On the same night it was presented, Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission gave preliminary approval to a subdivision near the Warrington Road-Route 24 intersection.
Wellesley is a 131 single-family home project on 73 acres of agricultural-residential, AR-1, land on the rear portion of three parcels about 300 feet from the intersection of Warrington Road and Route 24, between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. The owner of the property is J.G. Townsend Jr. & Co., and the developer is Wellesley Partners.
During the commission's June 28 meeting, Nick Hammonds, a partner with the developer, said the majority of the lots will back up to open space. In addition, he said, the site will be developed using existing natural features, and 80 percent of the tract's 24 acres of woodlands will be preserved. The remainder of the property is farmland.
He said the density of 1.8 units per acre is consistent with nearby developments. Minimum lot sizes will be 9,000 square feet.
Hammonds said the subdivision's impact on schools has been raised as a concern. “These will be small lots and single-family homes with the majority of buyers retirees and pre-retirees,” he said.
Roadwork part of approval
The developer's attorney, Gene Bayard, said the Delaware Department of Transportation will require road improvements along the frontage of the entrance on Warrington Road including 11-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders. He said the developer would also be required to contribute funds to proposed improvements at the intersection of Old Landing Road, Warrington Road and Strawberry Way, south of the project, where a roundabout and traffic signal have been proposed.
Assistant county attorney Vince Robertson asked Bayard if he had heard an update on the status of that project. “We've heard about that project for years,” he said.
Developments in the area have contributed toward improvements to the intersection for years.
Bayard said at least 10 projects have contributed funding to proposed roadwork. “Where the money is, I don't know. I'm not sure DelDOT does,” he said. “DelDOT has taken that on as their own project, and that's a positive thing.”
The subdivision is expected to generate 1,280 average weekday trips.
Ring Lardner, an engineer with Davis, Bowen and Friedel, said the entrance has been relocated from the original conceptual plan as far from the Route 24 intersection as possible and will line up with the Arbor-Lyn entrance across Warrington Road.
Arbor-Lyn – 142 lots on 35 acres on MR, medium-density, residential, land – was approved by county officials in December 2016. Construction has not started.
To ease traffic congestion in the area, in 2019, DelDOT has plans to widen Route 24 from two to four lanes from Route 1 to Mulberry Knoll Road, followed by widening from Mulberry Knoll Road to the Love Creek Bridge.
A resident asked the commission who considers the bigger picture on road congestion when approving developments.
Commission Chairman Marty Ross suggested traffic concerns be presented to local state elected officials. “DelDOT has control over all roads,” he said.
Robertson said county officials are working to improve coordination with DelDOT officials because of development pressures in Sussex County.
Buffers proposed in subdivision
In its review of the project, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials reported spotted salamanders and possibly tiger salamanders have been observed in the area; both are state-rare amphibians.
DNREC suggested at least 100-foot buffers from wetlands and waterways on the parcel, which contains the headwaters of Arnell Creek.
Lardner said preserving the woods in the area will provide a protective corridor for the salamanders.
He said buffers will range from 25 feet to 175 feet with an average buffer size of 75 feet from wetlands and 50 feet from property lines. He said the developer will provide a separation distance of 100 to 350 feet from neighboring developments.
The commission granted the developer a waiver from the required agricultural buffer from 50 feet to 30 feet from an adjacent farm property.
The developer will be required to submit a revised preliminary site plan to the county planning and zoning staff with the final site plan to be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission.