To understand what has transpired at the Heron Bay community requires a scorecard and a history book.
For nearly 10 years, residents of the development off Beaver Dam Road have been struggling to obtain promised amenities as well as solutions for ongoing drainage issues.
In March, Sussex County officials stepped in, called in a $1.2 million bond and signed a memorandum of understanding with developers Heron Bay Associates LLC and LC Homes Delaware Inc., both of 105 Foulk Road, Wilmington, to complete most work this year.
Residents have been vigilant
It's still been a slow process, say residents Hack Jones and Chris Pollinger, who have been at the forefront of ensuring required work is completed.
During a Dec. 12 county council meeting, Jones thanked county staff for their efforts. “We are concerned that the work is going to continue. There are still swale, drainage and piping issues that need work,” he said.
In addition, he said, sidewalks on the right side of all streets were required but were not included in the MOU. “We can't do sidewalks on our own, and the developer will not communicate with us,” Jones said. “We'll have to come back to county council. We'd like a decision by the middle of 2018; we will need your help.”
Jones and Pollinger said residents are pleased with the amenities that have been completed so far. The community already had a pool and clubhouse, which were not part of the incomplete work. With county supervision, the developer has relocated the playground and built a tennis court, basketball court, bocce court, horseshoe pit, storage shed and a walking path and started landscaping – all part of the project when it was approved in 2007.
County engineer Hans Medlarz said the approval did not stipulate when the work had to be done, and updated grading and drainage regulations the county has today were not yet in place when the project was approved. “There are a lot of drainage issues with the swales and culverts,” he said.
Met deadlines equal building permits
During the Dec. 12 meeting, county council voted – on Medlarz’s recommendation – to close out the memorandum. Even with that action, work – including a sidewalk – must still be completed.
Under the MOU, each time the developer met a deadline, the county would allow a predetermined number of building permits to be issued. Since March, only three building permits have been issued.
Councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, asked about the timeline. “When is the end game?” he asked.
“We will stay engaged,” Medlarz said. “But there is no enforcement to accelerate the schedule. I wish I had a different answer.”
Medlarz said the end game will occur when the community is built out. About 75 vacant lots remain in the 326-lot community.
Medlarz said the MOU does not cover a section of Phase 3 with 111 lots because drainage issues in that section have not been corrected.
Sidewalks are still unfinished
Medlarz said the construction of sidewalks is a future project.
Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, asked whether the sidewalks would fit in with new or existing swales along the roadways in front of homes.
“We didn't say that,” Medlarz answered.
He said some swales would have to be altered to accommodate the sidewalk and maintain the proper slope. Medlarz said according to conditions approved by planning and zoning commissioners, the sidewalk will be asphalt and not concrete.
“We are not addressing that at this point, but eventually it's a line that will have to be crossed,” he said.
Medlarz said county staff would check to make sure outstanding landscaping work gets done. “This was all expected by homeowners when they purchased their homes,” he said.