A developer proposing a convenience store on Route 24 is again appearing before Sussex County officials, this time requesting a conditional use.
KH Sussex LLC has filed an application for a 3,500-square-foot, 24-hour 7-Eleven store with gas pumps and 34 parking spaces on the south side of the Route 24-Angola Road intersection between Lewes and Long Neck. On Dec. 14, 2018, Sussex County Council denied a rezoning from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to C-3, heavy commercial, for the 3.5-acre parcel; the Sussex County Planning and Zoning commission had recommended approval.
At the planning and zoning commission's Aug. 8 public hearing, Dennis Schrader, the developer's attorney, said the developer thought he was complying with the zoning district requirements but county council turned down the application, telling him to get a conditional use. “It's essentially the same application,” he said.
The parcel is already the location of a conditional use to operate marine storage and repair, Ennis Homes offices for home construction, and grass cutting, landscaping and power-washing businesses.
Mike Riemann with Becker Morgan Group, the developer's engineer, said the proposed project should be in a place with residential growth. Several subdivisions have been proposed or are under construction in the immediate area.
During public testimony, residents said they estimate that 3,000 new homes are proposed within a two-mile radius of the parcel. Several residents opposed the commercial use at a busy intersection.
Riemann said the site would clearly accommodate the proposed use and would allow for truck-turning into and on the parcel.
The commission deferred on a vote and has placed the application on its Thursday, Aug. 22 agenda. Sussex County Council has scheduled a public hearing at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown.
Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said the office had received 12 letters in support of the application.
Developer Kirk Salvo, who lives nearby in Angola by the Bay, said the market is ripe for a convenience store in the area. “And 7-Eleven is anxious to be there,” he said.
Intersection work on schedule
Road work is planned to start in two years at the intersection where the proposed 7-Eleven would be located.
DelDOT officials have plans to improve the Route 24-Angola Road-Robinsonville Road intersection by widening westbound Angola Road and eastbound Robinsonville Road with separate left- and right-turn and through lanes. In addition, northbound and southbound Route 24 will be widened with separate left-turn and right-turn lanes. If the application is approved, the developer would be required to contribute yet-to-be determined funding to the project based on traffic impact.
The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and be completed at the end of fiscal year 2022. DelDOT's Suzanne Walls said other developers with projects in proximity to the intersection have contributed funding to the project.
The proposed project would have full access from Angola Road and right-in, right-out only access from Route 24.
DelDOT's Todd Sammons said the proposed convenience store and the intersection improvements are planned to coincide. “The developer needs to coordinate with DelDOT to have less impact on traffic,” he said.
Riemann said the developer agreed and would plan construction in concert with road improvements.
A shared-use path would be constructed along the frontage of the property, and a concrete median would be required as an extra safety measure to prohibit left turns at the Route 24 entrance to the parcel, Riemann said.
Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson asked DelDOT representatives whether Route 24 was failing in that area. Sammons said traffic flow in the area on summer Saturdays is unacceptable. “With the DelDOT project and this proposed project, it will be acceptable. This is a long-term fix for the intersection,” he said.
The traffic-impact study included traffic counts from the following projects: Acadia, 238 single-family lots; Pelican Landing, 88,000-square-foot shopping center; Love Creek Elementary School; Marsh Island, 152 single-family lots; Marsh Farm Estates, 104 single-family lots; Saddle Ridge, 81 single-family lots; and Rehoboth Point Yacht Club, Love Creek Marina, 188 condominiums and a 5,000-square-foot restaurant.
Opponents: Not a convenience
Curt Smith, who lives in Bay Point near the intersection, said he didn't understand why another application was before the commission. “Conditional uses have a way of becoming permanent uses,” he said.
He said he doubted the proposed project and the DelDOT intersection improvements would be completed at the same time. “Experience tells me that,” he said.
“I don't know where the letters of support are coming from. No one I've talked to is in support,” he asked. “It's not a convenience to the immediate area. We already have existing convenience stores and gas in the area. It's more of an obstacle and hazard.”
Smith said he has not seen anyone taking traffic counts at the intersection in the 18 months he has lived in Bay Point. He said he's convinced an accurate traffic impact on the area has not been taken into account.
Riemann responded that new counts were completed and taken from data in the nearby Acadia subdivision traffic-impact study. He said summer Saturday and peak morning and afternoon counts were done.
Peter Treiber, secretary of the Bay Ridge Woods Homeowners Association, said other board members are opposed to the application. “We feel there is no need for this,” he said. “Thousands of people bought their homes thinking they would live in a rural area, and they knew there would not be a convenience store around the corner,” he said. “We knew development was coming, but not commercial development. Permitting this use would be a huge gift to the property owner and serve as a detriment to people who already live in the area.”
Other nearby residents said Route 24 is already congested and could not handle more traffic, even with improvements.