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GEORGETOWN -- Nearly 300 Sussex Countians voiced their support and opposition on Tuesday, April 4, 2000, to the proposed rezoning of an 865-acre site west of Fenwick Island that would allow Carl M. Freeman Communities to build a 2,900-home development instead of the 1,900 homes current zoning permits.
The controversial request for the Americana Bayside development has drawn the support of area developers and Freeman employees while raising the ire of southeastern Sussex residents and officials concerned about the size of the project and its impact on the area's environment and infrastructure.
Sussex County Council heard the arguments at a hearing in the CHEER Center near Georgetown. (The county's Planning & Zoning Commission recommended rezoning to allow 2,200 homes on April 13). If granted, Americana Bayside would be one of the county's largest towns by the time building is finished in 8 to 10 years.
At the crux of the hearing was whether the council should change the current AR zoning, which allows one home per 3/4 acre, to MR-RPC zoning, which would allow Freeman Communities to build nearly 4 homes per acre there.
State Rep. Shirley A. Price said her biggest concerns and the ones shared by many of her constituents who are opposed to the development center on the size of the development, and its location near the bay and wetlands immediately surrounding the property.
Price also said she has concerns with providing adequate emergency services and safe, expedient evacuation routes for the coastal communities east of the development, which will be near Williamsville on Route 54.
"I think we are setting ourselves up for a great tragedy," Price said.
However, Carl M. Freeman LLC says it hired experts to examine possible problems and either limit the impact or actually improve the conditions of the area, according to James Fuqua, attorney for the developer.
A traffic study performed by Orth-Rodgers and presented by Robert "Bob" Rodgers showed that with a few alterations the community would have a positive impact on the traffic in that general area.
The study showed the developer would need to alter some intersections and roadways. The study was performed to Delaware Department of Transportation standards, according to Rodgers.
Rodgers said the improvements would alleviate current traffic problems in the area along with projected DelDOT problems that would occur even without the construction of the development.
Over a million dollars of the project's estimated costs are earmarked for road improvements, according to the Orth-Rodgers report.
Jim Willey presented the Nutrient Runoff Exhibit that showed with the planned water management system nitrogen runoff would be reduced by 75 percent a year while phosphorus runoff would be reduced by 42 percent.
The water project will be served by Tidewater Utilities, according to Gerard Esposito of Tidewater Utilities.
He said the water quality is not an issue although it has high levels of iron in it. Iron is commonly found in the water throughout the state, Esposito said.
As for security, the community will have security guards and some land has been set aside for a state police sub station. The developer has also offered the Roxana Volunteer Fire Department a lot for a sub station.
Frank Kea, director of development with Carl M. Freeman, presented the economic impact. Kea said the project would generate nearly $67 million in expenditures over the first five years with an estimation of one-third of that being wages, according to his testimony at the hearing. He did not say if these were new jobs or current ones belonging to employees of the company.
One by one, the developer tried to alleviate or at least answer the questions many residents had. However, many of the speakers who supported the project were employees of the company, with the majority against it being independent of the project.
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