The Sussex County Council this week, after hearing more than five hours of testimony overwhelming opposed to the construction of 200 new apartments on a site near Millville and Ocean View, deferred their decision to approve or deny the application.
The apartments are proposed for the intersection of Railway and Old Mill roads. The County’s Planning & Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the project.
After the unanimous council vote to defer at the Tuesday, April 20, council meeting, Councilman Mark Schaefer said it’s clear a Transportation Improvement District “needs to happen sooner than later.”
Known as a TID, the purpose of such a district is to coordinate land use and transportation and see that required improvements are made.
Schaefer also called for upgrading signage “in advertising and zoning of land-use applications.” Kent and New Castle counties have 4-foot-by-4-foot signs and Sussex County should, too, he said.
Council members heard most of the same arguments against the apartments that were expressed at the March 25 public hearing before the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission, including comparisons of overdevelopment to a cancer that will continue to grow simply because residents want to say they live at the beach.
Several others said their peace and quality of life are being compromised because of too much development.
At the P&Z hearing, Tom Goglia, representing opponents with the Evans Farm Watch Group, called the proposed apartments “the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time,” especially since traffic is heavy now and when beach traffic arrives this summer, drivers will sit at some intersections for five traffic light cycles before being able to turn, he said.
After the P&Z Commission recommended approval by a 4-1 vote, many residents were disappointed, and some were outraged.
Bethany Bay resident Don Shope said he “hates the idea of 200 apartments jamming our roadways and exploiting our limited resources, effectively blocking the roads we have to use daily.”
“Any jerk with a bag of money gets approved, and let the residents suffer. If I want daily beltway traffic delays, I’ll move back to D.C. The P&Z Commission is ruining the area for everyone,” Shope said.
Although the commission recommended conditions be imposed if the project is approved, Ocean View resident Dave Bartlett called them “boilerplate conditions,” such as asking that trees are planted and existing soil not be disturbed, and verifying where the bus stop will be for students attending Lord Baltimore Elementary School.
“It’s amazing they won’t listen to reason. It will never change. It will take a biblical event for that to change,” Bartlett said about commission members, who he said he feels “rubberstamp every development.”
Goglia told the Coastal Point that he and fellow opponents were “obviously disappointed in the commission’s decision” to recommend approval.
“We feel strongly that they have ignored the voices of the citizens they are empowered to represent. They have either ignored or failed to properly consider the major issues and concerns we raised at the public hearing. Our community is more at risk today as a result of this decision,” he said.
The plan is for the apartments to be annually leased, with rent ranging from $1,300 to $1,900 monthly, with a maximum of two people per bedroom. The number of apartments would be equal to 113 single-family homes.