Dagsboro diverts development

Dagsboro Town Council voted unanimously, in consecutive motions, to send two potential residential housing projects back to the drawing board for refinement at the Aug. 26 town council meeting.

Representatives from Riverview Associates waited as Town Clerk Stacey Long read into the record one letter in support of the General’s Green mixed-use residential development (north side of Clayton Street) — and then, several in opposition.

Neighboring property owner and 40-year Dagsboro resident Edward Burton supported the project. However, in her letter, Cathy Flowers said she’d been on the original team that created the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and everyone had opposed high density at that time.

Cindy Cohen seconded that — “It’s tempting to give the go-ahead to all who ask for it,” she wrote. “But it’s taken generations to build the relationships that are passed from one homeowner to another.

“Once land has been cleared, the trees gone and the natural habitat and wildlife destroyed, the neighborhood will have lost its identity and Dagsboro will look exactly like every other overdeveloped community saying ‘Oops,’” Cohen’s letter concluded.

William Dehaven went further in his letter, quizzing council on their motivations. “Is the town being forced by the State of Delaware or some other governmental entity to accept multifamily housing,” he asked.

Attorney Dennis Schrader had detailed the project at a public hearing in July. Although the developers were applying for various changes of zone, to High-Density Residential, Residential Planned Community (HR/RPC), they had reduced density somewhat since first bringing the project before the town.

General’s Green started out as 513 housing units (half of those to be single-family homes, with the rest in townhouses and apartments). Schrader’s most recent proposal was for 470 — on approximately 116 acres, a gross density of little more than four units per acre.

However, as planning consultant Kyle Gulbronson (URS) noted, that ratio didn’t reflect the acreage that developers would be able to use in any event (wetlands and associated easements, streets).

To judge from public response, it was still too much at 470 units — and council concurred. Mayor Brad Connor based his opinion on traffic concerns.

“Having served on the Route 113 committee (U.S. 113 North/South Study), which has been studying traffic and how to get that traffic through town — whether to do a bypass, on of the different options they’ve presented — that study is three to five years out from any decision,” Connor said.

He also noted what he considered a lack of “flow” through the proposed layout. “My recommendation would be to scale it back to three units per acre, which would concede to the comprehensive plan,” he concluded. At that density, General’s Green could accommodate 345 residential housing units.

“I’m well aware of the sentiment around town for lowering the density,” Connor interjected. “The concerns you’ve all expressed do mean a lot to us, and we are addressing them.”

Connor asked for a motion. Council Member Andy Engh directed a question to attorney Dennis Schrader, representing the applicants — would he consider lowering the density to three per acre. Schrader hedged, and Engh moved to deny the application for change of zone outright.

That motion died, but Council Member Kurt Czapp came back with a motion to table the request, with the directive that the developers some back a design showing three units per acre. Czapp’s motion passed unanimously — Schrader left shaking his head.

“I’ve never seen that before,” he said. “My client and I have to discuss what that means, and what we will do to respond to it.”

Next up and down, John Murray (Kercher Engineering) presented the Village at Pepper Creek — 86 single-family homes on 42 acres, near the John M. Clayton School (west of Main Street). Engh made the motion to table, with the recommendation that Murray revisit the cluster ordinance and work some additional elements into the design (recreational amenities, for instance).

That motion passed unanimously as well.

In other business, engineer Chuck Hauser (Davis, Bowen & Friedel) delivered an update on the town’s central water system.

McGinn General Contractors had balked at installing sidewalks on the opposite side of the street using the same materials prices they’d signed on for in the original contract, Hauser reported. Those costs had increased dramatically since the project began, and the contractors had come back with a figure almost twice as high.

Hauser said they’d rejected that, and planned to re-bid. Also, now that McGinn’s plumbing and pipe crew had finished up, he said the town needed to find a way to handle the short runs between buildings and mains.

He said Artesian could handle it. However, company representatives had informed him they would simply turn around and hire someone else to do it, so the town would be better off cutting out a step. Hauser suggested going out for “short” bids, on a time and materials basis.

Council also discussed some ordinances that will appear at next month’s meeting (Sept. 26) for public hearing. One deals with temporary trailers on construction sites (would create a conditional use category), one covered definitions to distinguish between apartment units and condominium units (housing type, rather than ownership classification).

Council Member Jamie Kollock covered a purchasing policy, and council revisited Main Street resident William Chandler’s request for a more clearly delineated policy, regarding the town’s check-off on a “Certificate of Compliance” before businesses could proceed to formal requests for liquor licenses.

• There was discussion regarding whether the town should post ordinances on the internet, or sell paper copies (council opted for the latter — $45 for the works, collated and bound).

• Council members unanimously approved another three-year contract with auditors Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner.

• They agreed to set up an escrow account, into which developers would contribute to defray Town Solicitor Tempe Steen’s expenses at the time they filed an application, much as they’ve done to cover Gulbronson’s charge for site plan review.

• Chandler, and others, again petitioned council to give the town’s Planning Commission a greater role, especially in reviewing plans for new developments, and they set up a meeting to discuss that further (Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., at the Bethel Center on Clayton Street).

• And finally, Kollock announced that Town Manager Jim Michael had turned in his resignation. “We appreciate everything Jim’s done for us, and we’ll be looking for someone of his professionalism,” Kollock noted.