The Sussex County Council is expected to vote next week on whether to approve construction of 200 apartments at the intersection of Railway and Old Mill roads near Millville and Ocean View — a proposed project that has met with considerable opposition.
County Councilman Doug Hudson this week confirmed that the matter will be on the agenda for the Tuesday, June 15, council meeting, but wouldn’t say how he will vote.
“No, because I will have a statement of reasons along with my vote,” he said early this week.
If the council approves the project, Tom Goglia — a member of the Evans Watch Farm Coalition, formed to block the development — told the Coastal Point this week that Coalition members will continue to explore further options to stop it.
“We had a core team meeting … to discuss and explore,” he said of the group’s activities on Tuesday. “The energy is there — fight on,” he said.
Goglia and scores of other area residents attended the Thursday, March 25, Planning & Zoning Commission hearing on the project. After hours of testimony, with no speaker being in favor, P&Z members recommended the project for approval, sparking anger among some.
“Sussex County has completely lost its mind with regards to development,” Bethany Bay resident Don Shope told the Coastal Point at the time.
“I hate 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.
He sent the Coastal Point a picture from a friend who lives in Banks Acres, near the proposed apartments, and said it illustrates flooding coming from Evans Farm, across Railway to Banks Acres.
“The County doesn’t take care of what we have already, yet insists on more building. It makes no sense,” Shope said.
Goglia said he and fellow Coalition members were deeply disappointed in P&Z commissioners, adding that their recommendation “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.
This week, he sent the Coastal Point a statement saying the Coalition “remains optimistic that the Council will see the negative impact this conditional-use development would have on their constituents in the surrounding neighborhoods and deny this application.”
The matter went before the Sussex County Council after the P&Z Commission’s recommendation, and opponents repeated their concerns, but council members deferred voting on it.
“The fact that 13 communities came together to oppose this, along with the signatures of 1,500 petitioners, demonstrates the depth of the opposition to this development design,” Goglia said.
“We feel we made strong, coherent arguments in both the P&Z hearing and the County Council hearing. … We were amused and simultaneously disturbed at being labeled laypeople in the hearings, as if we had inferior knowledge of the area, the parcel and the impact on our neighborhoods. In fact, we are the experts here, because we have invested here, live here, drive the roads, experience the traffic and experience flooding in times of heavy precipitation.
“Overall, we are painfully aware that the lack of road and infrastructure investment has not kept pace with the rapid development in our community,” Goglia wrote in his statement. “A compressed development of 36 buildings in a circled wagon-train design, on a relatively small parcel, will do nothing to add to the character of our community. It will only increase our pain and de-value our investments.
“The County Comprehensive Plan, which calls for development that adds to the character of a community instead of intruding upon it has the force of law is reinforced by Sussex County Code Article 1, Subsection 115-3. It states that development should contribute to the character of the neighborhood, while lessening congestion and conserving property values. This application fails compliance with these requirements,” Goglia wrote.
Although the P&Z Commission imposed requirements for the developer, 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.
Other objectors included a woman who compared overdevelopment in the county to a cancer that will continue to grow simply because residents want to say they live at the beach, and several who said their peace and quality of life are being compromised because of too much development.
Attorney David Hutt of the Morris James law firm in Georgetown, representing the developer, Linder & Co., testified that the proposal is for 17 buildings containing 200 units, with the entrance off Old Mill Road.
Stormwater management is proposed along Railway Avenue. Across the street, there is a farmhouse and chicken coop, which would be removed and replaced with a maintenance building. The older buildings have asbestos, but Hutt said it would be abated during removal.
Apartments would be leased annually, 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, he said.