The proposed Royal Farms on Route 16 in Milton will look to take one step further to coming to fruition when the convenience store and gas station are subject to a public hearing on four variance requests in front of Milton Board of Adjustment.
The hearing will begin at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25, at Grace Church Fellowship Hall; the Royal Farms has been proposed for a 2-acre parcel at the corner of Union Street Extended and Route 16.
Royal Farms is requesting four variances related to the construction of the facility. The stated reason for the variances is because if they are not granted, it would create an unnecessary hardship and exceptional practical difficulty for Royal Farms to construct the complex.
The first variance is to have a 163-square foot sign facing Cedar Creek Road; town code permits only 72-square-foot or smaller signs. Royal Farms is proposing to have two pylon signs at the two proposed entrances to the property, one on Cedar Creek Road and another along Route 16.
The second variance is to allow for only 6 to 8 feet of open space at the base of the Cedar Creek Road sign. Town code requires 10 feet of open space.
Third, Royal Farms is requesting a 20-foot parking setback from Route 16, while town code requires a 50-foot parking setback. Plans for the Royal Farms show parking spaces fronting Route 16 near the gas station canopy. Additional parking is planned for around the convenience store, which is closer to the Cedar Creek Road portion of the parcel.
The final variance request is to allow a 41-foot parking setback on the portion of the convenience store parking lot adjacent to Union Street Extended. The lot is irregularly shaped, so a small corner of the parking lot encroaches on the required 50-foot parking setback.
A public hearing on the variances will be held first, followed by discussion and a possible vote from the board.
The Royal Farms will occupy part of a 7.68-acre parcel that was annexed into town in December 2020. The property is zoned C-1 commercial; the remaining 5-plus acres of the property will be used to build an office and storage complex that will share an entrance with the Royal Farms off Cedar Creek Road.
In its traffic study, the Delaware Department of Transportation has recommended allowing right-in, right-out and left-out traffic access for the parcel from Route 16, meaning there would be no left-hand turns into the property. Royal Farms would be responsible for putting in a left-hand turn lane on Route 16. DelDOT officials recommended allowing for all access into and out of the property from Cedar Creek Road.
To allow room for a left-hand turn into the parcel from Cedar Creek Road, DelDOT and Royal Farms are negotiating with a nearby property owner for an easement to widen the road.
According to DelDOT’s study, the Royal Farms would add 108 new trips during peak a.m. hours, 86 new trips during peak p.m. hours and 82 new trips during peak Saturday hours.
Part of the construction of the Royal Farms will include cutting down the large pecan tree at the corner of Route 16 and Union Street Extended to make way for intersection improvements.
Councilman and former town project manager John Collier said the tree is not the largest pecan within the corporate limits of Milton. The largest pecan tree in the state, according to the Delaware Forest Service, is actually near Po’ Boys restaurant on Route 16, and Collier said another larger pecan tree can be found on Mill Street.
According to the forest service, pecan trees are part of the hickory family. Early American settlers found pecans growing over wide areas, and farmers came to harvest the nuts after they fell from the tree.
Preliminary site plans for the Royal Farms were approved by the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission in October, conditional on receiving the board of adjustment variances. If the board approves the variances, and pending approvals from state agencies, Royal Farms would be able to go back to the commission for final site-plan approval.