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DelDOT admits errors in 7-Eleven traffic report

Officials: More than 1,000 housing units not included in required impact study
December 13, 2019

Story Location:
John J. Williams Highway
Angola Road
Lewes  Delaware  19958
United States

The developer of a proposed 7-Eleven convenience store in Angola did not include four nearby subdivisions in a required traffic-impact study. However, transportation officials say it was the agency that failed to include the subdivisions – with a total of 1,006 additional housing units – in the required scope of the study.

That information plus responses to questions posed by Sussex County Council to state agencies regarding the conditional-use application for the convenience store with gas pumps were placed in the public record at council's Dec. 10 meeting.

Those responses also revealed that state environmental and county officials have no regulations prohibiting underground storage tanks in or adjacent to wellhead protection areas. A small section of the parcel is located in a wellhead protection area.

KH Sussex LLC has filed a conditional-use application for the convenience store on a 3.5-acre parcel at the Route 24-Angola Road-Robinsonville Road intersection.

Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the application. Council delayed its vote until after receipt of state agency responses.

The public has until 4:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 16, to provide written comments on the state agency responses. The responses are available at sussexcountyde.gov or at the planning and zoning office at 2 The Circle, Georgetown, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Residents in the Angola area have mounted a campaign against the application, which included an outdoor protest at the county administration building during a recent council meeting.

 

Level of service issues

The changes to the number of committed developments in the area will result in poor level of service at the intersection, wrote Delaware Department of Transportation planner Bill Brockenbrough. “However, this higher level of delay can be primarily attributed to the other committed developments considered, not the subject application,” he said.

“The fact that DelDOT erred with regard to committed developments in the study area arguably points to a need for improved quality control, but it also points to a need for a close relationship with the county's planning and zoning staff. That relationship has been strengthened in recent months,” Brockenbrough said.

 

Errors in traffic study

DelDOT officials revealed errors were found during a re-evaluation of a traffic-impact study for the proposed project and road improvements at the intersection.

Nine projects – seven subdivisions and two commercial developments – should have been included in the scope of the study, officials said.

Four nearby developments – Headwater Cove, Burton Pond, Middle Creek Preserve and The Woods at Burton Pond – should have been included in the study. “Their omission was an error on our part,” wrote Brockenbrough.

At buildout, the four developments will add 1,006 housing units to the area.

Two projects included in the study – Love Creek Elementary School and Saddle Ridge – were not within the two-mile radius of the site, which is the limit for a traffic-impact study. Another development, Acadia, had received preliminary approval and should not have been included in the study.

The seven housing developments included in the study will add 1,450 more dwelling units to the area. The Pelican Landing Shopping Center and Love Creek Marina commercial area will add 90,000 square feet of commercial space. The original study included 444 housing units.

According to Brockenbrough, the proposed 7-Eleven would contribute marginal traffic at the intersection. Approximately 75 percent of traffic generated by the store would be pass-by traffic or traffic already on the road, he said. However, the applicant should be required to contribute funds to the project, he said.

Brockenbrough said after adjusting the traffic from all of the developments, DelDOT found that the intersection would not operate at the level of service as previously reported. However, he said, the scheduled road work will still provide sufficient improvement to traffic flow in the area.

Currently, the intersection's level of service is C on weekday mornings and weekday evenings, and D on Saturday middays.

Even without development, the intersection would be rated F by 2022. With proposed development and the intersection improvement project, the level of service will degrade to D on weekday mornings and E on weekday evenings and Saturday middays by 2022.

Level of service, based on delay times at intersections, is used by transportation planners to rate intersections. Rankings are from A, free flowing, to F, considered a failing intersection.

Drew Boyce, DelDOT's director of planning, wrote that DelDOT has identified a need to widen Route 24 to four lanes through the Angola Road intersection. He noted there is no project proposed in the current capital transportation program but DelDOT officials intend to add this project in the future.

In addition, he wrote, 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders are needed on Angola Road. That project will also be added to the capital transportation program in the future, Boyce said.

 

Questions about tanks

Several questions were also posed to state environmental officials: whether sufficient mitigation steps are in place should a large spill occur at the proposed gas station; whether Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials study or test runoff of rain and fuel; and placement of fuel tanks and their proximity to wellheads, wetlands and streams.

There are no DNREC or Sussex County ordinances that prohibit the placement of underground storage tanks in or adjacent to wellhead protection areas, said Maria Fox, DNREC principal planner,

Fox wrote that state regulations cover the installation and operation of underground storage tanks. Several spill prevention and detection practices are in place including double-walled tanks, overfill protection and prevention and spill-release detection systems. She said owners are required to perform daily, weekly and monthly inspections. Leak-detection systems are also required to be tested.

Fox said DNREC officials do not study or test water for fuel-related products that could be in stormwater runoff. However, she said, several DNREC divisions recommend best stormwater management practices during construction and provide advice about public and private wellhead locations and potential groundwater flow.

If approved, Fox said DNREC is recommending measures be taken to mitigate tree removal on the site of the proposed convenience store. She said the forest on the parcel is part of a larger tract that is ecologically important, high quality and supports rare species. “Trees act as natural sponges and help reduce surface runoff, absorb pollutants and lower surface and air temperature,” she said.

 

 

 

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