Scaled-back development revived south of Smyrna


Two public notice signs at the future housing development called Auburn Meadows on Brenford Road near Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

SMYRNA — Auburn Meadows, a planned 465 mixed-unit development south of Smyrna, was originally approved by the Kent County Levy Court in 2006 and Regional Planning Commission in 2007. It was never built. The project is now being resuscitated.

Developer Darley Properties LLC resubmitted the plan with modifications Dec. 20 to the Levy Court where it met with unanimous approval — it now moves on to the commission’s public hearing Thursday.

First District Levy Court Commissioner P. Brooks Banta, whose district the proposed development is in, said the modifications go another step toward bringing the development in line with the surrounding area.

“In the original 2006 plan, 96 of the dwellings were going to be single family and 369 were townhouses,” he said. “Now, they want to bring in just 262 single-family dwellings. I think these revisions will result in a development that comports better with the surrounding area and it will be a positive addition to the community.”

The development is slated to be an age-restricted community. According to John Tracey, an attorney representing Darley Properties, the age-restricted housing categorization essentially means that 80 percent of the homes have to be occupied by at least one person 55 or older.

Mr. Banta feels this distinction also makes the development more appropriate for the area and meets the rising housing demands of that demographic.

“The age-restriction fits well with the area,” he said. “Quality of life in Kent County is constantly improving and people need to settle in a comfort zone that meets their lifestyle.”

The proposed location for the 107-acre development is on the southeast side of Brenford Road, northeast of Hillyard Road and south of Smyrna — an area currently considered to be “unimproved farmland.” This would put Auburn Meadows in the Smyrna School District and Cheswold Fire District. It will be served by Tidewater Utilities and Kent County for sewer.

Nearly seven acres is being retained as recreational space and about 17 acres saved for woodlands. Amenities are to include a clubhouse, landscaping and walking paths.

Feeling comfortable with the approval, Mr. Banta says the court was unable to turn up anyone who objected to the project.

“All the property owners in that general area were notified about the public hearing and no one has voiced any opposition,” he said. “I’ve not even received any phone calls on it.”

He also noted that both the developer and engineer assigned to the project maintain a good reputation in the county.

“The Becker Morgan Group, who are the engineers, do a great job,” he said. “I’ve never had a situation with them that couldn’t be resolved and everything has always gone according to schedule. We only have a little experience with Darley Properties, but what we have had has been very satisfactory.”

Official construction has not yet begun.

“The only work that has occurred on the property at this point is site work pursuant to the original plan,” said Mr. Tracey. “The Regional Planning Commission and the Department of Planning Services need to approve the revised plans before house construction can commence.”

Members of the public have an opportunity to comment at the next Regional Planning Commission public hearing on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Levy Court chambers, Room 203 of the Kent County Administrative Complex, 555 Bay Road in Dover.

Mr. Banta speculates that the original development plan was postponed due to the financial slump and that the project revitalization is a sign of local economic health.

“Originally they probably decided to pull back because of the recession,” he said. “I’ve been watching the home sales in Kent County though, and it’s amazing how much they’ve increase from 2007 through 2010. Home prices are still reasonable, it’s not like it was with those $490,000 houses. There are a lot selling now for around $295,000. This is a good indicator for a positive outcome.”

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