Milton council to hold public hearing on Granary annexation

Appeals ordinance to be reviewed one more time
February 4, 2022

Milton Town Council will hold a public hearing and possible vote at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 7, at Milton library, on whether to annex 450 acres of land on Sand Hill Road that would then be built into a 1,350-unit development to be known as The Granary at Draper Farm.

The public hearing will be held first, and council will later discuss and possibly vote on the annexation. A vote could also be taken on amending the town’s comprehensive development plan to reflect the annexation and zoning of the parcel, which has been proposed to be R-2 residential with a large-parcel development overlay, which would allow for both residential and light commercial uses. 

The Granary project would be phased in over a 20-year build-out period, with the pace of development influenced by market forces. Developer Convergence Communities has planned for 65 percent of the units to be single-family homes and 35 percent to be townhouses. 

Plans also include 60,000 square feet of commercial space, a working granary, 55 acres of park land to be turned over to the town for public use, and biking and walking trails, which would include a tunnel underneath Sand Hill Road to connect with the Rails To Trails. 

Town officials have been reviewing the Granary plans since August, first through the Milton Special Review Committee, which found that the advantages of annexing the parcel outweighed the disadvantages. 

Among the advantages were that the annexation and subsequent development would increase the town’s parkland and open space, utility fund revenues and tax base, along with providing business opportunities. Another positive factor is that the area is already targeted for growth in the town’s comprehensive development plan. A report prepared for the town by the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration stated that over the proposed 20-year development period between 2024 and 2043, the town stands likely to make an estimated $15 million in revenues, based on sales estimates for the homes. 

On the other hand, over the 20-year development time frame, the town would be projected to spend more than $3 million, with most of those costs related to additional employees and equipment. Among the new hires likely needed over that period would be six new police officers and six public works department employees. Other disadvantages include the need for road improvements, increased town staff and additional office space for town employees. The report also noted that the town will be impacted by the development whether the land is annexed into Milton or not.

The annexation request was then reviewed by the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission, which advised council to approve the annexation and the proposed zoning. The main issue for the commission was a conditional-use permit on what Convergence has called a “brewery incubator,” a small-barrel brewing system that would allow local brewers access to a production facility. Convergence officials told the commission that their plan would be to come back for a conditional-use permit later.

Should council approve the annexation, the next step would be for the development to go back to planning and zoning to begin the preliminary site-plan review process.


Appeals ordinance again on the agenda

Bill Murray’s weatherman character Phil Connors once said, “Well, it’s Groundhog Day ... again.”

For Milton council, Groundhog Day is the long-debated ordinance regulating appeals of decisions made by the town’s planning and zoning commission, board of adjustment and project coordinator.

The ordinance has been tabled by council for three straight months, after changes were deemed significant enough that council wanted to allow more time for the public to view the legislation’s latest version.

The main sticking point in the ordinance has been the institution of a fee for those filing an appeal. The fee was met with vigorous opposition from members of the public, who argued that the cost would discourage people of limited means from exercising their right to an appeal. 

After review by planning and zoning, language was inserted into the ordinance that would allow appellants who could provide proof of financial hardship to not have to pay the appeal fee, which had originally been proposed as a $400 application fee and at least $1,000 in escrow to cover administrative costs. However, council would have the authority to change the fee as part of the annual fee schedule included within the town’s yearly budget. 

Besides the appeals ordinance, council will discuss a memorandum of understanding between the town and the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office, appoint Joel Berlinghieri to the Milton Water Committee, debate an ordinance on absentee ballots, and discuss pedestrian facilities and handicapped access on public rights of way. 

Finally, council will discuss an amendment to a partitioning granted in July for the proposed Royal Farms on Route 16. The partitioning split a 7-acre parcel into one 2-acre parcel, where the Royal Farms would go, and a separate 5-acre parcel, which has been planned for office and storage space. The partitioning amendment would add additional property to the Royal Farms site. 

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