Road improvements in plans for Mitchell’s Corner

DelDOT approves interim work prior to start of Kings Highway corridor project
May 17, 2022

Part 1 focused on possible impacts on the Lewes wellhead protection area. Part 2 provides more details on the project.


Sussex County Council action is still pending on the four applications for the Mitchell's Corner project along Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road in Lewes.

A vote on the applications cannot occur until after Friday, May 20, which is the deadline for applicant Henlopen Properties LLC of Owings Mills, Md., to submit written comments on additional information in the record presented by the Lewes Board of Public Works.

The project requires two rezonings, from AR-1 agricultural-residential to C-2 medium commercial for an office complex on a three-acre section of the overall 47-acre property, and from AR-1 to MR medium-density residential for high-density housing.

A conditional-use application for 267 multifamily housing units and a subdivision application for the parcel are also required.

The proposed plan includes 114 duplexes, 153 townhomes and a 3-acre commercial/office building site on three acres across from Cape Henlopen High School adjacent to the existing Cape Henlopen Medical Center. Mitchell Family LLC is owner of the property, which has been in the family since the 1800s.

At its April 14 meeting, Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the four applications.

About Mitchell's Corner

David Hutt, the applicant's attorney, said the parcel is in a Level 1 state strategies for spending area where development is anticipated. “The plan complies with the county code and comprehensive plan,” he said. “And it's consistent with the character of the area on the outskirts of Lewes. The Kings Highway corridor is urban in character.”

The attorney said an architect was hired to study existing buildings in the area to determine what design would be suitable for the office building.

Ring Lardner, the applicant's engineer, said the plan includes a small roundabout to provide interconnectivity to Big Oyster Brewery and other businesses on the east side of Kings Highway. Lardner said truck traffic would not be permitted to use the access.

Lardner said each housing unit would have a two-car garage with four parking space allotted, but no on-street parking. The plan also includes sidewalks on both sides of all streets with two connection points to a shared-use path, a dog park, community center, pool, playground, additional walking paths and sports courts.

Hutt said the units would be listed as market-rate housing, with townhomes in the $400,000 range, which is more affordable than single-family homes in the area.

Central sewer would be provided by Sussex County, water by Tidewater Utilities and natural gas by Chesapeake Utilities.

Proposed road improvements

Many of the key elements of the proposed project revolve around road improvements – those pending and those planned.

State transportation officials have a $23 million project planned to widen Kings Highway to four lanes and improve all intersections from Dartmouth Drive to the split at Freeman Highway. Included in those plans are five roundabouts at five intersections, with no traffic signals. The project is scheduled to get underway in fiscal year 2026, starting with a year of utility relocations and including two years of actual construction.

Since the proposed Mitchell's Corner project would be impacted by the Kings Highway project, the developer has plans for interim road improvements before the Delaware Department of Transportation project gets underway.

During an April 26 public hearing, Lardner outlined the proposed improvements in addition to other improvements DelDOT would require.

Lardner said the developer will adhere to the original road work proposed in the traffic-impact study conducted when the project included more than 42,000 square feet of retail/office space and 267 multifamily homes. He said traffic generation would be cut in half with the new project.

If approved, many of the interim road projects would be completed before the start of the DelDOT Kings Highway project. Some could be incorporated into the project and others would be replaced.

“We will coordinate with DelDOT during the whole process and provide landscaping within the shared-use path in coordination with the Historic Lewes Byway Committee,” Lardner said. “DelDOT will dictate how much area is available for a buffer and landscaping.”

Kings Highway is one of the Lewes roads included in the byway.

Proposed road improvements include the following:

• 3,500 feet of concrete overlay from the proposed project entrance to Clay Road.

• Shared-use path along the Kings Highway frontage of the Mitchell's Corner project.

• Donation of 80 feet of right-of-way along Kings Highway and 30 feet along Gills Neck Road.

• Equitable financial contribution to the upcoming intersection improvements at Clay Road and Marsh Road as well as contributions to improvements at Clay Road, Atlantic Drive, Freeman Highway split and the Kings Highway-Gills Neck road intersection.

• A traffic signal agreement with DelDOT for changes at the Kings Highway-Gills Neck Road intersection, including crosswalks and pedestrian signals.

• Restripe the westbound Gills Neck Road approach to Kings Highway to provide two left-turn lanes and one through/right-turn lane.

• Lengthen the westbound Gills Neck Road through and right-turn lanes to provide 570 feet of vehicle storage. The project entrance on Gills Neck Road would be across from the proposed entrance to the Village Center retail complex.

• Restripe the Kings Highway southbound approach to Gills Neck Road to provide one left-turn lane, one through lane and one right-turn lane.

• Construct a shared-use path on the west side of Kings Highway from the Gills Neck Road-Cape Henlopen High School entrance to the Clay Road intersection.

• A right-in only entrance to the proposed project along Kings Highway across from the entrance of the the Lodge at Historic Lewes, a 175-unit senior-living facility now under construction. The DelDOT project will create a new intersection-roundabout at that location.

• A DART bus stop along Kings Highway.

Levels of service

Even with interim improvements, Lardner said the Kings Highway-Gills Neck Road intersection would be at a failing level of service during afternoons and summer Saturdays. DelDOT uses level of service A through F to rate roads and intersections. Level A is considered excellent with free-flowing traffic, Level B is good, Level C is average, Level D is acceptable and Level F is failing. Levels are based on traffic speed and delay times at intersections.

Hutt said a level of service of D at all times is not possible because of development in the area. He said any improvements must at least maintain the current level of service at the intersection and cannot contribute to degrading the level of service. Hutt said the interim improvements would provide an enhanced level of service, and levels of service at all the intersections will be acceptable when DelDOT improvements are complete.


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