For years, Old Landing Road was a backroad amid farm fields leading to a golf course in the country. Fast forward 25 years and the one-way road near Rehoboth Beach has become a highly-sought after residential development area with numerous communities lining both sides of the road.
One of the last remaining farm sites along the road is now set to be developed. During the Sept. 26 Sussex County Planning and Zoning meeting, developer Jack Lingo Asset Management LLC presented plans for Redden Ridge, an 85-lot single-family community on 35 acres, with an entrance off Old Landing Road, not far from the Warrington Road four-way-stop intersection.
The original plan for 97 lots was reduced by 12 lots when a survey of the property uncovered an archeological site. “There is an area of potential effects so the developer decided to protect the area without further investigation,” said Ring Lardner, an engineer with Davis, Bowen and Friedel hired by the developer. “It appears to be an 18th century site and not a Native American site.”
Lardner said pottery shards, but no bones, were found. The area – approximately three acres – will be permanently preserved as open space. An early 1900s map indicated the site contained a dwelling owned by the Kimmey family.
Developer wants higher density
The proposed development would be built under the the county's cluster ordinance. Nick Hammonds of Jack Lingo Asset Management said the lots would be smaller than in a standard subdivision with a higher density, as permitted by the ordinance. Using the cluster ordinance formula, 69 lots – each a quarter acre – are permitted; the developer also would have an option to add more lots at $20,000 per lot.
Hammonds said the developer chose to add 16 more lots and pay the county $320,000 under the bonus-density ordinance. That money would be used by the county to purchase open space.
Under standard subdivision regulations, two homes per acre on half-acre lots are permitted in AR-1, agricultural-residential, zoning. Under those regulations, the Redden Ridge development would be allowed 45-50 lots, half the 85 lots proposed under the cluster ordinance.
Hammonds said the average lot size would be 8,700 square feet and the houses would list in the high $300,000 to $500,000 price range.
He said the housing demand in Sussex County is for smaller lot, single-family homes requiring less maintenance. Using the Senators project in Lewes as an example of demand, Hammonds said 88 lots were sold or were under contract within one year; 48 homes are currently under construction.
In Senators, Hammonds said, roughly 10 percent of those purchasing lots are full-time residents with families; 90 percent are retirees, empty nesters or those building second homes.
Lardner said, under the cluster ordinance, elements of superior design would be built into the project. Those include sidewalks on both sides of the streets; a 20-foot forested buffer along the border with the Arnell Creek community; a 50-foot agricultural buffer along an adjacent farm; improvements to Old Landing Road as required by Delaware Department of Transportation; a pool and pool house; central water and sewer service; preservation of a historic site; and stormwater management.
Residents say traffic study is warranted
Lardner said a traffic impact study was not required by DelDOT, but the developer would contribute funding to an area-wide traffic study being coordinated by DelDOT.
Traffic was the main concern of those who spoke during the Sept. 26 public hearing.
Commissioner Mike Johnson asked if any improvements were planned for the intersection at Old Landing and Warrington roads. “A discussion has been going on for years, and I don't have an answer for you,” Lardner said. “Discussions on ongoing with DelDOT.”
He said the developer would likely be required to contribute to any improvements at the intersection.
Residents in the area were dismayed that a traffic study was not required.
“Until you have a traffic impact study, you should not develop anything else on Old Landing Road,” said Ann Meredith of Arnell Creek.
Her husband, Frank Meredith, said several intersection improvements have been discussed over the years. “You don't have the answer. It's sheer folly to proceed without anymore information than you have at this moment,” he said.
Beth Doty, who also lives in Arnell Creek, said traffic in the area was horrendous, and her greatest concern was the Warrington-Old Landing intersection. “I'm concerned there is no traffic impact study because there is an extreme amount of development going on. I don't know how the county is going to handle it,” she said.
Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley said solving traffic issues is DelDOT's purview.
“But the county should be a part of the solution,” Doty replied.
Pat Sandy asked the commission how to convince DelDOT officials about the reality of the traffic issues area residents face.
“Until we get control of the roads and the money, we don't even have one hand on the steering wheel,” said Commissioner Marty Ross. In Delaware, the state is responsible for all public roads in unincorporated areas, as well as many major roads in towns and cities.
Ross said to complicate matters, DelDOT's current policy is to have developers pay for some road improvements. “These minor road improvements won't be done unless there is development,” he said.