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Policies miss the boat on traffic, environment

December 17, 2019

A conditional-use application to build a 7-Eleven on Route 24 at Angola Road has raised questions that go well beyond this application alone.

The developers were required by Department of Transportation officials to submit a traffic-impact study, but the department erred; the required study failed to include four nearby subdivisions, totaling more than 1,000 homes. Instead, only 444 homes were considered.

DelDOT also says Love Creek Elementary School should not have been included because it lies beyond a 2-mile radius from the site.

Studies have to set limits, but children living near this intersection have to go to school somewhere. Love Creek and Beacon Middle School, about 3 miles from the intersection, both significantly impact Route 24 traffic. A little farther beyond, Beebe Healthcare is expanding, which will certainly increase local traffic.

Admitting the study’s errors, DelDOT officials said the proposed store would contribute “marginal” traffic impact. Yet they also say even without the store, the Route 24-Angola Road intersection will be failing on weekends by 2022.  Improvements to the intersection are planned, but DelDOT’s suggested relief – widening Route 24 – is a long-term solution that’s not even in the budget. 

A single store at an important intersection may not, by itself, cause the intersection to fail. But if the studies do not reflect the impact of nearby schools and a medical center on the way, and it’s still expected to fail within two years, it’s clear this intersection cannot support even marginal additional traffic.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials also weighed in on this application. They say there are no state or county regulations preventing underground fuel storage tanks from being installed in wellhead protection areas. Even with technology and frequent testing, underground tanks age and could fail.

Going forward, instead of relying on testing and hoping for the best, county officials should enact a minimum 300-foot buffer, as in New Castle County, surrounding all wellhead protection areas. 

In the meantime, council should listen to residents who say another convenience store is an inconvenience that will not benefit the public welfare of Sussex County.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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