Milton citizens get first look at The Granary

Utilities to be discussed at next committee meeting Aug. 12
August 6, 2021

Milton citizens turned out July 29 to pack the meeting room at Milton library and hear the first meeting on an annexation request that could eventually add 1,350 residential units to the town.

The Granary at Draper Farm is a proposed project that would annex 400-plus acres between Sand Hill and Gravel Hill roads to make way for a residential development that would include a mix of single-family homes and townhouses, a walking trail, two pools and two clubhouses. 

The town’s special review committee is reviewing the project to determine if it is in the town’s best interests to annex the parcel. Councilman John Collier, who chairs the committee, said, “What we see today may not be what we get when we get further into the process.”

Colby Cox, CEO of developer Convergence Communities, said the development is named for his family’s history of farming on the property and its ownership by Cox’s great-grandfather, Richard Draper.

Cox began his presentation with a rundown of his background: born at Beebe Healthcare, raised in Rehoboth Beach, his ties to Milton are due to his grandfather owning the King Cole Cannery where the present-day Cannery Village is located. 

The land where The Granary would be developed has been owned by his family for 80 years and was recently passed down to Cox’s mother, who wanted to do something with the site. Cox has lived in Jackson, Wyo., for the majority of his professional life. His company, Convergence Communities, has developed projects in Delaware before, including the Villages at Red Mill Pond in Lewes. 

Cox said the intention is not to build the maximum density on the site; if that had been wanted, Convergence Communities could have gone to Sussex County for approval to build the development. In a separate interview, Cox said that was never the company’s intention; its officials wanted the project to be part of Milton and not a development in the middle of nowhere. 

“We wanted to create a very unique place that was an extension of the town of Milton,” he said. “We feel that in 50 years, this community will still fit, look good and fit with Milton’s culture.”

Cox said the development would build and extend on the town’s existing infrastructure. One of the major features of the proposed project is a 3-mile bike and pedestrian trail that would run through the development and connect to the Rails to Trails network through an underground tunnel beneath Sand Hill Road. Cox said such tunnels have been built in other places, including the Plantation Lakes community in Millsboro. 

He said the development will have 55 acres of open space, all dedicated to the town and open to the public. Cox said there would also be infrastructure for a farmers market and what he referred to as a “brewery incubator,” which would contain the infrastructure – brewing equipment and a canning line – for aspiring brewers to launch their product. 

The only private amenities in the development are the clubhouses and pools; the plan is to have a pool and a clubhouse on each side of the property. Cox said the decision to have one pool and clubhouse on each side will enable Convergence Communities to build in sections without anyone losing out on amenities. 

Convergence Communities has requested that if the land is annexed in, it would be zoned R-2 residential with a large-parcel development overlay. Cox said there are several reasons for doing this, including giving more freedom in regard to the houses’ appearance and the development’s layout, and also to regulate the size of a planned 60,000 square feet of commercial space on the parcel. Cox said he’s not interested in having a lot of commercial use in the development outside of some light retail, the farmers market and the brewery incubator. He said there is an idea to possibly put an actual granary on the site for grain storage. 

Cox said the plan is to set the residential units away from the creeks and ponds around the development, with a 25- to 100-foot buffer around the border of the property. Many people expressing concerns about the development live on Bangor Lane, which is not in the town of Milton but borders the land where the Granary would go. 

Cox said the trick for him is to have enough of a buffer between the homes on Bangor Lane and his development but not too big, so it does not undermine the stated goal of having an interconnected neighborhood with the town of Milton. He said those details would likely be worked out later. Cox said at this time there is no intention of connecting Bangor Lane with the Granary, but if the residents of Bangor Lane want it, he’d be willing to listen. 

“We’ve tried to over-prepare. We want to give you the best vision we possibly could for what we want to do, so we could start at the right place. We’re here to have an interactive process,” he said. 

Cox then took questions from the audience and the committee for nearly an hour, with most of the questions related to stormwater management, the buffering between the development and Bangor Lane, and the layout of the development. He said there will be stormwater retention ponds in the development, and the intention is to have 65 percent single-family units and 35 percent cottages/townhouses. Cox said the exact layout of the development is still to be determined. 

The committee will resume discussions of The Granary annexation request at its next meeting, 2 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 12, at Milton library. The focus of the meeting will be on utilities servicing the development.

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