Dagsboro approves big residential project

Final count: 134 single-family homes, 98 single-family detached condominiums, 178 townhouses and 20 apartments. Net density: 3.7 units per acre.

With the project thus configured, Dagsboro Town Council members saw their way to unanimous approval of a change of zone to accommodate a considerably scaled-back General’s Green at the Oct. 24 council meeting.

General’s Green first came before council as 513 residential units, and at a considerably higher 4.4 units per acre density, in June.

Several residents expressed concerns at that time, related to the project’s size and accumulating impact alongside various other proposed residential projects. Counting on three new residents per household, this project alone stood to nearly quadruple the town’s current population by build-out. (According to the U.S. Census, the 2003 population estimate stood at 537).

The new residents won’t arrive overnight. As council has noted in the past, it could easily take the developers another two years to procure all the necessary permits, before they ever scoop the first bucketful of dirt.

And, as one of the conditions of approval, Council Member Jamie Kollock recommended phasing at 75 new homes per year. This would add at least another six years to the project, assuming the builders keep selling enough houses year to year to finance the next phase. That would place build-out in the year 2013.

In the meantime, construction has begun at Chapel Crossing — 98 townhouses, for another 300 new residents, give or take.

And then there’s the Vines Creek Village project, another 52 homes on 23 acres near the National Guard Armory. That project cleared preliminary site plan approval at the Oct. 24 meeting, so add another 150 or so residents.

The Highlands on Pepper’s Creek (formerly the Landing of Pepper’s Creek) received preliminary site plan approval last month — 336 multifamily units, another 1,000 residents.

The Woodlands of Pepper’s Creek is cleared to return for preliminary site plan review — 48 condominiums, another 150 residents.

The Village of Pepper’s Creek, approved as a preliminary — 86 single-family homes, for another 250 residents.

Adding in General’s Green, build-out at just those six projects could lead to a seven-fold increase in the town’s population, to roughly 4,000 people. Or, to look at it another way, just a little less than 20 percent population growth, year after year, for 12 years.

Residents came out for some long, hot, town meetings this summer, expressing concerns about this rapid ramp-up. However, as Council Member Andy Engh noted at the August meeting, there wouldn’t be many large tracts of land left to develop after this sheaf of projects built out.

He defended council’s role in planning responsibly for the future.

“There seems to be a general consensus in town that we just pass everything that comes down the pike,” Engh said. “That isn’t true.”

They’d negotiated down the density at General’s Green, he reminded those at the meeting, and Vines Creek Village had started out as 65 homes (again, now down to 52).

According to town resident Patti Adams, council members had managed to strike a “happy medium.” However, she suggested the large swath of high-density residential (HR) zoning immediately adjacent the General’s Green parcel may have had much to do with controlling the tempo and the tenor of this most recent approval.

Technically, council approved the project for a change of zone from (1) roughly 49 acres of land zoned residential and (2) another 67 acres zoned light industrial, and a combination of parcels, for one roughly 116-acre parcel zoned for HR-residential planned community (RPC).

In addition to the 75-per-year phasing, Kollock added a request for covered stormwater management, rather than exposed ditching. These and all the other details now become matters for discussion at preliminary site plan approval, although council has wrestled with many of them already.