School Lane plans include affordable rental units

New application presented for apartment complex along Route 24 next to elementary school
November 17, 2023

A housing project on Route 24 adjacent to Love Creek Elementary School was denied by Sussex County Council in May, but a new project with the same name but a completely different plan has been submitted.

School Lane’s new plan includes six four-story apartment buildings with 203 units on a 22-acre parcel. The project will take part in the amended Sussex County Rental Program with 25% of the units (50) following the guidelines of the program to provide affordable housing.

Under the regulations in the rental program, a public hearing on the application is not required. The application and its site plan will get expedited review by county staff and the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission.

The affordable units will be available to residents who earn 80% of the county’s area median income, which is $60,100 for a family of four and $48,100 for a family of two. Average rents for the affordable units will be less than half of the market rental prices.

Apartment buildings can be as tall as 52 feet and must have 100-foot setbacks.

“We are proud to be one of the first significant submissions under Sussex County’s Rental Program. We will offer much-needed, high-quality, affordable housing options for residents of eastern Sussex County,” said Nick Hammonds, principal with developer Jack Lingo Asset Management. The owner of the property is J.G. Townsend Jr. & Company.

Three previous applications for School Lane were denied by Sussex County Council for 80 multifamily units. The applications included an amendment to the county’s future land-use map to Coastal Area, a rezoning and a conditional use. All but the change to the map were denied.

The parcel is also included in the map’s commercial area.

“There is no question that workforce housing is needed in Sussex County; it has been widely discussed and is a widely accepted fact,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson said. “That is exactly why the county council updated the Sussex County Rental Program more than a year ago. We applaud the applicants with the School Lane apartments project for pursuing workforce housing at this location, and the county encourages other developers to follow suit – that is exactly what the council and the public support.”

PLUS review

The plan was part of the Nov. 15 Office of State Planning Coordination’s Preliminary Land Use Service agenda.

The plan includes a clubhouse, pool, playground, central water and sewer service, a shared-use path along Route 24 and sidewalks with connection to the existing entrance at the Love Creek Elementary School intersection with a traffic signal on Route 24.

The plan also includes 13 acres of open space, a 20-foot landscaped perimeter buffer and a 30-foot buffer along existing wetlands on the southeastern property line.

The parcel is in the Henlopen Transportation Improvement District; the developer will be required to pay a fee per unit for future road projects in the area at about $6,000 per unit.

During the agency review of the project, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control representative Beth Krumrine said the Division of Fish and Wildlife is making a request for a site visit to catalog the habitat. She said the woods on the parcel are part of the Love Creek Nature Area and the Delaware Ecological Network, which are natural areas where the department recommends that no trees be disturbed. She said the trees are possibly a mature forest.

Duane Fox of the State Fire Marshal’s office urged the developer to look for secondary access. “Sharing the entrance with the elementary school at bus time, it’s going to be really, really hard to get in there. Keep that in mind. It could also affect EMS response,” he said.

He said the apartment building must have sprinklers and provide fire lanes. The project also has to be within 300 feet of a fire hydrant.

Sussex County planner Mike Lowrey said the developer must comply with all standards under the county’s affordable rental program, and the developer must provide an environmental assessment and public utilities report.

He suggested a fence be considered along the shared property line with the elementary school. In addition, he suggested a path be provided between School Lane and the school. Suggestions are not requirements but elements for a developer to consider.

“School Lane’s location is optimal as it provides access to public transportation, existing infrastructure, and will be ideal for those in the Rehoboth/Lewes hospitality industry as well as young families given the proximity to Cape schools. Given our team’s longstanding roots in Sussex County, we are pleased to be able to bring such an impactful project to the community and those seeking a great place to live,” Hammonds said.

PLUS comments will be made available on or before Friday, Dec. 15.


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