Sussex County Council deferred judgement on a conditional-use application from Tidewater Environmental Services that would pave the way for the new 630-home Coastal Club community near Lewes.
The utility is seeking permission to temporarily use one of its smaller wastewater treatment facilities at The Retreat while a larger facility is constructed nearby. As the first phase of Coastal Club is built, Tidewater would pump effluent to The Retreat's plant. Construction at the community, located off Cedar Grove Road, is complete and its treatment plant is working at 50 percent capacity, said Tidewater President Gerard Esposito.
Esposito said his company is seeking the conditional-use at the request of developer Blake Thompson and builders, who are anxious to get started. Schell Brothers, Beazer Homes and NV Homes each have a hand in the construction of the development.
“The market was bad for a long time,” said Chris Schell, representing Schell Brothers' building arm. “It's finally getting better and our problems have kind of reversed. We're running out of lots to develop.”
Once about 90 of the 163 homes in the first phase are completed, Esposito said, construction would begin on a pipeline to the utility's planned Wanendale regional treatment plant just a few miles away – a 15- to 17-month process. Esposito said Coastal Club homes would need to use The Retreat's facility for one to two years.
The Retreat's plant uses leach or drain fields to dispose of its treated waste, a method Esposito describes as subsurface disposal field under pressure.
The Retreat's homeowners' association did not oppose Tidewater's request, but resident Tom Brady did voice his concerns, saying the utility operates the drain field on the community's property through an easement and cannot legally use the facility for another community's waste.
“The easement says it's for the operation of a system for the development, and development is defined as The Retreat,” he said. “It's not like you can bring anything else in and put it on that leach field.”
He also said that if Tidewater is allowed to move forward, the community should be compensated.
“I think what they're doing is coming in and getting use of our facility for nothing,” he said. “We've paid for this [facility] and they want it for nothing, even though it's on an interim basis.”
At the planning and zoning commission's public hearing on the application Aug. 6, The Retreat's HOA Vice President Bill Baydalla said the association was not opposed to the utility's plans. He was concerned about the plant's capacity calculations, but Esposito assured him the plant could handle the extra effluent.
Because the Public Service Commission granted Tidewater the exclusive rights to the community, Coastal Club must be serviced by the utility company. Thompson urged council to approve the plan in a timely manner so construction can get under way.
“Families planning to relocate to Sussex County from affluent, urban areas expect to find upscale developments like the Coastal Club to purchase their homes in,” he said. “Our future homeowners will not only help support the construction industry rebound here in Sussex County but will quickly translate into mostly year-round consumers with demand for goods and services offered by our local businesses.”
Council deferred judgement on the issue until the county solicitor has time to analyze the easement document. Council's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 16. To view the agendas of upcoming meetings, go to www.sussexcountyde.gov.