Milton Town Council unanimously approved annexing 450 acres of land on Sand Hill Road that is proposed to be built up as The Granary at Draper Farm, a 1,350-unit development.
Council approved the annexation with five specific conditions that must be met before the addition of land to the town is official.
First, developer Convergence Communities must make sure its annexation petition is complete. Second, the annexation cannot take effect until 30 days from council’s March 7 meeting.
This condition was put in place because of the possibility that the annexation could be subject to a public referendum. Milton’s charter allows 30 days for citizens to collect signatures to petition for a referendum; the charter specifies 10 percent of the population must sign the petition, which in this case would be about 112 signatures. If that happens, a referendum would be scheduled within 45 days.
Third, the town’s future land-use maps should be modified to reflect the new zoning of the parcel, which will be R-2 residential with a large-parcel development overlay, and approved by the Office of State Planning Coordination.
The fourth condition is that a storage tank farm currently on site must be removed from the metes and bounds of the parcel, and excluded from the annexation. The final condition was to deed restrict cross-access between the Granary parcel and adjacent Bangor Lane.
Councilman John Collier said concerns about cross-access between the Granary and Bangor Lane were repeatedly brought up by Bangor Lane residents, who while not being part of the Town of Milton, would be affected by the Granary project. It should be noted that Convergence Communities founder Colby Cox has said that there is no intention to have cross-access between Bangor Lane and the Granary unless Bangor Lane residents want it. Collier said his condition takes the town out of the equation and leaves the issue up to Convergence and homeowners on Bangor Lane.
All the conditions were voted on separately and passed unanimously. Council then voted on the annexation itself, and that also passed unanimously.
Council arrived at the annexation vote after months of analysis, first by the town’s special review committee, which recommended the annexation, and a concept review by the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission.
Convergence is planning a 20-year buildout of the development, which would consist of 65 percent single-family homes and 35 percent townhouses. Cox has said 25 percent of the property would be left undeveloped as open space or woodlands, with 55 acres dedicated to the town for park space, which would include an athletic field. The Granary would also include a 3-mile walking trail connecting with the existing Rails to Trails through an underpass beneath Sand Hill Road, along with a vegetative buffer between the development and nearby Diamond Pond. Convergence also plans to give the town 5 acres on the parcel for the town’s own use. As part of a cost/benefit analysis by the special review committee, it was determined that over the buildout period, the town would need to add six new police officers and six employees in the public works department, plus vehicles. The cost/benefit analysis showed the town stands to make $15 million in taxes and fees from the development against $3.3 million in expenses between the prospective groundbreaking in 2024 and the end of buildout in 2043.
During the public comment period of council’s March 7 meeting, Bangor Lane resident Michael Camasso called for more affordable housing to be included in the Granary plans. Milton resident Maurice McGrath asked council to approve the annexation because should it not go through, Convergence could take its plans to Sussex County, which could approve the project with a higher density, and leave Milton still bearing expenses related to the project.
Cox, who attended the March 7 meeting virtually, with attorney David Hutt and engineer Zac Crouch attending in person, applauded town officials for doing their homework on the project and conducting a thorough process to arrive at approving the annexation request. He said Convergence and the town will now set to work on meeting the conditions, which should happen in the next 30 to 60 days.
He said the next step will be to begin preparing technical documents and working toward the next step in the process: approval of the master plan and Phase 1. That approval would go through Milton planning and zoning but will also include review by state and Sussex County agencies.
Cox said the plan is for the Granary to be built in nine to 10 phases, with Phase 1 being the northwest corner of the property, the section closest to Lavinia Street. While the number of homes in this phase has not yet been worked out, he said his best guess is that it will include 75 single-family homes. Cox said the earliest timetable for groundbreaking would be summer 2023.
“It’s time to get into the details,” he said.