Dagsboro considers planning commission

Dagsboro Town Council took another look at the Village on Pepper Creek application at the May 23 council meeting, now revised for consideration as 88 single-family homes. The parcel lies west of Main Street, near the old Indian River High School.

Kercher Engineering’s John Murray had presented the project last month as 100 homes — a large Phase I, and two small phases of seven homes apiece, pending favorable wetlands delineation.

Murray planned to leave two lots undeveloped, in case the applicant might be able to come back later and put roads through those lots to the second and third phases.

Last month, the town’s planning consultant, Kyle Gulbronson (URS) questioned Murray’s open space set-asides, but this month, Dagsboro resident William Chandler had a more general objection.

“You’ve created a process I believe is flawed, by allowing applicants to bring projects to come to you on a piecemeal basis, and basically ask for an advanced ruling,” he said.

“Number one, residents who might have objections have to attend every single meeting, because they don’t know what’s being approved or when,” Chandler pointed out. “It’s not a proper process, it’s not fair to make people come here month after month – and it’s not fair to the applicants, either.”

He suggested the town reinstate a planning commission.

Council Member Clay Hall said they were working with the only procedure they knew, and they had Gulbronson on board to help them through that procedure.

According to Town Solicitor Tempe Steen, the town did have a planning commission back in 1992, but did away with it, because at the time, there was no need.

Other than the Cea-Dag apartment complex, the only applications coming before the town were for development on single lots, she said.

Steen said some applicants brought their plans to the town before state Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) review, some after PLUS and others had gone back and forth — “maybe that’s what Mr. Chandler is referring to,” she suggested.

Several council members predicted difficulties in finding willing volunteers — especially qualified volunteers — and Council Member Jamie Kollock asked what effect such a move would have on Gulbronson’s present role.

However, Gulbronson said he worked with a number of towns, and very few didn’t have some form of planning commission.

Meanwhile, the motion to schedule the Village on Pepper Creek development for public hearing died for lack of a second. Murray said he considered council’s inaction a consensus to defer, or postpone. He said he would confer with the applicants, and see if they wanted to try for a spot on the agenda again next month.

Chandler had some other issues, and passed council members copies of a letter dated May 20, addressed to Mayor Brad Connor. Therein Chandler noted conversation with the county regarding a formal process Dagsboro could use to send proposed projects through county engineering.

As Chandler relayed, Assistant County Engineer Russ Archut and County Engineer Mike Izzo, “were aware of some of the major rezonings and annexations in the Town of Dagsboro, but they were not aware of all of them.

“They advised that the Dagsboro-Frankford sewer facility, as it presently exists, would not come close to handling the EDUs (equivalent dwelling units — basically, one single-family house equals one EDU) that Dagsboro already had pending as proposed developments,” the letter continued.

There were only 400 EDUs in the entire sewer district, Chandler noted — he recommended an immediate moratorium on all annexations, rezonings, subdivisions and major site plan developments, other than on existing, single-family lots.

The county just began contract negotiations with a consultant for a Dagsboro-Frankford (and West Sussex) Planning Area sewer study, but Chandler anticipated another four to six years in research, then recommendation and design, before they could offer any additional EDUs.

He also recommended the town negotiate a formal agreement with Frankford — they may want a few EDUs for their own developments. (Reached for comment, Frankford Council President Robert Daisey said he and Connor had indeed discussed the issue, and he considered Connor sensitive to Frankford’s plans.)

Council took no action on Chandler’s letter, having only just received it.

At the county, Izzo said they typically tried to work with each town’s comprehensive plans, with a goal of providing service to everyone. However, he also said the Piney Neck Regional Wastewater Facility that serves both Dagsboro and Frankford had a certain set capacity, and open communication between county and towns was the only way to ensure everyone’s needs were managed fairly.

Archut said the county had the ability to impose phasing on development at so many units per year.

At the same time, Archut agreed they needed a lot of information in order to do that, and the pending planning area study would be the first one conducted since the late 1980s. Since then, municipal comprehensive plans had changed, and in some cases, towns had built in high-density zoning the county hadn’t anticipated, and not necessarily where they’d built excess capacity into the system.

Moving on to other business, council did approve Mike Cummings’ request for a pair of triple-wide commercial trailers on his parcel next to Mediacom, where he will be able to accommodate his prospective clients until their office building is completed.

Engineer Chuck Hauser (Davis, Bowen & Friedel) said town water was available — Town Clerk Stacey Long said only one person had hooked in so far, but they had plenty of applications.

Council Member Andy Engh asked him if he’d talked to Frankford about a possible emergency-only interconnect. Hauser said that would be a political decision — he didn’t believe Millsboro (they supply the water) would be opposed, as long as Dagsboro officials would give notification whenever they opened the interconnection.

Connor said he had no reason to believe Frankford would be opposed, but he would ask Daisey for a formal letter. Hauser said the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) typically encouraged such interconnections.