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Arbor-Lyn draws density, traffic concerns

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Residents call on council to maintain AR-1 zoning

Traffic issues and density concerns dominated the June 14 Sussex County Council public hearing on the proposed Arbor-Lyn housing development off Warrington Road between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.

Developer Lockwood Design and Construction Inc. has filed an application to rezone a 35-acre parcel covered with trees from agricultural-residential, AR-1, to medium-density residential, MR, and a conditional use that would allow a total of 202 units.

The site plan includes 60 single-family lots. In addition, the site plan calls for 60 apartment-style condominiums and 82 townhouses, a total of 142 multifamily units on 35 acres between Route 24 and Old Landing Road. The homes would be marketed to people age 55 and over and others seeking second homes. Single-family lots are planned along the Warrington Road side of the parcel with the apartments and townhouses in the middle and rear of the property.

Dennis Schrader, the developer's attorney, said the parcel is located in a state and county growth area.

At its April 14 meeting, the county's planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the applications. Council did not vote on the applications.

Estates of Sea Chase residents said traffic backups on Warrington Road, Old Landing Road and Route 24 are already commonplace, and not just on summer weekends.

"You have to look at traffic and that there is no emergency exit for this development," said Sea Chase resident Rich Mihelcic.

"The area is so overbuilt, the roads are so poor and traffic is a mess. I think we need to take a look at what we are doing," said Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach.

"I have to remind you that my client is not responsible for DelDOT," Schrader said.

Engineer Roger Gross of Mere-stone Consultants in Lewes said state transportation officials did not require a traffic-impact study, but would require the developer to pay about $15,000 into a fund for an area-wide traffic study. In addition, he said, the developer could be required to provide funds for other road improvements at the Old Landing Road-Warrington Road intersection and other locations.

Deaver questioned the area-wide study. "I don't know where this money has gone since 2009. Nothing has happened," she said.

Sea Chase resident Steve Dolmack said there is little to no hope in the immediate future for residents and tourists who travel the area. He said no upgrades to the Warrington Road-Old Landing Road intersection are planned until 2020.

Resident: Look at big picture

William Zak, who lives in Briarwood Estates, off Route 24, said the decision on the Arbor-Lyn rezoning requires broad consideration.

"You have to address a gathering crisis," he said. "This type of density is an invitation to catastrophe. It's soon to be a horrific situation that might just kill the goose that lays the golden egg."

He said as more and more traffic congests Cape Region roads, tourists might choose to travel somewhere else.

He said considering the bigger picture, county council should not approve rezoning applications that lead to higher density. "Don't rezone from AR-1 in an area that is already swamped. The picture has to be broader than what you deal with day to day," he said. "You have to think more comprehensively."

He pointed to another pending rezoning application within a 2-mile radius for Belle Terre, a 378-unit mixed housing project along Mulberry Knoll Road. He said if both applications were approved without upzoning, the average daily traffic count would be about 600 additional vehicles per day. But, with the proposed rezoning requests, traffic would increase an average of nearly 4,500 trips per day.

Woods and density concerns

Gross said the developer understands residents' concerns about the loss of trees during development. The parcel is 85 percent wooded with old-growth trees as tall as 70 to 80 feet.

Gross said a minimum 20-foot tree buffer would be retained around the perimeter of the property, and internal tree masses would be preserved to improve stormwater management. "The developer has a history of over-landscaping his projects," he said.

Gross said the proposed density of 5.7 units per acre, with 21 acres of open space, fits in with the surrounding area. The two adjacent communities' densities are Sterling Crossing at 6.3 units per acre and Estates of Sea Chase at 6.5 units per acre.

Mihelcic said stating density numbers does not tell the full story. "You can't compare the densities. We have two-unit carriage homes and not 15-unit, 3-story apartment buildings," he said. "There is a difference."

The original applications, requesting HR-1, high-density residential zoning, which allows up to 12 units per acre, received a negative reaction from the planning and zoning commission.

Commissioners noted that if Arbor-Lyn did not materialize as planned, the upgraded zoning would have stayed with the parcel.



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Original Publication Date: June 17, 2016



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