Updated application filed for Wil King Station near Lewes

Area residents still concerned about traffic, drainage and removal of woods
August 6, 2023

Round 2. Another plan has surfaced for Wil King Station along the road with the same name near Lewes.

An application to rezone the property to MR, medium-density residential planned community overlay, for 76 single-family homes was denied by Sussex County Planning & Zoning in November 2021.

Developer Wil King Road LLC has filed a new subdivision application to divide 29 acres into 58 single-family home lots without a zoning change.

During a July 27 planning & zoning hearing, commissioners heard many of the same opposition points that were presented during the first hearing concerning traffic, the condition of the roadway and flooding.

David Hutt, the developer's attorney, said the applicant withdrew the 2021 application after listening to those concerns.

Split zoning

Hutt said the parcel is unique because it has split zoning and future land-use map designations, with 23 acres of AR-1 zoning in the coastal area and nine acres of GR zoning in a low-density area. Standard subdivision regulations would be followed on the GR land, while cluster regulations would be applied to the AR-1 land.

Plans for the subdivision include sidewalks on one side of the streets and a trail network that connects to an area of open space (13 acres total) in the middle of the proposed project.

The parcel contains 22 acres of woods; seven acres (35%) would be preserved. A 30-foot perimeter buffer is planned using existing woods in addition to a 50-foot building setback of lots adjacent to a large farm to the west.

Hutt said several comments are in the public record about the proposed high density of the development. He said the proposed two units per acre is not high density and is allowed in cluster subdivisions. Adding in the allowable four units per acre in GR zoning, the project could have as many as 70 lots; however, the developer chose fewer lots to allow for more open space and more tree preservation, he said. 

Following the public hearing, the commission deferred a vote for further consideration of the testimony.

Entrance issues

The subdivision plan includes two entrances off Wil King Road. The proposed northern entrance would use an existing 50-foot right of way, while the southern entrance would be at the southern border of the proposed community. Hutt said no easements would be needed for the southern entrance, but an easement would be necessary for the northern entrance. The Delaware Department of Transportation would have to review and approve the entrance plans.

Those who spoke in opposition requested that the commission require an entrance off Beaver Dam Road to the west and not allow an entrance along Wil King Road.

Janet Le Digabel, who lives on La Jolla Shores Drive, which is the proposed access for the northern entrance to the subdivision, said flooding issues continue, especially in the northern area where the subdivision is proposed.

“This application should not be approved until flooding issues are resolved,” she said, adding that flooding was one of the reasons commissioners used to deny the original plan.

She said she created an easement on her property for a lane to reach a six-acre parcel she called Lot C for current and future owners. “It's not an easement for the 58-home parcel. It's not an easement for 100 to 200 cars per day to go through my property,” she said. “It's for Lot C and not any other parcel.”

She said it would take more than 50 feet of right-of-way to improve the road, and DelDOT would invoke eminent domain to take people's land to widen the road. Le Digabel said a developer's representative has tried several times to purchase her four-acre parcel to get an easement, even offering $65,000 an acre.

Currently, La Jolla Shores Drive is less than 8 feet wide and is only partially paved, with most of it gravel and dirt, she said.

Le Digabel said in 2014, the road was changed for public use so she could get DelDOT funding for improvements. “Soon, it will be deeded back to being a private road,” she said.

The few homes on the road date back to the 1960s and 1970s, and their wells are close to the road edge, as are the utilities, which would all have to be relocated, she said.

She said the northern entrance was recently added to the proposed site plan. “For 58 homes, they don't need a second entrance,” she said.

No road work planned

Hutt said DelDOT has determined the traffic impact as minor based on 1,400 vehicle trips per day.

The land is included in the Henlopen Transportation Improvement District. The developer would be required to provide improved entrances with drainage improvements and pay a fee per unit for future road work in the district.

Hutt said most residents who live on Wil King Road are anxious for improvements to the roadway. However, he said, no improvement plans are included in DelDOT's 2023-28 capital transportation program.

He said road improvements proposed in the district include 11-foot travel lanes, 5-foot shoulders and drainage improvements on Wil King Road, but there is no date proposed.

Hutt suggested residents lobby county council members and local legislators to make the improvements more of a priority for DelDOT.

Dump site cleaned up

Hutt said the parcel had been used as a dump site many years ago. A first soil test found traces of antimony, used as a hardener in lead for batteries. Hutt said the applicant cleaned up the debris on the site and removed the polluted soil.

A second test found more traces, so more soil was removed. A recent soil test found no antimony. “This cleanup benefits everyone who lives in the area,” Hutt said.

Opposition's concerns

Area resident Sergei Boboshko said since speaking in opposition to the original application, traffic issues have only increased over the past two years.

He said Wil King Road, which is 1.8 miles long, is a narrow two-lane road with no shoulders and steep drainage ditches on both sides of large sections. “It continues to be unsafe,” he said.

He said because the road is straight, few motorists drive the posted 45 mph speed limit. He said there are 98 mailboxes on the edge of the road that homeowners access by standing in the road. In addition, there are 521 homes along the road, and school buses make 50 stops to and from school every day. He said they have to make individual stops at residential driveways because the road is too dangerous for children to walk on.

Boboshko said recent DelDOT traffic counts show an increase of vehicle trips per day from 1,455 in 2019 to 1,906 the week of July 20-25 this year, a 31% increase.

“There are risks for motorists, residents and school children even before considering 58 additional homes,” he said.

Jill Hicks, who lives in Chapel Green with an access to Wil King Road, said the entrance should be from Beaver Dam Road from a lot left open on the site plan designated for future connection.

She said because of the ditches on both sides of the road, work crews, trash trucks and delivery trucks typically park on the road and force motorists to go around them. “These types of hazardous conditions exist every day,” she said.

She said in addition to mailboxes, there are 196 trash and recycle receptacles each week.

Le Digabel offered the following conditions if the commission choses to approve the application: no use of La Jolla Shores Drive; leave all existing trees, some dating back to the 1930s, in the buffer; require a post/rail fence along her property line to keep people out but let wildlife through; post a buffer sign every 25 feet and do-not-disturb signs to keep homeowners from cutting down or trimming trees in the buffer; and require an entrance from Beaver Dam Road, not Wil King Road.

She said the application does not meet the requirements of county code because it does not protect the safety of existing residents.

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