Ignoring Planning and Zoning Commission recommendations and instead accepting higher density, Sussex County Council members this week voted 4-1 to rezone more than 70 acres of AR-1 land south of Millville to GR-RPC for The Lakelyns, a proposed 265-unit, duplex/single-family-home development.
Sussex County’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously had recommended denial of the higher-density zoning change on Oct. 18.
The AR-1 zone carries a maximum density of two units per acre, while the GR designation allows four units to the acre — and 3.6 units to the acre density was approved Tuesday.
The vote is another of the council’s many for increased density in Baltimore Hundred and yet another that appears question the influence of the advisory-only Planning and Zoning Commission in the months after the commissioners’ denial of increased density in the Milton-area Isaacs Glenn development was also overturned by council.
Council Member George Cole (R-5th), who cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, agreed with the commission’s reasoning in recommending denial of the Lakelyns proposal.
The commission’s reasons in recommending denial, as presented by Commissioner Rodney Smith on Oct. 18, included concerns about higher density and about duplexes being out of character with the area. The property is located south of Millville, at the northeast corner of the intersection of Peppers Corner and Lizard Hill Roads.
“Four units to the acre is excessive,” Cole said. “(And ) duplexes are out of character. I also feel it is a poor design. I support Planning and Zoning’s decision that the property should be denied.”
The property also falls in the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Developing Area and is a Level 4 area — a state designation for areas where the state will not pay for infrastructure improvements related to development.
Vance Phillips (R-4th) — author of the county’s density trade ordinances that requires money for increased density in certain parts of the county — expressed concern about the project, in that the county would receive no financial support from the developer for their decision to allow increased density, but he hailed the project and the need for additional density to be applied to orderly growth within the county.
“I’m not trying to hide the fact that I support higher density,” said Phillips, who ultimately voted in favor of the zoning change. “My interest is seeing that developers pay for that extra density.”
Another ordinance would have to be drafted and approved to allow council to charge for additional density in the area of the application, council attorney Jim Griffin said.
The development proposal presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission by Triple D Double J Inc. in mid-September calls for 111 single-family lots and 154 duplex units in 84 buildings, according to county records.
Some 28 acres of open space are proposed with the development, according to the proposal, and no lots contain wetlands. State comments issued on the proposal in May of 2005 noted that the proposal was an “intense” density for the Environmentally Sensitive Designated Area but did not directly oppose the development. Like the P&Z rulings, state comments on such projects are presented in an advisory capacity only.
Conditions attached to the proposal approved Tuesday included ones stating that the number of units shall not exceed 265, that roadway improvements shall be completed per DelDOT requirements — a traffic study is mandated, according to the PLUS report — and that mandated 60-foot buffers along all property lines must include a 30-foot-wide minimum landscaped buffer. Connection to county sewer, already proposed to expand nearby for other developments — including Millville by the Sea — is also a mandate attached to the approval for Lakelyns.
One nearby resident, Judy Hickman, was present in opposition at the P&Z hearing and voiced concerns about project’s density, as well as the proposed development’s potential impacts on adjacent farmland.