Sussex County officials are awaiting a review of a traffic impact study by state transportation staff before voting on a proposed RV campground near Lewes. The public record will remain open until comments are received in mid-March and then remain open another 15 days for public comment.
Traffic issues have surfaced as one of opponents' major concerns about the campground proposed for a 162-acre parcel off Cedar Grove Road.
Following the Feb. 19 county council public hearing, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, requested the public record also remain open for the following: to obtain a clarification on what is permitted in the county's campground ordinance; obtain an analysis of tax revenue from other campgrounds; and ask Delaware Department of Transportation why the traffic impact study only considered travel to the site from one direction.
Jack Lingo Asset Management has two applications pending for Love Creek RV Resort and Campground. The developer is asking for a conditional use and a zoning change from GR, general-residential district, to AR-1, agricultural residential, for 74 acres of the parcel. If approved, the entire 162-acre parcel would be zoned AR-1. Campgrounds are prohibited in GR zones.
Included on the site plan are 628 camping sites: 516 for recreational vehicles, 30 for tents and another 82 sites for rental cabins. Proposed amenities are an amphitheater/chapel, welcome center, fitness center, laundry, clubhouse, general store, several pavilions and paddle boat launches, canoe outfitter, pumping station, swimming ponds, pools and RV storage. The plan has twice been modified based on comments from residents and an environmental expert.
Sussex County Council will vote on the applications following a recommendation from the county's planning and zoning commission.
The traffic question is a complex one. The developer says the proposed campground would become a destination for seasonal campers who would park their RVs or travel trailers during the season and take advantage of on-site amenities.
The campground would be open from April 1 to Oct. 31, when all RVs would be removed from sites and stored in a designated area within the park or driven off the property. Nick Hammonds, representing the developer, said RV parks have been successful in the Cape Region. “There is a demand for more sites; occupancy rates have been high,” he said.
He said the plans are for more seasonal rentals than week and weekend rentals, which would reduce transient traffic.
Opponents disagree. They say people would come to the campground to visit the beach and take advantage of shopping and restaurants in the area – therefore creating more traffic on already-congested roads.
“As nice as Love Creek is, it cannot provide entertainment for the estimated 2,500 people who may stay for months at this RV city,” said Charlie Tinacci, a spokesman for a coalition of homeowners associations opposed to the project. “And this will mean increased car traffic throughout the day that is not being considered in the traffic impact study.”
The developer points to proposed road improvements on Cedar Grove Road as part of the traffic impact study.
But opponents say the study is flawed. Tinacci said the developer's traffic impact study focuses only on traffic from the east to the proposed campground. He said most traffic would come from the north and west on roads with no planned improvements. “While the developer does plan to improve a small, straight portion of Cedar Grove Road to the east, the more used and more dangerous portion of the road will remain unimproved and subject motorists to more hazardous conditions,” he said.
Developer's representatives say traffic from the seasonal campground would be less than the traffic generated by a housing complex with traffic all year. Hammonds said more than 500 homes could be built on the parcel as it's currently zoned. Seventy-five acres of the parcel, zoned GR, could be used for manufactured housing.
D.J. Hughes, an engineer with Davis, Bowen and Friedel, conducted the traffic impact study for the developer. He said from 25 percent to 51 percent less daily traffic would be generated by an RV park compared to a residential development. For example, on a typical Saturday during the summer season, the RV park would generate 2,475 daily trips while a built-out subdivision would generate more than 5,000 daily trips.
Opponents also disagree with the developer's housing numbers saying the actual number of units would be closer to 300 when acreage for stormwater ponds, amenities, open space and roads is subtracted. “And 311 homes would result in significantly fewer motor vehicles than 628 campsites. In fact, homes would create less half the traffic,” Tinacci said.
The developer is prepared to pay for road improvements to Cedar Grove Road from the entrance of the proposed campground east to Plantation Road. Work would include widening and repaving the road to include 11-foot lanes and five-foot shoulders.
The improvements would then tie into a DelDOT project to realign the Cedar Grove-Postal Lane intersection. That project – which includes a traffic signal – is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014 and be completed in 2015.
But as traffic consultant Hughes pointed out during a Feb. 19 public hearing, DelDOT has the final say on traffic improvements. “We are not sure what will be required. We'll know when DelDOT responds,” he said.
Hughes said plans call for a 310-foot left-turn lane off Cedar Grove Road into the entrance of the proposed campground to keep RV traffic off the road and shoulder.
Hughes also said DART could be interested in establishing a bus stop at the campground's welcome center, which could help alleviate some vehicle traffic from the campground.
Opponents say the applicant's claim that the campground would be used by seasonal renters is speculation; the reality, they say, may be more weekly and daily renters than envisioned. Tinacci said this would result in more RV traffic on weekends – at the same time other tourists are traveling to beach resorts. “With hundreds of RVs in the area, I foresee a traffic nightmare when our neighborhood will be inundated with RVs coming and leaving the campground. Family cars will have to fight for space with tractor-trailer-sized rigs towing cars on rural roads,” he said.
Hammonds said the property has been owned by the Townsend family for many years. “It's a property they wanted to develop in the near term,” he said.