Milton council approves Scarlet Oaks annexation

December 8, 2023

Milton Town Council unanimously approved the annexation of 50 acres of land at Harbeson Road and Shingle Point Road that is planned for development as a 163-unit housing community known as Scarlet Oaks.

The final approval Dec. 4 was quick and straightforward, and it sets in motion two sets of scenarios for the next step of the development. First, it allows developer Ribera Development to begin preparing preliminary site plans that will be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission. It also sets in motion a 30-day window where residents can petition for a referendum. If 10% of the voters sign a petition, the annexation would have to be approved in a public vote. If that does not happen, the annexation is official. 

The tenor of council’s thinking was set during the public participation portion of the Dec. 4 meeting, when resident Bette McGrath said that one way or another, the property would be developed. She asked if council would rather that development be through the town, which can impose its own checks and balances, or through Sussex County, which does not have similar checks; while at the same time, residents of Scarlet Oaks would rely on services provided by the town, such as police and fire services.

Mayor John Collier agreed.

“I think it is the right thing to do,” he said. “We cannot turn our backs on growth. Not on our doorstep, anyhow. There’s too much risk to be taken putting it in the county’s hands.”

Councilwoman Randi Meredith and Councilman Scotty Edler said while they have concerns related to pedestrian and bicycle safety on Harbeson Road – the property is across from Mariner Middle School – and connectivity of the development to the rest of the town, the only way for those improvements to happen is through the town’s site-plan review, and the only way to get there is through annexation.

The proposed Scarlet Oaks development would comprise single-family attached and detached homes, and also have a clubhouse and recreation area with walking paths through the development, which would be zoned R-1 residential with a large-parcel development overlay. Buffers are planned along Harbeson Road and Shingle Point Road. 

The large-parcel development overlay allows for flexibility in terms of home design, setbacks, pedestrian access and potential light commercial uses, but no commercial uses are proposed. Tim Willard, attorney for Ribera Development, said at council’s Nov. 6 meeting that his client intends to pursue a special development district, not unlike the one the council recently approved for the Granary at Draper Farm development. 


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter