On the surface, Schooner Landing could be just another housing development coming to Sussex County. There will be 132 residential lots, a clubhouse, pool and park, all at the northwest corner of Route 54 and Polly Branch Road.
But, more importantly, it is hoped that its presence could help reduce the occasional loitering and drug trade that have upset neighbors in Selbyville — or at least move it elsewhere. That’s because Schooner Landing will completely surround the cemetery and replace about 60 acres of woodlands with residential development.
A year ago, nearby residents of Bunting’s Mill described Polly Branch Road as an “open-air drug market.” But on Nov. 5, the Selbyville Town Council unanimously approved Schooner Landing’s preliminary site plan, at the recommendation of the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Although the State’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) suggested that Polly Branch Road would need to be realigned to meet Route 54 at a safer right angle (versus the existing sharp angle), the developers indicated that they would not be updating the intersection — only adding a turn lane and widening Polly Branch.
Stanley Halle Companies is developing the two large parcels (tax map ID: 533-17.00-107, 108 and 109), which surround the old graveyard. They’ll tidy the cemetery and remove the main entrance from Polly Branch Road, with cemetery visitors using the neighborhood’s main entrance instead.
“I think it’ll be good to clean up that corner, because we’ve had problems with that road in the past,” said Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle on Nov. 5.
Part of the challenge was that the cemetery and its driveway are not officially part of the town, although it’s surrounded by incorporated areas of Selbyville. Neither the developers nor Town Hall this week discussed details about annexing the property or changing boundary lines where the exiting driveway will become housing lots.
Planners were also cognizant of drainage issues at neighboring Victoria Forest, which emphasized the importance of good onsite stormwater management in the new development.
They also discussed walking paths, Town-maintained roads, water and sewer. There will be no duplexes or apartments, just single-family homes. The proposed neighborhood was formerly called Strawberry Ridge and also The Tides.
Questions about cul-de-sac rules were brushed aside, since the Residential Planned Community (RPC) overlay allows the town council to flex zoning rules in order to design a good plan. (Moreover, officials said the question may have stemmed from an error written into the zoning code.)
Developers hope to have approvals by early summer, begin clearing the land and then start building in just over a year, in the winter of 2020.
Allen Halley is the president of the company his father started, Stanley Halle Companies. The same developer also built the 128-lot Lighthouse Crossing community nearby. The engineer is Zach Crouch of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc.
In other Selbyville town council news:
• Business owners on Discovery Lane asked the town council about an update on unfinished paving and stormwater maintenance in their business park. Tom Taylor of Farlow & Taylor Construction said they’ve been waiting more than a decade for a fully paved road.
“I know everybody’s busy, but 12 years — I would think it’s about that time,” Taylor said. “We’re not picking on anyone. … We just want to get it straightened away.”
Councilman Jay Murray offered some hope by saying that Discovery Lane’s new owner, Jeff Wilgus, also appears interested in fixing the problems. When the road is complete, it can be dedicated to the Town for future maintenance. Murray also suggested the people form a property owners’ association for mowing, landscaping and pond maintenance.
“That’s something you need to work out with Mr. Wilgus,” Murray said.
Murray said upgrades are part of the new ownership agreement, but the Town will ensure the quality of road construction “to make sure it’s up to spec.” Otherwise, despite direct questions from those in attendance at the Nov. 5 meeting, Murray wouldn’t speak to past problems or past ownership.
They also discussed safety concerns about snow plowing, pond overflow and uneven road ledges, where an elderly parishioner reportedly fell.
• After 40 days of not getting the bites they wanted for a job opening, the Selbyville Police Department is now accepting applications from new recruits. Although a Delaware-certified police officer is considered ideal, the Town is willing to send a new hire to the police academy, although that means months of training before that officer could be on the streets. Applications are being accepted for another month.
• People can now pay utility bills and property taxes online with a credit card, at http://selbyville.delaware.gov.
• The Selbyville Christmas Parade will be Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
• In the industrial park, internet sales distributer Avalanche Industries was given permission to add a 9,936 square-foot warehouse and receiving building at 144 Dixon Street.
• Selbyville Town Hall will once again be a drop-off location for gently used “Coats & Sweats for Vets” in a donation campaign in December.
• Mountaire has begun demolishing some old buildings to create a park and parking area for employees between Church Street, Dukes Street and Railroad Avenue. They invited the town council to give input, and the police chief suggested lighting would help.
• The town council approved a property line adjustment for Orville and Deborah Hudson, in order to clean up setbacks before their property is sold.
• Roughly 200 pounds of unused medicine was turned in to the Selbyville Police Department at the recent Drug Take-Back Day event.
• Nearly 600 people visited the Haunted Library in Selbyville on Halloween.
The Selbyville Town Council’s next meeting is Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m.
By Laura Walter