State begins looking at Granary plans

Review committee to continue discussions Sept. 27
September 24, 2021

The Granary at Draper Farm project has been under discussion by Milton officials for nearly a month now, but Sept. 22 was a day for state agencies to weigh in on the proposed 1,350-unit development off Sand Hill Road. 

Developer Convergence Communities is seeking to annex 450 acres between Sand Hill and Gravel Hill roads into Milton for the development, to be zoned R-1 residential with a large-parcel development overlay that would allow for 60,000 square feet of commercial development. 

For state agency representatives, the primary questions were regarding environmental issues, and bicycle and pedestrian traffic concerns.

Dorothy Morris of the Office of State Planning Coordination encouraged annexation, but the office also wants to hold discussions with town officials on how the development would fit with the town’s future land-use plan.

Clare Quinlan of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said the department would like to see 100-foot buffers to protect wetlands around Diamond Pond, with preservation of as many trees as possible. Current site plans for the development call for the elimination of 95 trees. Quinlan said while the development does call for 55 acres of open space, much of it is park land. She said DNREC would like to see some of that open space remain forested throughout the development.

When asked whether the development will contain bicycle parking, project engineer Zac Crouch said the Granary would have some, as the intention is to be as bike and pedestrian friendly as possible. There are 3 miles of trails planned for the development, as well as a tunnel under Sand Hill Road that would connect to the Rails to Trails running between Federal Street and Lavinia Street. Representatives from the Delaware Department of Transportation asked for clarification on potential drainage issues related to the tunnel.

Duane Fox of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said if the development contains on-street parking, the streets should be wide enough to also accommodate fire trucks.

Lauren DeVore of Sussex County’s planning office said if the annexation for some reason does not go through, the development would then fall under the auspices of the county, and if so, Convergence Communities should file as a residential planned community.

The various state agencies will now put their comments in writing for a report that is expected to be released on or around Wednesday, Oct. 20. 

Milton committee to meet Sept. 27

Meanwhile, the annexation process in Milton will resume with the next meeting of the special review committee at 4 p.m., Monday, Sept. 27, at Milton library. The committee is a three-member panel tasked by Milton Town Council with forming a report on the pros and cons of annexation.

The subject of the Sept. 27 meeting will be a letter from Public Works Director Greg Wingo on town utility service to the development.

That letter was supposed to be the focus of the committee’s Sept. 14 meeting, but that was changed after Wingo was unable to attend. Instead, the committee had representatives from Artesian present to discuss the transition of the town’s wastewater services after Artesian entered into an agreement to purchase Tidewater’s wastewater operation in Kent and Sussex counties.

John Thaeder, Artesian’s vice president of operations, said while details of the sale are under a nondisclosure agreement until the deal is finalized on Friday, Dec. 31, Artesian has approvals from DNREC in place to run pipes from near Huff Road to Artesian’s Sussex Regional Recharge Facility on Route 16 that would go right past the Granary development.

Thaeder said Artesian is willing to work with Convergence Communities on any pump stations that may need to be built. In a previous committee meeting, Tidewater representatives said there is already enough capacity with the town’s current wastewater treatment plant to service the Granary.

Ben Bartlett, CEO of Convergence Communities, was on hand at the Sept. 14 meeting to further discuss the layout and phasing of the Granary. 

Bartlett said the plan is to build out the development over the course of 20 years, with construction broken down into 10 phases. He said the first phase would see 195 homes built, with each additional phase having at least 130 homes, depending on market forces.

That was news to Mayor Ted Kanakos, who while not on the committee, was in attendance. He had expected a lower rate of development than that. 

Bartlett said the rate of building will largely depend on market forces, and that any artificial caps on building would prolong construction even further. He said he did not think the market would make them build faster than planned, but Convergence Communities needed some flexibility in order to respond to demand.

“Saying, if you sell 30 on average for the first three years and then in the fourth year the demand is for 80, and you’ve artificially capped it at 60, that will prolong the development unnecessarily,” Bartlett said.

He added that the tunnel going under Sand Hill Road would likely not be built until around phases 3 or 4. Bartlett added that eventually, the development would be governed by a homeowners association.

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