Wil King Station would provide workforce housing

Residents express concerns over traffic and drainage during Sussex County public hearing
November 17, 2021

Story Location:
Wil King Road
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

A developer has plans for a 76-unit housing project on a 29-acre parcel along the west side of Wil King Road near Lewes.

Double DB LLC has filed for a zoning change from AR-1, agricultural-residential, and GR, general residential district, to AR-1/MR-RPC, medium-density residential-residential planned community, for the parcel.

During a Nov. 4 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing, several area residents voiced concerns about traffic and drainage on Wil King Road. The public record contains more than 70 emails in opposition to the application.

About Wil King Station

Jeff Clark of Land Tech Land Planning said the subdivision would include workforce units geared toward young families. The subdivision would have sidewalks on one side of all streets, nearly 9 acres of open space, two playgrounds, a 20-foot landscaped buffer around the property's perimeter and a 50-foot setback from farm fields north and west of the parcel. Existing vegetation and trees would remain in the buffers.

Clark said the proposed subdivision falls within the boundaries of the Henlopen Transportation Improvement District. Under conditions of the TID, developers do not have to file a traffic-impact study because data has already been compiled by Delaware Department of Transportation. Developers are charged a fee per housing unit for road improvements within the district, which, Clark said, would total $427,794 for this project.

The developer would be required to improve Wil King Road along the frontage of the property with 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders, plus right- and left-turn lanes, and a bypass lane at the entrance.

Two zoning designations

David Hutt, the developer's attorney, said the proposal is for two zoning designations – AR-1, agricultural-residential, for a 6-acre northern section and MR, medium-density residential, for a 23-acre southern parcel, with a residential planned community overlay for the entire parcel.

The northern section would contain 11 lots averaging 17,700 square feet, and the southern section would contain the remaining 65 lots about half the size of the northern-section lots.

Hutt said the unique zoning change is required because the parcel is split by two designations on the county's future land-use map in the comprehensive plan. The northern section is considered low density and the southern section is in the coastal area.

Questions about forest

In a Preliminary Land Use Service report, state environmental officials noted that the parcel contains a stand of mature trees that should be preserved to the maximum extent possible. The site plan includes removal of 18 of the 21 acres of forest.

William Twupac, an environmental scientist hired by the developer, said the woods is not a mature forest and is not connected to any other forested areas. He said Sussex County does not have standards to define a mature forest.

Twupac said the woods has been used for many years as a dumping area and contains tire piles, concrete and other refuse. He said the PLUS comments were based on a 1937 aerial photograph, not a site visit.

Hutt said approval of the application would result in the cleanup of a property not treated as a pristine forest for many years.

Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson asked about the presence of the chemical antimony in the soil due to years of dumping at the site.

Twupac said random soil samples at four sites have not revealed any contaminants exceeding Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control standards.

Concerns from residents

Sergei Boboshko, a Chapel Green resident, talked in depth about issues along Wil King Road. He said the 1.8-mile, two-lane road is narrow with no shoulders and deep drainage ditches along a large portion of both sides of the road. He said it serves as a road for four existing communities with 410 homes.

In addition, he said, there are 22 school bus stops to pick up 52 children each morning and afternoon.

He said a 2019 DelDOT traffic count shows that more than 1,455 vehicles per day use the road, and the proposed Wil King Station will add another 500 vehicle trips per day, a 34 percent increase.

“All combined, this is a significant risk for motorists, residents and school students,” he said.

“If the pace of rapid development continues, this will look like another suburbia. Not one resident I have spoken with is not disturbed by the negative impact on their quality of life,” Boboshko said.

Drainage issues along Wil King Road were raised as a concern by residents. Chris Pfeifer, an engineer with George, Miles & Buhr, said they found that a downstream culvert along the roadway is one foot higher than an upstream culvert, and stormwater has not been free flowing. He said that situation would be remedied, and the community's stormwater management system would handle the stormwater.

Jill Hicks, a Chapel Green resident, said one culvert will not solve the drainage issues. “It's an area already saturated, and it can't handle water runoff,” she said.

In addition, she said, safety issues along Wil King Road have not been addressed. She said the traffic data being used is two years old and does not include the surge of housing construction in the area. “There are 87 mailboxes on this roadway, with steep ditches on both sides,” she said.

Wil King Road resident Rodney Harmon, a Nanticoke Indian, said an archaeological study should be performed on the parcel. “Generations of Nanticokes have lived in this area,” he said.

Commission defers vote

The commission deferred a vote on the application to a future meeting.

Hoey Stevenson said she's not convinced the developer made a strong argument for medium-density rezoning.

“We can limit the number of units at no more than 2 per acre, and that would allow 58 units,” P&Z Chair Robert Wheatley said. “The road is an issue with ditches and mailboxes, and drainage is an issue. There is a lot to think about.”

Sussex County Council has scheduled a hearing on the application at its Tuesday, Nov. 30 meeting. Hearings get underway at 1:30 p.m.


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