delaware Department of Transportation officials to check on a timetable for a traffic signal at the new Sloan Road/Route24/Hollymount Road intersection if the application is approved.

While the developer would be financially responsible for several road improvements for both projects – including the realignment of Sloan Road – DelDOT has not yet approved installing a traffic signal.

Crouch said all road work would be completed in anticipation of installing a traffic signal. Crouch said the developer has signed a signal agreement and would pay for it, but DelDOT is in charge of the timetable. “We are not saying it's not needed now. We can't say when it will go in,” he said.

The site plan includes a pool and pool house and residents would also have access to amenities in the Phase 1 single-family community, including use of Burton's Pond, said Ben Gordy, senior project manager with The Ocean Atlantic Companies.

Preserving woods is developer's goal

When quizzed by Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, about constructing single-family homes on the parcel, Crouch said the developer wanted to preserve as much woodlands as possible. The site plan includes 19 acres of open space including a large tract of woods with a walking path.

Crouch said open space would be limited and the required 10,000-square-foot lots for single-family homes would result in clearing all trees to make the project economically viable.

Cole said the change from AR-1 to MR-RPC zoning was approved by a previous council 10 years ago. “To be honest, I hate this,” he said. “Rural Sussex County should remain rural. What you have is what rural Sussex should look like,” he told residents in attendance.

However, Cole voted in favor of the zoning change in a 3-2 vote during the July 31, 2007 council meeting.

Overdevelopment leads to traffic nightmare

Pinewater Woods resident Arnold Pitman said overdevelopment has created a monster for traffic in the area around the proposed community. Pitman, who is a member of Delaware Fire Police, said emergency vehicles and first responders can no longer respond quickly to alarms.

He said combined with the recently approved single-family project, there would be 500 to 1,000 new vehicles using the intersection. “I can't even picture that,” he said.

He suggested the development should be restricted to one-acre lots to blend in with other communities, which is acceptable to area residents.

“You have to take a look at the situation in this part of eastern Sussex County,” he told council. “At what point do you say enough is enough. This overdevelopment – you need to put skids on it. Our quality of life is affected by this.”

“The surrounding neighborhoods need to be considered,” said Pinewater Farm resident Norma Parks. “The trend here is single-family homes. This would change the character of the communities in the area. Higher density is not appropriate for this area.”

Cole said MR zoning allows four units to an acre – the proposed community's density is 3.3 units per acre. “Requiring one-acre lots at this point would be difficult. The cat is out of the bag,” Cole said, adding that state environmental officials commended the developer for preserving the wooded section of the parcel.

Property values at issue

Several residents have expressed concerns that the addition of townhouses would decrease value of their homes, which for the most part are large homes on large lots.

Gordy said it's a misconception that multifamily housing decreases property values of existing single-family homes. He said his company has several mixed-housing communities, including Breakwater, Coastal Club and The Peninsula. “There is no evidence of property values decreasing locally or nationally,” he said.

Attorney David Hutt said residents have expressed concerns about traffic and compatibility. He said the developer would be responsible for improving a notorious and dangerous intersection and eventually constructing a traffic signal.

He said mixed-use housing is not a detriment to surrounding properties. “We don't have to rely on national surveys. We have real world examples in Sussex County,” he said. “They are not high rises and will look the same as single-family homes in the area.”