A vote by Sussex County Council on the proposed Henlopen Transportation Improvement District could occur by the end of October. Discussions on the district got underway five years ago.
At its Oct. 6 meeting, County Administrator Todd Lawson offered one last chance for council members to ask questions. “It's time to see what your intentions are. We are ready for a green light to put this on an agenda for a vote,” he said.
The district covers 24 square miles, and includes 66 miles of roads and 62 intersections in and around the Route 24 and Route 9 corridors. A key factor in defining the area for the district is proposed growth, which includes almost 13,000 new housing units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space expected by 2045.
The only question that surfaced was from Councilman John Rieley of Millsboro, who asked about new developments underway in the district after the agreement had been signed. “If a development wants to come in, it would be allowed,” Lawson said.
“Who approves it? What is the process?” Rieley asked.
Delaware Department of Transportation Director of Planning Marc Coté said provisions in the agreement call for a joint decision between the developer and county and DelDOT officials.
Rieley said he could see issues with a large development just outside district boundaries. Coté said the boundaries are not defined by roads, but by geographic features such as streams and farmland preservation areas. “There are very few developing areas contiguous to the TID,” he said.
However, Coté said, the boundaries of the district can be amended if approved by the developer and county and DelDOT officials.
Councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton said painstaking thought was given to creating the boundaries so that contiguous developing areas do not occur. “It's geographically determined so there won't be neighbor envy,” he said.
Lawson said he would put the matter on an agenda later in October.
DelDOT officials define a transportation improvement district as follows:
“A defined geographic area where land use and transportation is planned in detail in advance. Instead of focusing solely on the area surrounding proposed development for infrastructure needs, the TID allows for a comprehensive approach about how development will impact traffic in this area in the future. A determined fee for development contributions to the infrastructure ensures this work happens as development happens and equitably distributes the cost of improvements.”
Candidates have opposing views
Sussex County Council District 3 candidate Mark Schaeffer of Lewes has asked council to delay action on the district to allow time for two new council members to have input.
During public comment at the Oct. 6 meeting, District 3 write-in candidate Patti Drago of Lewes said implementing the district was too important. “I urge you not to delay. Do not wait for me or any other candidate. Waiting is not good for business. This is a good plan,” she said.
Jeff Stone, representing Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth, said time was of the essence. “Is it perfect? No. But's it's far better than the haphazard system that exists today,” he said.
Schaeffer defeated incumbent Burton in the Republican primary by 44 votes. Cindy Green will replace retiring Councilman Sam Wilson in District 2.
The Henlopen TID
Major roads in the district include sections of Route 24 and Route 9, and sections or all of Robinsonville, Plantation, Mulberry Knoll, Cedar Grove, Angola, Dorman, Jolyns Way, Webb's Landing, Jimtown, Beaver Dam, Kendale, Wil King, Conley’s Chapel, Hollymount and Camp Arrowhead roads.
DelDOT officials have proposed $284 million in road improvements in the district. About 23 percent of the cost would be covered by developers. DelDOT would provide the remaining funds for projects through its six-year capital transportation program.
Transportation improvement district benefits
• Cost of road improvements shared equally by developers
• DelDOT contributes a percentage of funds to road improvements
• DelDOT collects more data – such as traffic counts – specific to the district
• Sussex officials have a say in recommending and approving road work.