Tabled for Traffic Info
SC Online Content Editor
GEORGETOWN -- A townhouse development slated for Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View is on hold while questions are answered regarding traffic and utilties.
The proposed development of land surrounding the Old Mill Crab House restaurant was the subject of a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2003 before the Sussex County Council.
The council deferred a decision on a conditional use application for The Courts at Old Mill and The Lakes at Old Mill.
The Courts at Old Mill would consist of 48 apartments; The Lakes at Old Mill would include 114 condominiums and 46 townhomes. The projects would be constructed on 40 acres currently owned by Virginia Steele and 13 acres currently occupied by the restaurant.
The projects would be side-by-side on the west side of Sussex Road 357 -- across the road from Bethany Lakes, a community of 88 large single-family homes. Also nearby is The Salt Pond community.
The existing restaurant would be converted into a community center if the development gets approval from the county council, according to James Fuqua, attorney for the developer, Caldera Properties.
The community would also have a pool, tennis courts and a playground. The Philadelphia-area developer, who has been approved for plans for the 350-unit Fairway Village development in Ocean View and has another application before the county for 128 acres south of Ocean View, has received permission to construct a pier on the Indian River Bay, which is at the project's western edge.
Fuqua said during the hearing that the state Department of Transportation did not require Caldera to have a traffic study done in conjunction with the Old Mill projects. He quoted a letter from a DelDOT official saying the homes would generate 34 percent less traffic than current zoning allows. The developer will be required to widen Sussex Road 357 from the projects' northern boundary to Sussex Road 360 (Fred Hudson Road).
One council member, however, was not convinced that the project will not generate enough traffic to reduce the level of service on the road, which serves several campgrounds and mobile home communities, in addition to at least half a dozen single-family home communities.
Councilman George Cole, who lives at the end of Cedar Neck Road, said he did not believe the development should be allowed "just because the Land Use Plan says you can do it," but that the ability of roads and utilities to handle the development should hold some sway.
Mark Culp, who owns the Cedar Breeze Bed and Breakfast that would be a neighbor of the Old Mill projects, said, "I have to believe that the addition of 200 new homes in a half-mile stretch of road is going to make an already tenuous situation worse." Cole also suggested the development would generate year-round traffic as opposed to the existing restaurant, which is only open from spring to early fall.
Fuqua said increased traffic is merely a sign of the times in eastern Sussex, "... the nature of the beast. You can stick your head in the sand or you can deal with it," Fuqua said, "and housing is part of the way of dealing with it."
The council voted to defer a decision on the projects until DelDOT provides information on level of service projections and any long-range plans for major road improvements on Cedar Neck Road. The county engineering department will also provide information on the sewer system to serve existing and proposed developments.
"We need to find out if the infrastructure will support the development," Cole said. He also asked county planning director Lawrence Lank to look into possible phasing of the projects.
The county Planning and Zoning Commission deferred a recommendation on the Old Mill projects last month. The council voted on Feb. 4 to leave the record open until Feb. 21 for the developer to provide the information Cole requested and to allow for review of that information.Council OKs Sheriff Fees
The county council approved two new ordinances Sheriff Robert Reed requested to help his department recover costs associated with sheriff's' sales and deed preparation.
In December, citing the need to recoup the cost of searching for deeds of property bought at sheriff's sales, Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed proposed charging purchasers $200.
The county sheriff is required by law to prepare a deed for the purchaser of land sold at sheriff's sale. Often, no deed is available, or those that are presented are so inaccurate the property can't legally be considered transfered.
Reed said this results in a break in the chain of title, leading to future problems when the property is transfered again, as well as record-keeping problems for the sheriff.
The $200 fee will be refunded if the purchaser presents a legal deed to the sheriff within a specified period of time. This, according to the ordinance, will help assure that deeds are prepared and recorded within a reasonable period of time.
Reed said some buyers don't have deeds prepared in an attempt to avoid paying taxes on the property.
"There are all kinds of games people play, and this is just one way of trying to alleviate problems," he said. Often, his staff is forced to search boxes of old records of sheriff's sales for deed information. "It creates a lot of work for us," he said.
The council also proposed an ordinance that would put in writing the fees the sheriff's department already charges to help defray the costs of sheriff's sales. The fees were the subject of a recent legal challenge because they are not found in the county code, Reed said.
The county charges a $250 deposit to defray the costs of advertising and selling personal property, and $500 for real estate sales. The fees are refundable as long as the proceeds of the sales exceed the sheriff's department's costs.
Land Trust Raises $300,000
The Sussex County Land Trust has raised $300,000 toward the state's land preservation program, which the group could parlay into $1.2 million for preservation of open space.
County Administrator Robert Stickels said Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's new budget contains "language to maintain the Delaware Land Conservation Program. The county council had agreed last year to match up to $500,000 in private funds raised by the Sussex Land Trust. The deadline for contributions was Feb. 3, but Stickels said the county land trust may still take "small contributions."
Stickels said the county could see another $600,000 in federal funds. Neither Kent nor New Castle County chose to participate in the state preservation program.In Other Business ...
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