Sussex County Delaware

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750 Homes Planned
Near Wildlife Area

SC Online Content Editor

GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council deferred action on Tuesday, April 15, 2003, on a 750-home development proposed near the Assawoman Bay Wildlife Area south of Ocean View.

The community, to be known as The Palisades, would be built on 354 acres on both sides of Sussex Road 364 (Camp Barnes Road), one-half mile southeast of Sussex Road 363 (Double Bridges Road) and on both sides of Sussex Road 364A (Miller Neck Road).

A dozen residents of the area around the proposed site spoke in opposition to the project. Most cited concerns about increased traffic in an area that is currently quite rural, and about the impact of the development on the surrounding wildlife and waterways.

Since The Palisades is not near an existing county sewer district, the developers plan to use what they call a "state-of-the-art" drip irrigation system to disperse the estimated 225,000 to 270,000 gallons of treated wastewater estimated to be produced by the development daily once it is completed.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has issued a "nonbinding statement of feasibility" regarding the proposed system, and has complimented developers on their efforts to come up with an environmentally friendly solution to the wastewater issue.

But the Office of State Planning and Coordination has expressed concerns about the development, saying it "has the potential to alter the hydrology of the area" and harm a rare species of grass located in the adjacent wildlife area. Hirt's Panic Grass is located in the Assawoman refuge and only three other places in the world.

The state planning office also said the destruction of 100 acres of forest will "fragment the forest" and will "greatly diminish" its value to plants and animals that live there, and that the loss of woodlands, even without the 750 homes, would "contribute to the continued degradation" of the Inland Bays water quality.

The developers, meanwhile, said they would only clear 17 percent of the wooded area of the site.

Resident David Kramer presented a petition bearing 80 signatures of other area residents opposing the development. "I can't imagine what 750 homes will do to the Assawoman wildlife refuge," Kramer said.

Another resident, Robert Criswell, said he felt the plans were completely out of character with the area. "Nowhere on our neck has that density," Criswell said. Miller Neck Road resident Richard D'Onofrio agreed, saying, "it's not a place to put Shangri La, out in the middle of nowhere."

Several of the residents who spoke said they didn't feel the council should approve a development that large in an area without public sewer service. "It's not supposed to be developed until sewer comes," D'Onofrio said.

County Council member George Cole quizzed representatives of the developers on exactly what "town center" the proposed site is near. The 2002 Comprehensive Land Use Plan calls for development, particularly in the area surrounding the Inland Bays, to be targeted for areas that already have public sewer and other infrastructure. They initially said "Bayard" and "Roxana," but Cole opined that those are not town centers. "The closest town with a town council," he said, would be Ocean View, which would be several miles away.

After the April 15 hearing, the county council followed the lead of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which deferred a decision on the proposal following a March 27 hearing. Cole attempted to have the record left open for another two weeks for further information from the applicant, and two weeks past that for responses, but his motion died for lack of a second.

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