In an unexpected turn of events, a 24-unit housing project off Savannah Road near Lewes was unanimously approved by Sussex County Council.
Robert and Debra Reed filed two applications to build 24 single-family detached condominium units on 6 acres at 1525 Savannah Road, including a rezoning from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to MR, medium-density residential, and a conditional use for multifamily housing.
No one spoke in opposition to the applications during council's June 18 meeting.
That was not the case during the May 9 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing. Several residents living in adjacent homes in the Villages of Five Points community offered lengthly testimony, including a detailed power point, in opposition to the project. Even so, the commission recommended approval of the applications.
The buffer between the two communities was the overriding issue. While the project will have a 20-foot vegetated buffer around the perimeter of the property, an enhanced, wider buffer will be provided along part of the rear property line.
Jim Fuqua, the developer's attorney, said after the planning and zoning commission hearing Robert Reed met with the residents to address their concerns and altered his plans for the project for a more than 100-foot section along the rear border shared with the Villages of Five Points.
In that area, the setback from the property line will be increased to 35 feet for all structures – including decks, sunrooms and patios – and the houses in that area will have a maximum height of 28 feet, even though a height of 42 feet is permitted.
In addition, second-floor windows will not allow homeowners to look out onto Villages houses.
Fuqua said the developer will provide up to $25,000 for the Villages of Five Points Property Owners Association to develop a landscaping plan for an enhanced landscaped buffer between the two communities. Once in place, the developer will maintain the buffer for one year before turning it over to the Villages of Five Points association.
Councilman I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, commended the Reeds and residents for reaching a compromise. “I don't know that I've ever seen this before,” he said.
Fuqua said when the Villages of Five Points project was approved, the county did not have landscaped buffer regulations although several property owners have planted trees.
“This will create a very nice buffer,” Fuqua said.
He said there is 35 feet of common ground behind some houses in the Villages of Five Points and the 20-foot buffer around the perimeter of the Reed project will provide for buffer as wide as 50 feet in some areas.
Council amended one of the 16 conditions placed on the applications by the planning and zoning commission to reflect Fuqua's recommendations. “This condition addresses the majority of the objections,” he said.
Three years ago, council denied a conditional-use application filed by Quail Valley 1525 LLC for a fitness center on the same parcel.
Fuqua said the Reeds designed the project based on the statements made by council and state and county standards and code requirements. He said the parcel is in a growth zone where a broader mix of housing types are permitted. He said there is a mix of zoning in the area including MR, AR-1 and commercial as well as more than 12 approved conditional-use applications, mostly for offices.
The community will have 160 feet of frontage along Savannah Road where a shared-use path will be constructed. A stormwater management pond will be built near the entrance to the community, and the nearest house will be 230 feet from the road. Fuqua said that plan is consistent with recommendations from the Historic Lewes Byway master plan, which includes Savannah Road.
Fuqua called the proposal an in-fill project that provides a transition from business to residential uses on the road.