Kent Levy Court leases more land to DE Turf

FREDERICA — Kent County Levy Court commissioners voted 6-1 Tuesday to lease an additional 3.5 acres of county-owned land to the DE Turf Sports Complex in Frederica.

The parcel of land, located at 4558 Bay Road in Frederica, is adjacent to DE Turf and includes an uninhabited 1,709 square foot single-story dwelling.

The county agreed to rent it to the complex for a period of three years at the rate of $1 per year. DE Turf said that it’d like to use the additional parcel for overflow parking and a “hospitality center” for the convenience of tournament officials and trainers during events.

During a brief presentation, Bill Strickland, chairman of DE Turf’s board of directors, thanked the county for its support and pointed to a number of the complex’s recent accomplishments. He said that they’ve booked 20 events for 2017 and an additional 25 for 2018 so far — numbers they expect to triple in the next three years.

One of the 2018 events is US Lacrosse’s 10th annual US Lacrosse Nationals, he said.

The new DE Turf sports complex and interchange. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Although for the time being people using the new overflow parking lot and hospitality center would need to be ferried to and from the property by staff via golf cart, Mr. Strickland says that the added space would an asset.

For most of the commissioners, the proposal was a “yes” without much hesitation.

“Now is not the time to be complacent in supporting this facility,” warned 4th District commissioner Eric Buckson. “It’s under heavy attack from the complex planned in Middletown and now the new one planned for Georgetown. This cannot and will not fail as long as we continue to see that we need to keep up with our support of the turf. This is an easy decision tonight, there may be tougher ones coming down the road. Don’t blink — let’s make sure we keep this project where it belongs.”

However, 2nd District commissioner James Hosfelt, the only one to vote against the proposal, said a more flexible lease (either year-to-year or with an opt out) would have better served county taxpayers.

“We’re looking at growth in this area and if we sign a lease for three years at $1 per year with DE Turf and a year later someone comes and wants to buy that property from the county so we can make that money for the taxpayers — how do we get past that?” he said. “I want to protect DE Turf because they’re doing great things, but we also need to protect the taxpayer.”

County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said the land being leased was recently assessed at approximately $550,000.

Responding to Mr. Hosfelt’s concern, Mr. Buckson said the property was originally obtained by the county with the intention of restraining private development on it.

“That property was purchased to protect the area around our public works facility down there — to protect its boundaries,” Mr. Buckson said. “It would go outside our original thinking to actually sell it off for commercial development.”

Mr. Petit de Mange confirmed that the land purchased around the county’s wastewater treatment plant, which is around 650 acres all told, was purchased to create a “buffer” for the facility. Because the county didn’t have the intention to sell or otherwise develop the land, they were able to partner with DE Turf and rent the portion of the land the complex currently sits on under 60-year lease at a rate of $1 per year.

“We were trying to protect the land from incompatible uses,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “The last thing we needed right next to the wastewater treatment plant was a high concentration of suburban houses.”

Mr. Strickland said in the short run the extra overflow parking will help DE Turf book larger clients because they can be assured to have the space to necessary to accommodate them.

He also said the complex will look into further possibilities for the on-site building and for including and entry and paved parking there, however, development changes of that scope will have to be approved by the county’s planning department.

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