Sussex County Councilman I.G. Burton of Lewes was not satisfied with the answers, or lack of answers, he received during a public hearing on a high-density rezoning application north of the Nassau Bridge near Lewes.
Nassau DE Acquisitions Co. LLC has filed to rezone a 15-acre parcel from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to HR-1, high-density residential planned community, near the intersection of Route 1 and Old Mill Road. The developer has plans to construct 168 apartments, including 21 units in the county's affordable rental program. By a 3-2 vote, Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the application.
Following a 3-1/2 hour July 23 hearing, council voted to leave the public record open to allow time for council members to seek additional information from county staff and state agencies.
Traffic issues at the intersection and along Route 1 were the main topic of debate at both planning and zoning and county council hearings, including possible interim projects at several Route 1 median crossovers in the area from the Route 16 intersection to Tulip Drive. Already planned is a grade-separated interchange at the Minos Conaway Road-Old Mill Road intersections, which is not expected to be completed until 2025. Improvements include service roads on both sides of Route 1, which would provide access to the Nassau parcel.
Speaking to Delaware Department of Transportation representatives at the hearing, Burton said it was important for council to know planned improvements at Route 1 crossovers in the area. “We need to know and we expect you to answer. You don't have the answers,” he said.
Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said DelDOT officials are studying ideas for safety improvements. One project has been identified. Work at the Route 1-Cave Neck Road median crossover is expected to occur Monday, Aug. 5, and Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Nicole Kline-Elsier, the developer's traffic consultant, said DelDOT officials have no plans at this time to close the Old Mill Road-Route 1 median crossover. She added that if any changes are required, the developer would pay for the work.
“I know about Cave Neck Road. Are there any others?” Burton asked.
He did not get a definitive answer.
Burton said his fear is when modifications are made to the Cave Neck Road crossover, more motorists will use the Minos Conaway crossover to make U-turns to head north. He said it creates a ripple effect of motorists making U-turns.
The Old Mill Road and Minos Conaway crossovers are only a few hundred feet apart.
Burton said crash data at the Old Mill Road intersection does not show the full picture unless data from other intersections in the vicinity are added in. “Then it becomes a big number,” he said.
Burton asked DelDOT's Bill Brockenbrough why Route 1 access to the parcel has been allowed when state regulations prohibit access to the highway when other road access is available. “Why is this different?” he asked. “There is already an entrance off Old Mill Road. Why do they get another entrance off Route 1? What changed?”
Brockenbrough said he didn't know.
“There are exceptions, and this is one of those applications,” Cornwell said.
Brockenbrough said trips via the Route 1 entrance would be limited to 200 per day under guidelines in the state's Corridor Capacity Program.
“How do you count 200? Does someone lay down in the road?” Burton asked.
Brockenbrough replied that a limit of 36 apartments would be allowed to use the Route 1 access. He said parking spaces would be limited and a physical barrier would be placed to stop other residents from using Route 1 access.
Councilman John Rieley said there would be a two-year time gap between apartment complex construction and interchange construction. “This presents some risks; it's risky today,” he said.
Rieley said the traffic signal at the Route 1-Route 16 intersection provides some gaps in traffic to allow motorists to cross Route 1 medians.
DelDOT has plans to remove the signal when it builds a grade-separated interchange at the intersection. It's the first of three planned Route 1 intersection projects in the area, including Minos Conaway Road and Cave Neck Road.
Rieley echoed what other officials and residents have stated to DelDOT about the Route 16 project by either delaying it or not doing it. “I wish you'd rescind that. It appears to be a disaster,” he said.
See more about the hearing in the Friday, Aug. 2 edition.