Millsboro annexation approval major step in proposed medical campus

Outlined in yellow, the approximate 39-acre property along US 113 annexed into the town of Millsboro, most of which is earmarked for an ambulatory medical campus through Peninsula Regional Health System Inc. (Submitted graphic)

MILLSBORO — Millsboro’s comprehensive plan has undergone approved revision, and with it, annexation and the green light for plans for a medical campus along U.S. 113.

Following public hearings, Millsboro town council Monday night approved multi-pronged requests followed by annexation of the 39-plus acre Patriots Bluff Commercial parcel earmarked for an ambulatory medical campus in Peninsula Regional Health System Inc.’s healthcare network.

Annexation approval followed council’s prior approval of requests to:

• Amend Millsboro’s comprehensive plan future land use, designating the parcel as highway commercial;

• Designate the parcel as a Phase 1, short-term annexation area within the annexation boundary.

Attorney David Hutt presented the requests on behalf of property owners Virginia Kauffman, Ruthi Adams Joseph, Mel Joseph Jr., Kenneth P. Adams, Tracy L. Adams and Joe Ann Adams – all relatives of the late Melvin Joseph.

“It is important to note – and I don’t think it’s any type of well-kept secret – that the proposed use for approximately 30 of these 39 acres is Peninsula Regional Health System,” said Mr. Hutt. “PRHS seeks to create a medical campus to provide a variety of healthcare services for the growing population not just of Millsboro but of course Sussex County as there is a significant growth going on in many parts of Sussex County, not just here in Millsboro.”

There was no comment during the public hearings.

In a prepared statement earlier this year, Peninsula Regional Health System said “While Millsboro and the surrounding population have been a focus of the system for several years, PRHS seeks to establish an ambulatory campus that will provide an enhanced variety of healthcare services for the community.”

“While those have not been finalized, the new health complex will create jobs and offer services similar to what are available at our other ambulatory campuses. Acute care needs will continue to be supported by the PRHS’s hospitals in Seaford (Nanticoke Memorial) and Salisbury (Peninsula Regional).”

Millsboro councilman Larry Gum said the medical campus is very much needed in Millsboro and the surrounding area.

“All the medical facilities are expanding, but at this point in time none have expanded into Millsboro. So, we still have long trips,” said Mr. Gum. “I think it’s a good thing for Millsboro and for the public.”

Coined Patriot’s Bluff Commercial, the proposed medical campus development will be on the western side of U.S. 113, immediately south of the Woodland Memorial Park Cemetery.

The property is currently used for agriculture. It is contiguous to the town-owned White property off Del. 20.

Mr. Hutt said it is “anticipated that the development of the first 15 acres would bring employment to a little over 100 people with opportunities for 60 to 70 medical technicians and of course then the support staff and physicians that would accompany those technicians.”

The development of the second 15 acres “would likewise similarly duplicate those numbers. So, there is the potential here to create almost 200 jobs, good full-time jobs in the greater Millsboro area,” Mr. Hutt said.

Ken Adams, grandson of the late Melvin Joseph and spokesman for the family, said the agreement with Peninsula Regional Health System will likely include outright sale and leasing of property.

“It’s going to be a combination on part of it. We’re still working out the fine details,” Mr. Adams said. “We’re splitting it for them in half. We’re still working it through the whole complexities of how we do it. The parcel is 39 acres. They are only looking to occupy 30 of it, and then there is nine more of what we would call more medical-related office space.”

Ken Adams

Mr. Adams said he has had frequent communication with Steve Leonard, president/CEO of the Peninsula Regional Health System “through this whole thing, and we are still working out how it all comes together for everybody.”

Mr. Adams said it is too early to identify a timeframe for the project, but his ballpark expectation is that “within a year we’d breaking ground and we’ll be building something. We’re still controlled by the approval process – plan submission, the different agencies – so, it’s going to take a little bit of time.”

Mr. Hutt said annexation of the Patriots Bluff Commercial property will in a way replace land in Millsboro’s northern limits currently zoned highway commercial that may be claimed in the Delaware Department of Transportation’s Millsboro U.S. 113 bypass plans.

“As I think everybody here knows this was intended to be the commercial portion of the Plantation Lakes development. While I don’t believe a final determination has been made, it is generally thought that much, if not most, of that entire 50 acres of highway commercial is going to be acquired by DelDOT through its process as is needed for the Route 113 bypass project,” said Mr. Hutt.

Kyle Gulbronson, the town’s land planning consultant from AECOM, explained that modifications were needed to the town’s existing 2009 comprehensive plan for a change from long-term agricultural to highway commercial and to identify the 39 acres as short-term Phase 1 annexation as opposed to its original Phase 2 identification, which is long term. This came out of the PLUS (Preliminary Land Use Service) meeting in February, he said.

“The Office of State Planning agreed that we could modify these maps through a comp plan amendment based on the conversation that took place during that PLUS meeting,” said Mr. Gulbronson.

Mr. Hutt said all of this is consistent with several goals in Millsboro’s comprehensive plan.

First, Millsboro seeks to remain a center for appropriate and planned growth within Sussex County.

“I think everybody recognizes the speed and the capacity that Millsboro has for development. I believe it is widely known that it is the fastest-growing municipality I believe on the Eastern Shore. So, this would be part of that growth,” said Mr. Hutt.

The second is the town’s focus on office and major employment development in areas that have adequate or planned infrastructure upgrades, and that are located adjacent to existing uses and have access to U.S. 113, Del. 20 and Del. 24, noting that office use should be clustered near the intersections of Del. 20 and U.S. 113 including the proposed U.S. 113 bypass.

Patriots Bluff Commercial has thousands of feet frontage along U.S. 113, said Mr. Hutt.

Another goal in the town’s comprehensive plan is that “Millsboro continues to be a center for educational, medical and other institution uses,” Mr. Hutt said.

Council’s annexation approval included a five-year, phased-in payment of the annexation fee – 20 percent over each of the five years. That was agreed upon by council, with councilman Tim Hodges’ stipulation “as long as the developer doesn’t get ahead of the payment.”