Developer proposes annexing 50 acres in Milton

Appeals ordinance up again at council’s Dec. 6 meeting
December 3, 2021

A Maryland-based developer is proposing that Milton annex 50 acres of land on Harbeson Road that would then be turned into a 163-unit housing development called Scarlet Oaks.

Milton Town Council will discuss the annexation petition at its 6:30 p.m. meeting, Monday, Dec. 6, at Milton library. Council will likely assign the petition to the three-member special review committee, which will hold meetings weighing the pros and cons of the annexation, and provide a cost-benefit analysis. 

Ribera Development, based in Millersville, Md., is proposing to develop the parcel, which fronts on Harbeson Road across from Mariner Middle School and backs up to Shingle Point Road, as single-family residential home lots. The land is owned by The Company Store, an LLC based out of Charlotte, N.C., according to Sussex County tax records.

In its annexation petition filed with the town, Ribera is asking the property to be zoned as R-1 residential with a large-parcel development overlay, which allows for additional flexibility in terms of home design, setbacks, pedestrian access and potential light commercial uses. Ribera is planning to have both single-family attached and detached homes, a clubhouse and recreation area, and walking paths. Buffers are planned along the perimeter of Harbeson Road and Shingle Point Road.

In its submission to the town, Ribera said, “Our request is in keeping with the town’s future land-use map and provides for the smart growth of the town by being situated in an area that will help with contiguous land-use growth for other parcels that will expand the Milton community.”

This would be the fourth annexation proposal the town has taken up in the last two years. The burst of annexation requests stems from 2018, when the town sought to encourage more annexations in order to expand its tax base. In 2018, the town’s annexation fees were changed from a $400 application fee and $8,000 fee per acre to a $4,000 application fee and $5,000 held in escrow to cover professional fees. 

Since then, the town has annexed two parcels: 26 acres at Route 16 and Country Road planned for the proposed Cypress Grove development, and 7 acres at the corner of Route 16 and Union Street Extended, which will be used for a Royal Farms convenience store and gas station along with a commercial complex. A third annexation, for 450 acres on Sand Hill Road to be built as a 1,350-unit development known as The Granary at Draper Farm, was given approval by the special review committee and its proposed zoning approved by the planning and zoning commission, leaving only Milton Town Council left to approve the annexation. 

Appeals ordinance on Dec. 6 agenda

Perhaps the most controversial measure on council’s Dec. 6 agenda is a proposed ordinance regulating appeals from the Milton Planning and Zoning Commission.

The proposed ordinance would lay out the procedure for appeals of decisions made by planning and zoning, the board of adjustment and the project coordinator. The most controversial part of the ordinance, though, is a proposal to institute a fee for appeals to be brought. While the fee would be determined annually when council sets the year’s fee schedule, the first proposed fee, should the ordinance be implemented, would be $400 to file plus at least $1,000 to be held in escrow to cover appeal costs. 

Appeals of planning and zoning decisions specifically became an issue after two appeals were filed within a month of each other. Citizens in opposition to the ordinance say it would discourage people of limited means from filing an appeal. To address that concern, during review by planning and zoning, language was inserted into the ordinance saying if an appeal was successful, the appellant would get their escrow deposit back.

Council tabled the ordinance after a lengthy public comment period Nov. 1, and worked to revise some of the language. 

In addition, the busy Dec. 6 agenda includes a presentation from Delaware Department of Transportation on its Coastal Corridors Study, which covers the Route 16 area, and a public hearing on Sussex County Community Development and Housing Department’s Community Development Block Grant. Following the public hearing on the block grant, council will discuss a resolution on whether to pursue the grant. 

Council will discuss a proposed ordinance on business licenses, a resolution on the traffic calming advisory ad hoc committee’s report, a proposed ordinance on town employee holidays, an ordinance on sprinkler systems, job descriptions for two code enforcement officer positions, and a recommendation from the streets, sidewalks and parks committee related to fees for closing streets to accommodate events.

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