Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission heard plans May 13 presented by The Tunnell Companies for Baywood Gardens, a 514-unit apartment complex on both sides of Long Neck Road near the Route 24 intersection.
Baywood LLC has filed an application to rezone 64 acres from C-1, general commercial district, B-1, neighborhood business district, and CR-1, commercial residential district, to HR-RPC, a high-density residential district-residential planned community with allowable density of up to 12 units per acre.
The proposed apartment complex would have a density of 9.45 units per acre.
Jim Fuqua, representing Baywood LLC., said the plan is part of a long-term plan by The Tunnell Companies to develop existing vacant land. He said the approval of the 651-unit single-family home community of Keastone on Green and Banks roads addresses a need for single-family housing and the proposed Baywood Gardens would address a need for more affordable rental apartments. He said the Keastone community will be developed over the next 10 years.
“This would provide a more affordable option to residents, particularity workers in the resort area,” he said.
Following the public hearing, the commission deferred a vote to a future meeting. Sussex County Council will have a public hearing on the application during its afternoon session Tuesday, June 29, in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown.
Two- and three-bedroom units planned
Plans call for 210, two-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 1,225 to 1,415 square feet and 304 three-bedroom units, averaging 1,650 square feet.
Divided by Long Neck Road, the 38-acre northern section would have 354 apartments in nine buildings and the 16-acre southern section would have 160 units in four buildings. The buildings would be up to 52 feet high.
The northern section's main entrance would be along Long Neck Road across from Bayshore Drive, with a secondary entrance at Greens Way leading to Baywood Greens.
The southern section's main entrance would also be along Long Neck Road at the Greens Way intersection with a secondary entrance onto School Lane.
Large rec complex proposed
A proposed recreational complex in the northern section of the community would be available to all Baywood community residents, said Robert Tunnell III. Plans for the complex include a clubhouse and community center with fitness room, indoor and outdoor pools, pavilions and gathering areas, playground, pickleball and bocce courts, a golf putting green and community garden.
The south section would have two tot lots and gathering areas for residents.
Fuqua said the developer is requesting a condition that the recreational complex be completed prior to the certificate of occupancy for the 161st unit when four buildings are constructed.
Tunnell said there would not be a membership fee for the new amenity, but that it would be funded with a small rent increase. He said input from residents has been used to develop the complex.
Fuqua said he understands the commission's concerns with amenities being on one side of a community split by a road. He said this is a unique site because there is an existing signalized pedestrian crossing at the School Lane-Banks Road-Long Neck Road intersection. “We understand the problem but this complex can't be duplicated,” he said.
Developer would help fund projects
Traffic-impact studies were completed for both sections in 2019 and 2020. If approved, the developer would be required to fund several road-improvement projects and also contribute equitable funding to off-site improvements as required by the Delaware Department of Transportation.
It's estimated, at build out, the apartment complex would generate 2,827 vehicle trips on an average weekday.
DelDOT would require upgrades to the entrances at Long Neck Road and Bayshore Drive and Long Neck Road and Greens Way with left, right and through lanes. Both main entrance roads would be dualized with separate entrance and exit lanes.
Land would be dedicated along Long Neck Road for a shared-use path.
The developer would be required to improve School Lane from Long Neck Road to Long Neck Elementary School with 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders.
Two DART bus stops would be placed along Route 24 at each section of the community. There would be 27.5 acres of passive and active open space. Vegetated buffers of at least 20 feet are planned along the borders with the Baywood Greens, Bayshore and Pines at Long Neck communities, Long Neck United Methodist Church and Long Neck Elementary School.
Fuqua said the proposed apartment complex is an in-fill project surrounded by residential and commercial uses. “And it's fully in compliance with the county comprehensive plan,” he said.
Traffic an issue
A few residents in nearby communities expressed concerns with traffic along Long Neck Road. “The infrastructure can't accommodate the development. It's traffic gridlock on Long Neck Road. It's become such a congested area, the roads can't handle it,” said Jim Carlson, a Baywood Greens resident.
Eul Lee of Lewes asked what the proposed rents would be for the apartments. “Are they for the working class? This is what the area needs,” she asked.
Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley said that information is not a land-use issue. “The commission has no reason to ask that,” he said.
Sixty years in Long Neck
The Tunnell family has developing housing projects in the Long Neck area for 60 years, starting with the first Pot-Nets community in 1962, Fuqua said. There are now six Pot-Nets communities with more than 3,000 manufactured homes and numerous recreational facilities. Paradise Grill, in Pot-Nets Bayside, has become one of the favorite restaurant and music venues in the area.
The Tunnells also own Baywood Greens and Baywood Greens Restaurant with 755 single-family homes and 300 townhouses wrapped around the Baywood Greens Golf Course.