It may come down to a question of density. Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners want more time to study the record for an application for a cluster subdivision along Indian Mission Road near Long Neck.
Developer Seven Branch LLC has filed an amended application for 100 single-family lots for Stonewater Creek. The original application for 70 lots was approved in 2008. It would be the seventh phase of the development that is split into two separate communities – Pelican Point is the other – on opposite sides of the road. More than 980 lots have been approved in both communities –540 in Stonewater Creek and 443 in Pelican Point.
Cluster subdivisions allow for smaller lot sizes in exchange for improved design features. Stonewater Creek is not a cluster subdivision; Pelican Point is a cluster subdivision.
Commission President Marty Ross said the commission should consider allowing the developer to proceed based on the average density of all the project's other phases. Right now, officials do not know the density for the previous six phases; county staff will research a number for a future meeting.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, commissioners deferred a vote.
Jason Palkewicz, an engineer with Solutions IPEM, said the new plan includes a 60-foot buffer between new and existing homes; sidewalks, gutters and curbs on both sides of all streets; and 24 acres of open space. Density of the proposed phase would be 1.66 units per acre. In addition, five acres of forest would not be disturbed.
Lots would be 7,500 square feet in a cluster subdivision versus 20,000 square feet in a traditional subdivision.
Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson said although the new plan offers much more open space, it's not space that can be used by residents.
“A 60-foot buffer is better than 20 feet,” said Commission President Marty Ross. “If I lived there, I would think that's not such a bad deal.”
Some Stonewater Creek residents testified against the application, asking the commission to allow more time for public comment at another meeting. They said most residents were not aware of the public hearing and complained that the sign advertising the hearing should have been placed at the entrance to Stonewater Creek.
Sussex County Director of Planning and Zoning Janelle Cornwell said the hearing was properly advertised by law; residents within 200 feet of the proposed project were notified and the parcel was marked with a sign.
The smaller size of the proposed cluster development lots was an issue expressed by Stonewater Creek residents. “We wanted big yards. Large lots was the calling card; we wanted some open space and elbow room between us,” said Richard Crisci Sr., who has lived in the community since 2010.
“Then near the end of the project, the developer is changing the rules, and it will depreciate the value of my home,” he said. “This doesn't conform with Stonewater Creek.”
Subdivision applications are decided by the planning and zoning commission. There is no hearing before county council.