Development of Little Heaven and Frederica areas to be discussed

DOVER — Two upcoming workshops are likely to have a significant impact on the future development of both Little Heaven and the area south of Frederica.

The workshops are the latest in a series of meetings that are part of a master planning process for the two areas pinned to Kent County’s comprehensive plan published last year.

Both held at the Kent County Administrative Complex on 555 Bay Road in Dover, the meeting on Wednesday will focus on Little Heaven, and the meeting on Sept. 9 will hold discussion on south Frederica.

The public is encouraged to attend and share feedback on commercial, industrial and recreational development proposed for the areas.
Both areas have received increased attention since the construction of the DE Turf Sports Complex and completion of DelDOT’s extensive overpass project along the Del. 1 corridor.

Kent County’s staff, politicians and business advocates believe that because of increased access to “infrastructure,” development in the area is inevitable. For these reasons, they were set aside for “master planning.”

Kent County staff gave a presentation to Levy Court in June on the drafting work completed in early 2019. Working alongside state agencies, utilities, business interests, community groups and, perhaps most importantly, local residents, the county has attempted to bring together all the stakeholders to agree on the area’s destiny.

Though their master plan is still a draft, organizers say that it will provide a blueprint for development that was pre-agreed upon by local land owners and lays out zoning appropriately.

Kent County administrator Michael Petit de Mange believes that both areas can develop into large employment centers.

Areas planned for development around Little Heaven.

“The reason these areas have been designated for employment center development is to bring quality jobs to central Delaware — not just retail and service type jobs — but corporate and high quality, high-paying jobs,” he said in June. “And we’ll be marketing these areas for those types of uses. We’re very interested in sustainable design and energy efficiency uses on these properties so that they’re good stewards of the resources we do have.”

Kent Economic Partnership president Gregory Moore said a well-laid plan for the area is a precondition for proper development.

“Why this is important is that site selectors and big businesses want to know that there are large areas of land that are ready for development,” he said in June. “They want to know the areas has been planned, they’ve been zoned and streamlined, processed and utilities are available. That’s why we think this planning is essential and important to utilize the infrastructure the state has delivered to us on Route 1 and to prepare the land for big businesses.”

Urging residents to attend
At the June meeting, some local residents were not as enthusiastic. A farmer noted that planning the area in such a way would encourage uses that pushed out agriculture and a Frederica resident said she’d prefer more parkland and sidewalks. Commissioners encouraged residents to get involved in the process and said that by planning the area in advance, the county could avoid piecemeal rezoning requests that could leave the area a disorganized hodgepodge of development.

Representing residents on the workshop committee, local Boyd White, who’s been living in the Little Heaven and Magnolia area since 1968, urges fellow citizens to attend the upcoming workshops. Though he says the master planning workshops seem to have been held in good faith, he believes there has not been enough input from locals. He expressed concern that the process has moved “too fast” and will leave many “questions unanswered” as the plan is submitted to the state for approval.

“The committee has briefly discussed possible uses for the master plan areas, however in my opinion, those discussions were broad based and at this stage I’m not sure what specific uses will be permitted,” he said.
“The committee really needs guidance from the residents and from the planning department regarding type of uses for these areas. Residents need to speak up say what they like to see and not see in their community provided they have been given all the proper information.”

Mr. White also worries that business interests and developers have been overrepresented in the planning process.

“After the committee is done and the master plans go to the State PLUS (Preliminary Land Use Service), then residents will no longer have a voice in the matter,” he said. “In my opinion, the master planning is a tool to help developers and businesses fast track projects for approval with no additional public comments. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of acres available for this type of development in or near local municipalities. I’m confused why this employment center is being planned for Little Heaven when more appropriate land which already has infrastructure are available — for example, Garrison Oak Business Park off Rt. 1.”

For information and updates on the master planning process, visit co.kent.de.us/ or call (302) 744-2471.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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