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Sussex County Council ...

Council OKs Projects
in Marathon Session

SC Online Content Editor

GEORGETOWN -- In a marathon session of public hearings, Sussex County Council on Tuesday, March 25, 2003, voted to approve one development while sending another back to the drawing board.

It also approved a water treatment facility, a real estate office, and an auto sales business, while deferring action on several other rezoning applications.

The two developments were proposed by a single developer -- Caldera Properties, L.P. -- the same firm that received the county's blessing for a third project earlier in the day.

Approved during the eight-hour session were a rezoning application for The Retreat, a 161-unit development at Sussex roads 277 and 283, about two miles south of Five Points; and Forest Landing, a 353-unit development near the intersection of Sussex roads 368 and 84 on the southern border of Ocean View.

The council approved The Retreat after listening to at least eight presentations by residents opposing the development. Many of the opponents of the 138-acre project cited concerns about its impact on the adjacent Love Creek and the wildlife in what is now farmland and woods.

Till Purnell, who lives along the nearby Herring Creek, echoed the sentiments of many of the speakers when she said she doesn't necessarily think the development is a bad one -- but one that should undergo some changes from the preliminary plans. Purnell said the county is "extremely wrong" to allow Caldera to place a septic drainage field close to Love Creek.

Sue Weber, who lives near the site, said she routinely sees deer, red-tailed hawks, eagles and foxes on the site and has found several arrowheads there. "What are you thinking?" she asked the council. "I can't believe this."

James Fuqua, attorney for the developer, said the development maintains the housing density allowed in the existing agricultural/residential zoning, does not call for any encroachment into wetlands, and calls for no boat docks or boat launch. He also said the state highway department issued no objections to the plans.

Of the 138 acres in the site, 83 acres would remain open space under the initial plans and there would be a 50-foot buffer between housing lots and wetlands.

Council member George Cole expressed concern, however, about plans to build homes in the woodlands along Love Creek. He said it would be "more environmentally sensitive" to keep the homes out of the woods.

Council member Vance Phillips said he felt the plan to build The Retreat as a residential planned community -- which allows homes to be clustered -- would be better than traditional design because it calls for the homes to be located more centrally in the site.

Cole also said it bothers him that the development, though located in the county's "environmentally sensitive developing area", would not be connected to county sanitary sewer service.

In the end, the council agreed to give Caldera until April 4 to decide whether it wants to submit new plans with the homes kept out of the woodlands. After that, the opposition will have 10 days to respond to new plans, if they are submitted.

The other Caldera development, Forest Landing, was approved unanimously for a rezoning from GR-General Residential to MR-RPC. No opposition or support was heard from the audience at the hearing.

Forest Landing is to be located on 124 acres, and include 120 townhomes, 184 duplex units and 49 single-family homes. Its density will be 2.8 homes per acre -- below the 4 units per acre maximum under the previous GR zoning designation. Caldera has agreed to share with developers of other area projects in the cost of intersection improvements on several nearby roads.

The project is in the midst of an area that has seen major development approvals recently -- across Beaver Dam Road is the Village at Bear Trap Dunes, a 700-home community with 27 holes of golf and a small commercial area.

Also nearby are Wedgefield and Avon Park, with 178 units combined, Silver Woods, which has been approved for 400 homes, and Fairway Village, another Caldera project approved for 350 homes.

Combined, the approved projects will put nearly 2,000 homes around the intersections of Central Avenue, Beaver Dam Road and Windmill Road.

Council Defers 84 Lumber Proposal ...

The council also spent considerable time discussing a proposal by 84 Lumber on Route 26 in Millville to help alleviate problems with trucks waiting along the side of the road to enter the store's parking lot. The proposal would involve rezoning 8.4 acres located 620 feet south of Route 26 and 750 feet west of Route 17 from agricultural/residential to general commercial.

Plans call for the removal of two existing storage sheds, moving two other sheds and adding a new 18,000 square foot shed to the rear of the property, in order to improve the flow of truck traffic on the site. A new entrance drive would be able to accommodate at least four tractor trailers waiting to enter the site.

Bob Bossard, manager of the building supply business, said typically 10 to 15 tractor trailers enter the site a day, and the parking lot can only accommodate two at a time. The rest must "stack" up along Route 26 near the business, and in the parking lot of the adjacent Parsell Funeral Home. The 84 Lumber currently shares access from Route 26 with the funeral home.

"I beseech you to help us out," said Pierce Hardy, founder of the 84 Lumber chain, which now has 500 locations. "We've got to get those trucks in and out."

Several residents whose properties abut the proposed expansion spoke in opposition during the hearing. They expressed concern that the septic system serving the site would be underneath the new entrance, and that the truck traffic would damage the system; that stormwater ponding would attract mosquitoes, and that noise toward the back of the property would impact neighbors.

The council voted to defer action.

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