Tunnell Co. seeks apartments, shops near Baywood community

November 15, 2009

The Tunnell Co. has plans for a new project off Long Neck Road with connection to the Baywood community – a project that has been in the planning stages for more than six years.

Developer Baywood LLC is seeking a zoning change from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to B-1, neighborhood business district and a conditional use in the B-1 district to construct multifamily housing.

Baywood Villa Gardens would include more than 350 units and some commercial space on some land already approved for B-1 zoning. The total units proposed for the current application is 143 on a vacant 20-acre lot near the intersection of routes 23 and 24.

Dennis Schrader, attorney for the applicant, said Villa Gardens would be composed of three tracts of land with three separate zonings – AR-1, B-1 and C-1 – turned into one B-1 district.

Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners deferred on a decision after the Thursday, Nov. 5 public hearing. No one spoke in favor of or against the application. A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Tuesday, Dec. 1 county council meeting.

Frank Kea, of Frank Kea Communities, said with all of the housing options available in the Long Neck area, there are no affordable apartment-style flats being offered. He said the units would be in the $175,000 price range and would not be for rent.

“It’s something that Baywood does not offer and people are asking for it,” said Robert Tunnell III.

He said square footage of the apartments would range from 1,300 to 1,500 square feet. The townhouses in Baywood range from 1,800 to 2,400 square feet. Tenants would not be permitted to sublet their apartment-style condominiums, Tunnell said.

Tunnell said the design of the project would mirror that of the existing Baywood community and residents would have their own pool, playground and community center with interconnections to amenities at Baywood. Tunnell said the commercial section of the community would resemble a town-center concept similar to Villages at Five Points with shops occupying the first floor and apartments the second and third floors.

A self-imposed deed on the property dating back to a 1995 C-1 zoning change would not allow tenants such as fast-food restaurants and convenience markets that tend to create high traffic in an area, Tunnell said.

A large retention pond would occupy the center of the community with walking trails and an exercise path. D.J. Hughes, a traffic consultant with Davis, Bowen and Friedel, said the proposed entrance to Baywood Villa Gardens would be across from the entrance to the Bay Shore development. He said it’s possible a traffic signal would be needed at the intersection.

Kea called the Long Neck area very unique. “It’s the third largest metro area in Sussex County, yet it’s not incorporated,” he said. And the area is growing. Kea said 22 percent of all building permits in the county were issued in Long Neck last year. The parcel would have to be deannexed from the county’s Long Neck sewer district in order for the project to tie into Tunnell’s private sewer company, Inland Bays Preservation Company.

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