Milton officials will soon resume talks on the potential annexation of 50 acres on Route 5 to be developed as a 163-unit development known as Scarlet Oaks.
The proposed annexation has been on hold for a year due to litigation among the owners of the property. Town council will hold discussion on the application at its Monday, Aug. 7 meeting, with the expectation that the application will be sent to the planning and zoning commission for review. The annexation was previously recommended by the town’s special review committee in June 2022, and was to be given final approval by council the following month before the litigation came to light.
The special review committee’s recommendation was the parcel would provide increased revenues through taxes and fees, add services that would sustain public works and give the town control over future development. The committee also noted the annexation is within the town’s future growth area, and it can be served by existing water, fire, wastewater and police services. The only disadvantages are that the proposal has no connecting bicycle or pedestrian paths to the town center and no provision for affordable housing within the proposed design.
The lawsuit in question was filed by Karla Draper in June 2021 against her sister, Shauna Thompson and The Company Store LLC, the company that has been listed on town documents as the owner of the property. The property is owned by cousins of Thompson and Draper.
In her court filings, Draper claimed she had a right of first refusal over the sale of the Scarlet Oaks property and should be allowed to negotiate the sale of the parcel. The Company Store’s plan was to sell the parcel to developer Ribera Development, which would then develop Scarlet Oaks. Draper’s plan was to purchase the property and develop it through Convergence Investments, owned by her son, Colby Cox, the group that successfully annexed a 450-acre parcel on Sand Hill Road that is planned for development as The Granary at Draper Farm.
The basics of the litigation are this: Draper and Thompson’s parents, Harry and Patricia Draper Bonk, had myriad business and property holdings in Sussex County, including two parcels in Milton, one on Chestnut Street and the Scarlet Oaks property on Harbeson Road across from Mariner Middle School. When Henry Bonk died in September 2011, his interests were divided up through trusts to his four children, which included Karla and Shauna.
According to court filings, when Draper became aware that the Company Store was seeking to sell the Scarlet Oaks property, she sought to exercise a partial termination, based on her right of first refusal to any sale. Draper alleges that when she sought documentation as to her right of first refusal and to confirm her ownership status, it was denied by the Company Store.
In their filings, attorneys for Thompson sought to dismiss Draper’s claims, saying the Court of Chancery lacked subject matter jurisdiction and Draper did not allege facts that would support a judgment in her favor.
In November, Judge Nathan Cook heard arguments in the case and made a partial ruling, granting part of Thompson’s motion to dismiss and denying other parts. The most important part of the ruling is that Cook allowed Thompson and The Company Store to move forward with the sale of the property. The case is still playing out in Court of Chancery, as Thompson has filed counterclaims against Draper seeking a declaratory judgment and attorney fees. Those claims are still due to be heard by Cook, but they do not affect the sale and development of the Scarlet Oaks property.