New 262-home development in Smyrna clears final public hearing

SMYRNA — A proposed 262-single-family dwelling development in Smyrna, called Auburn Meadows, met with silence from the public at the Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) final hearing on Thursday night.

“There was no public dissent or support, just the applicant,” said Kent County Department of Planning Services Director Sarah Keifer “It was a non-event.”

Auburn Meadows was originally planned as 465 mixed-unit development when it was approved in 2006 by the Kent County Levy Court. It was never built. The project was recently resuscitated, and is now being pursued in a scaled down form that includes only 262 homes.

Developer Darley Properties LLC resubmitted the plan with modifications Dec. 20 to the Levy Court where it met with unanimous approval, and again, no dissent from the public.

The development is slated to be an age-restricted community. According to John Tracey, a lawyer 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.

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.

The recent RPC meeting was the final public hearing. The project is now subject to the commission’s internal approval which will be decided at next week’s business meeting. Ms. Keifer expects no issue.

“After that, they will finish up the engineering plan for the project and get all the approvals from the various state agencies that they need to continue,” she said.

DelDOT, the fire marshal and Kent Conservation District will all need to submit letter of “no objection” before the RPC does it’s final review.

“Once that happens they can record and building permits can be issued,” said Ms. Keifer. “I have no reason to believe that this process will be held up.”

First District Levy Court Commissioner P. Brooks Banta, whose district the proposed development is in, said he anticipates the project will go through to completion smoothly as well and will be a great addition to 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.”

Mr. Banta speculates that the original development plan was postponed due to the recession 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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