Questions about parking, traffic and density surfaced during a June 25 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission teleconference public hearing on rezoning and conditional-use applications to build 14 multifamily housing units on a 1.25-acre parcel at 34360 Postal Lane between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
Developer Matthew Hete of Rehoboth Beach has filed to change zoning from AR-1, agricultural-residential, to MR, medium-density residential, and filed an application for multifamily housing for up to 12 units per acre.
The applicant's representative, Kevin Smith, project manager with the Kercher Group, said several other existing developments in the area are zoned MR, including the 250-home Sandy Brae community across the road from the parcel.
He said the county land-use plan allows for mixed residential in the Postal Lane area. “It's also an area where infrastructure is already available,” he said.
Sussex County Director of Planning and Zoning Jamie Whitehouse said the public record contains 14 letters in opposition and seven letters in support of the applications.
Smith said the letters in opposition express concerns with traffic and safety for school-age children. He said most of the letters were from Sandy Brae residents who were concerned residents of the proposed complex would use Maple Drive in their community as a bypass to get around the Plantation Road intersection.
“It's physically not possible to use that street to pass through and beat traffic,” he said.
To address safety concerns, Smith said, Delaware Department of Transportation officials will likely require sidewalk and curbing along the frontage of the property as well as a school bus stop.
Each unit would be 20 feet by 50 feet in size. Smith said the preliminary site plan includes two parking spaces – one in the garage and one in the driveway – for each unit. He said there would not be room to park on the streets in the community.
That plan did not meet with much approval from the commission. “Where will guests park?” asked Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson. Other commissioners said most garages end up as storage and not parking areas.
Smith said the site plan could be modified with additional paving in front of each unit to allow for two more spaces to have up to four spaces for each property.
Developer Hete said the townhomes would be reasonably priced in the mid-$300,000 range, which, he said, is affordable housing for the area.
Donna Pesto, an Adylotte Estates resident, said while other communities in the area are zoned MR, they contain single-family homes, not multifamily homes. “This is not keeping in character with surrounding developments,” she said. “It should be compatible with other single-family home communities in the area.”
She also said with other approved subdivision and commercial projects in the area along and near Plantation Road, traffic on Postal Lane will only increase. Road improvements are scheduled for Plantation Road, but nothing is in the works for Postal Lane. “We will see much more traffic before any improvements are made to Postal Lane,” she said, adding the road has no shoulders, and is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
According to DelDOT records, the annual average daily traffic count on Postal Lane is just over 9,800 vehicles; the summer season daily average is more than 12,600 vehicles.
The commissioners deferred a vote on the applications to a future meeting.
The commission's next meeting Thursday, July 9, will be held in the county administration building at 2 The Circle, for the first time since the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared in mid-March.