If county officials approve a proposed development along Route 24, houses will replace pasture where horses now graze.
Sussex County planning and zoning commissioners on Feb. 13 heard plans to develop the current Winswept Stables property into a 115-lot residential planned community keeping the name Winswept.
Developer Seaside Communities LLC has filed an application to rezone the 37.5-acre parcel from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to MR-RPC, medium density, resident planned community. The commission deferred on a decision, leaving the record open until March 20 to receive comments from a review of the project by the state's technical advisory committee.
The RPC overlay allows for more density than the two units to one acre permitted in AR-1 zoning with more than 150 units permitted. The project's proposed 115 units is 3.3 units per acre with 15 acres of open space, said Jason Palkewicz, engineer with Solutions, IPEM.
Winswept Stables owner Dawn Beach said she plans to reopen the stables in another Cape Region location. She has operated Winswept for more than 20 years and has been in the current location along Route 24 for 15 years. She said she will continue with classes and camps this spring and summer.
Frank Kea, CEO of Solutions, IPEM and designer of the project, said the plan calls for single-family condominiums in the $300,000 to $450,000 price range marketed to families. He said the community would be designed using the current terrain with no development near wetlands and wooded sections near the rear of the parcel.
Kea said the proposed Cape Henlopen School District elementary school would border the project to the east and the proposed Delaware State Police Troop 7 would border it to the west.
He said the developer would be required to contribute funds to the Delaware Department of Transportation for planned intersection improvements at Route 24 and Mulberry Knoll Road and Route 24 and Plantation Road. In addition, he said, the developer would be required to provide an entrance off Route 24, allowing space for a pedestrian/bicycle path, marked bike lanes and bus stops on both sides of the road.
The community would have central water provided by Tidewater Utilities and be connected to the county central sewer system. A 20-foot, landscaped buffer around the perimeter of the property is among plans that include a picnic area, playgrounds, pool and clubhouse at the current location of Winswept's barn.
Gene Bayard, attorney for the applicant, called the project an in-fill consistent with other development in the area. “Demand for housing in this corridor is remarkable and the rate of absorption is rapid,” he said.
During the public hearing, James Schneider, a resident of nearby Hart's Landing, voiced his concerns about traffic along Route 24. “I'm not against development in the area, but I am against a change of zoning that allows for more units compounding traffic problems on Route 24,” he said.
He said before county officials approve any new projects, significant improvements are needed to make Route 24 safer. “There needs to be a plan for the future and not looking at one thing at a time. We need a broader infrastructure plan to meet expected growth,” Schneider said.
He offered the following solutions to improve Route 24: Four lanes from the Love Creek bridge to the Route 1 intersection with no left turns; the addition of traffic signals and a cloverleaf at the Mulberry Knoll and Plantation Road intersections; move the Beacon Middle School entrance from Route 24 to Mulberry Knoll Road and move the traffic signal at Beacon to the entrance of Hart's Landing and Bookhammer Estates; and make the entrance to the proposed elementary school along Mulberry Knoll Road and not Route 24.
After his suggestions, Commissioner Marty Ross asked him how much control he thought county officials had over traffic issues.
Schneider responded that he was not sure. “We have as much control as you have,” Ross said.
“We try to work together, but at the end of the day they [DelDOT] have the final say,” said Commission President Bob Wheatley.