Rezoning along Route 1 in Sussex council’s hands

Parcel would tie into grade-separated interchange being built at intersection with Route 16
February 27, 2024

“Most criticism council hears is that development occurs and DelDOT tries to catch up. This application is the opposite of that criticism and concern because traffic improvements will be done prior to any other development on the property. This is smart, responsible growth.”

Those words from attorney David Hutt, representing developer Ocean One Holdings LLC of Rehoboth Beach, were used during his Feb. 20 presentation to Sussex County Council on an application filed by the developer to rezone nearly 65 acres of a 115.6-acre parcel at the intersection of Route 16 and Route 1 from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to a C-3 heavy commercial district.

The improvements he was referring to is a $30 million grade-separated interchange at the intersection under construction and scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2025.

The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the application at its Jan. 24 meeting.

Council deferred a decision to a future meeting.

No site plan yet

Hutt said the hearing was not to review a site plan, but to act on a rezoning request. He said the developer has not signed any contracts; there is not a site plan for any uses on the parcel.

The project has been labeled as an entertainment and shopping area.

Councilman John Rieley said he was not clear what he was voting for. “It could be the highest uses allowed in this zoning. Some conceptual plan would help. I’m not sure of the end game,” he said. “Past councils have drawn a line for development at Cave Neck Road. I can almost see dominoes starting to fall.”

Council President Mike Vincent, who was a member of those councils, said council did not want to see commercial development on the east side of Route 1, rather to keep it as a low-density residential area.

“I can’t tell you who the end users are because we don’t know,” Hutt replied.

To help Rieley get a better picture, Hutt said an area along Route 1 in Milford, known as Silicato Park, is a similar approach the developer would likely pursue. The commercial strip includes a convenience store, restaurants, a hotel and medical office.

“That helps me narrow it down at least conceptually,” Rieley said.

A site plan for the parcel would have to be reviewed and approved by the planning & zoning commission.

Councilman Mark Schaeffer said a master plan for the area from Route 16 to the Nassau Bridge is needed. “It won’t stay the way it is now,” he said. “We need to be proactive about land use in this corridor.”

Maximum traffic count

Hutt said the parcel is listed as a growth area on the county’s future land-use map where C-3 zoning is appropriate for large-scale businesses serving the local and regional population and traveling public.

The parcel will be served by central sewer and water service, and it is located along two major roads. He said it’s also not in a densely populated residential area. “All of the county’s land-use tools support this application,” Hutt said.

In addition, he said, the developer has been meeting with DelDOT planners to incorporate the parcel into the plans for the grade-separated intersection. The developer conducted a traffic impact study, which is included in the public record.

“There have been ongoing discussions with DelDOT on potential uses to determine the impact on roadways and not disrupt construction, and be included in DelDOT’s plans for the intersection,” Hutt said.

A memorandum of understanding was signed with DelDOT in 2021.

That MOU includes a maximum number of average daily trips any development on the parcel could generate of 17,699 trips.

“There was concern for the grade-separated interchange’s capacity at planning & zoning. This is one of the reasons why a MOU includes the maximum trips,” Hutt said.

The traffic study outlines the road improvements required by the developer.

Nearly 5 acres of land was dedicated to DelDOT for the grade-separated interchange.

Road improvements

D.J. Hughes, an engineer with Davis, Bowen and Friedel, said the grade-separated interchange will be a lot like the one constructed in Little Heaven, with Route 1 going over Route 16.

He said DelDOT is requiring the developer to construct a service road for the pad sites along Route 1 to the southern border just north of the Broadkill River with off- and on-ramps to connect to the service road.

Also, the developer must contribute to a roundabout at the entrance to the parcel, as well as provide bicycle and pedestrian access improvements.

All road improvements will be dedicated to the state.

In addition, nearly 8 acres of the site would be dedicated to the service road, Hughes said.

The developer has entered into a traffic signals agreement for lights on Route 16 under the bypass, and at Route 16 and Zion Church Road.

Letters of support

The application has received letters of support from Milton Chamber of Commerce, Southern Delaware Tourism, Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, Hudson Family LLC, Rep. Stell Parker Selby, D-Milton, and Kent-Sussex Leadership Alliance.

More information needed

John Bucchioni, a Paynter’s Mill resident, said he is one of the closest property owners to the parcel.

“What’s been left out is what is below [south] of this property,” he said. “There are thousands of residential properties south of this parcel. Why omit that?” he asked.

He’s met with DelDOT engineers, and he said there is not a clear picture of what the traffic capacity in the area is going to be.

“You need to consider the impact on other areas. I have a simple ask to not vote on rezoning today and gather more information. We need more facts,” he said.

Janet Lank, who lives near the property along Route 16, agreed that more information is needed. She asked how much of the property would be left as green space, where stormwater runoff would go and if the proposed roundabout would be sized for firefighting equipment. She said there was an archaeological dig on the property, but she has never seen the results. In addition, she said, there was no mention of a church built in 1818 at the rear of the parcel.


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