Milton McDonald’s application tabled

Discussion to resume Feb. 21
January 21, 2023

A preliminary site-plan review application for a proposed McDonald’s at the corner of Union Street Extended and Route 16 in Milton was tabled Jan. 17 to allow restaurant representatives to make changes to the plan.

The public hearing at Grace Church was the hottest ticket in town Jan. 17, with the fellowship hall packed with people curious about plans for the Golden Arches. 

McDonald’s is seeking approval to build a 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru in the Food Lion shopping center.

The fast-food restaurant, which is permitted in the parcel’s C-1 commercial zoning, would include 60 seats, parking, drive-thru windows, landscaping, lighting and other improvements. 

Representing McDonald’s at the public hearing were attorney Bill Rhodunda and Steve Fortunado of Bohler Engineering. 

Fortunado said the restaurant would have 39 angled parking spaces – two fewer than required by code – to accommodate two queuing lines for the drive-thru. The restaurant was previously granted a variance for fewer spaces. Since the pandemic, 70% of McDonald’s business is from drive-thru service, Rhodunda and Fortunado said.

In response to questions from town council Jan. 9, Fortunado said plans have been altered to allow for crosswalk and sidewalk connections around the parcel, and the sign in front of the restaurant would be a monument sign at the corner of Union Street Extended and Route 16, not the large pylon sign with which many are familiar. Fortunado said two McDonald’s similar in size and feel are franchises in Bridgeville and Federalsburg, Md. 

The major issue everyone wanted to talk about was traffic. Fortunado said the McDonald’s site was included in Delaware Department of Transportation studies related to a proposed Royal Farms on the other side of Union Street Extended. Built into the Royal Farms project is the addition of turn lanes and other road improvements, at Royal Farms’ expense. While McDonald’s is planning to use the existing entrances and exits to the shopping center, the commission raised concerns about how two big-name franchises would affect two busy intersections in the summer.

Commissioner Jeff Seemans asked Fortunado about the total number of car trips that would be generated. Fortunado said those numbers were in the full traffic-impact study, which he did not have at that time. He said he would get that information to the commission as soon as possible. 

Commissioner George Cardwell raised concern about the entrance and exit to the shopping center off Union Street Extended, which he said is already a difficult intersection because of a curve in the road to the north. Cardwell said there needs to be some kind of a solution there, but a problem for all parties is that the road is maintained by DelDOT and the town has limited authority, although the department is receptive to suggestions. 

Commissioner Maurice McGrath said there is the potential for traffic jams getting in and out of the entrance and exits on Route 16.

“Those two entrances and exits, I don’t think they were thinking of anything like this when they were built,” he said.

While the commission had many technical questions about the traffic, they also bemoaned the lack of a landscaping and lighting plan submitted by McDonald’s. 

Chair Richard Trask raised concern about the long-reaching implications for Milton.

“Our zoning code in a C-1 area will allow almost anything. My contention is this: I’m not a big fan of fast-food restaurants. That’s just me. But my biggest concern is if McDonald’s is allowed to build in this particular area, how are we going to keep from two parcels down having a Burger King and two parcels down having an Arby’s and two parcels down having something else, and turning the center of Milton into what Route 1 looks like?” Trask said. “Turning Route 16 ... into Milford on Route 113 would be a huge detriment to the town.”

He suggested that McDonald’s possibly look at one of the sites at the ongoing Cypress Grove development, which includes multiple pad sites on Route 16 for commercial development. 

Six residents also spoke publicly. All opposed the proposal on the grounds of its effect on traffic and the character of Milton.

Following public comment, Rhodunda asked the commission to table the application until February to make changes to the plan. The commission unanimously approved the request. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 21.


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