Townhouse project gets preliminary approval

Dagsboro Town Council sent a controversial, 470-unit, medium-density residential project (General’s Green) back to the drawing board last month. At this month’s council meeting, Sept. 28, they waved a 318-unit, high-density townhouse project through preliminary site plan review with barely a comment from the residents.

The difference? This project, the Highlands at Pepper Creek, was already zoned for High-Density Residential (HR) development — about a year ago, according to Council Member Andy Engh.

Designers Doug Warner and Matthew Peterson (Element) represented the application on behalf of developer Mark Chura (Ocean Atlantic), also in attendance. The site plan showed townhouses grouped in sixes, sevens and eights, with a few large, 18-unit buildings, on just slightly less than 40 acres of ground north of Clayton Street, west of the railroad tracks.

Peterson had presented the project as Landing of Pepper’s Creek a few months ago, with 336 units, roughly nine units per acre, gross density. The Highlands at Pepper Creek comes in at approximately eight units per acre.

The townhouses would range between 1,000 and 2,500 square feet in size.

The designers requested private streets, but Town Solicitor Tempe Steen advised council members they couldn’t grant such an exception, in the absence of some unusual feature (topographical, for instance) that would trigger additional consideration. Chura eventually dropped the matter.

Council was more flexible on sidewalks, though. Planner Kyle Gulbronson (URS), on retainer with the town, agreed a well-designed trail system was a plus on two counts: (1) it would reduce impermeable surface, and (2) it would direct foot traffic away from the streets.

He recommended additional trailway interconnects north and west of the project, and the developers noted an emergency vehicles interconnect as well — not a traditional paved street but a roadway nonetheless, constructed of “grasscrete”(cellular, permeable paving surface) and pavers (interlocking, patterned surface).

Council approved the site plan unanimously, as a preliminary.

In other business, council members approved a conditional use for a sales trailer at the new Chapel Crossing development (other side of Clayton Street), and a subdivision for Lingo Street resident Jeannette Snyder.

Steen covered some Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines for council members, reminding them what was and wasn’t appropriate for discussion in executive (private) session.

Main Street resident William Chandler had filed a FOIA complaint against the town, and as of Aug. 18, had a decision from the Attorney General’s office agreeing certain recent council actions should have taken place in the public forum instead.

Those items appeared on the Sept. 28 council agenda, and Steen made sure council formally addressed them, per the Attorney General’s order.

One item related to the agenda itself — council has decided to limit the number of public hearings on any given monthly meeting agenda to two, and the number of additional projects council may consider, on any given agenda, to two also.

Council discussed the possibility of expanding the town’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission, not only in scope of work, but in actual size.

The P&Z had traditionally dealt with matters related to the town’s comprehensive plan — council is considering the institution of a more formal P&Z body, which would receive site plans, subdivisions, etc., from Gulbronson, add comments and pass recommendations along to council.

Council voted unanimously to accept potential commission members not only from the town’s permanent population, but from property owners as well.