Sussex County Council has delayed a decision on three applications in the Route 1 corridor near Lewes pending input from state transportation officials.
Developer Nassau DE Acquisition Co. LLC has filed applications to rezone nearly 3 acres from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to C-2 commercial for a 4,700-square-foot office building and to rezone a 12.5-acre parcel from AR-1 to MR, medium-density residential, and a conditional-use application for for 150 apartments in five, three-story buildings with amenities.
Councilman I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, is pushing for an interim plan to handle traffic in the area of Nassau bridge, Old Mill Road and Route 1 before voting on applications for an apartment and office complex near the intersection.
Major road improvements along Route 1 near the Nassau bridge near Lewes, including service roads on Route 1, are planned but would not be completed until 2025. “What is being done right now? Between now and then, what happens if this goes through?” Burton asked. “This is a dramatic change.”
Burton said the Delaware Department of Transportation should have an interim plan for traffic in an area with three Route 1 crossovers within a few hundred yards of one another. “
Asking them for something like this prior to approval is out of character. We will have to press them to address it,” he said.
At the Nov. 27 public hearing, DelDOT's Jennifer Cinelli said she was not aware of any interim plans, but she would bring the request to DelDOT staff and provide a response within a week. “There is a lot going on in this area,” she said.
Council left the public record open for a response from DelDOT staff and written comments on the response from the public until 4:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 10.
The applications will be placed on the Tuesday, Dec. 11 agenda, the last scheduled meeting of the year. Councilmen Sam Wilson and George Cole, who were sick and missed the Nov. 27 meeting, will listen to audio of the public hearing to be prepared to vote.
Burton said the current council should vote on the applications before two new councilmembers are sworn in at the start of the new year.
During the nearly three-hour hearing, residents who live in the five subdivisions off Old Mill Road, testified the proposed project would generate more traffic in an area that is already congested and the project is out of character with the area. They called on the developer to withdraw the applications and refile for an AR-1 subdivision.
Residents want traffic study
Residents said the applicant should conduct a traffic-impact study, which was not required by DelDOT because the proposed project's average daily trip projections at just over 1,600 were below the threshold of 2,000 per day.
Oak Drive resident Vince Brady said the projected trip count of 1,687 should be added to the existing daily count of 1,700 at the intersection, which would trigger a traffic impact study.
Rich Borrasso, representing Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth, said the impact on traffic in the area is much larger than the Nassau applications, with six housing subdivisions on the books. He said an immediate traffic study is needed from Route 16 to Route 24. “There is a bigger landscape here than a single application,” he said.
He suggested council meet with DelDOT officials to push for a comprehensive traffic study.
John Tracey, the developer's attorney, said the developer would be required to make an undetermined contribution to funding for the Route 1 interchange project as well as upgrade Old Mill Road with 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders from the Route 1 intersection to the border of the developer's property.
He said DelDOT has determined the traffic impact from the proposed project as minor based on the projected average number of daily trips.
He said aside from anticipated traffic, a traffic study was not required because of proposed changes in traffic patterns in the next few years.
Access to Route 1
During the hearing, confusion arose over whether the property would have direct access to Route 1.
Opponents said based on testimony at the planning and zoning commission hearing and their research of regulations in the state's Route 1 Corridor Capacity Preservation Program, access would not be granted to the highway, only from Old Mill Road.
But during the council hearing, Sussex Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said the property would have right-in, right-out access to the northbound lanes of Route 1 as well as Old Mill Road access. DelDOT's Cinelli confirmed Cornwell's statement.
Brady said allowing access to Route 1 is in direct conflict with the state's Corridor Capacity Preservation Program limiting access to parcels along the highway.
“It's not a suggestion; it's not a recommendation; it's a policy,” he said. “Route 1 access cannot be there.”
When contacted after the hearing, DelDOT Director of Planning Drew Boyce said temporary access would be granted to the parcel.
“The individual circumstances around this proposal, in conjunction with the impending capital project, make this a unique situation. We would grant a temporary access to Route 1, depending on the timing of the development, with the understanding that there is an impending project that would ultimately bring the development into compliance with the Corridor Capacity Preservation Program requirements. In this case, any access onto Route 1 will ultimately be on the future frontage road,” he said.
DelDOT crash data 2008-2018
Route 1 intersections/crossovers
Minos Conaway – 37
Old Mill Road – 9
Nassau Road – 25
This week: Traffic issues
Next week: Project details, environmental issues