Sussex P&Z defers action on Royal Farms preliminary plans

LEWES — It’s back to the drawing board for a proposed convenience store royalty near Five Points.

Royal Farms wants to build its first store in the Lewes area near often-congested Five Points, a crossroad/intersection that for nearly a year has been the focus of a working group formed in concert with the Delaware Department of Transportation to examine potential improvements.

The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has concerns with Royal Farms proposal, predominantly regarding proposed parking and safety.

The commission at its Nov. 29 meeting voted unanimously to defer action on preliminary site plans for Royal Farms Store 255.

“It was a safety issue as far as I was concerned,” said commission vice chairwoman Kim Hoey Stevenson of Lewes, who resides in District 3.

As presented, plans call for 5,000-plus square-foot convenience store, eight fueling stations, a loading space and parking on 4.98 acres on the south side of Del. 1 and north side of U.S.9/SR 404 near Lewes.

Preliminary plans call for upward of 12 parking spaces in the front-yard setback for which commission approval is required. Plans were prepared for Two Farms Inc., by the Becker Morgan Group.

With recommendations, the commission deferred action following concerns voiced by Ms. Hoey Stevenson.

“That is my big concern here, that all of the parking that they have to the north side of that building, I’d like to have the whole building moved over and get rid of that parking there. And I certainly don’t want any parking in the setback.”

“It (setback approval) is something that we allowed in the past, but the direction now is more toward not doing that, because what happens is, is that if there is ever a widening or something of the road and those vehicles have to be displaced, then you’ve got a problem,” said Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley. “That is one of the reasons why we are looking at that perhaps more carefully now. It just didn’t look like very good circulation.”

“Parking in the front setback, that is one of the things we are really trying to do away with, just so it’s not something that future generations have to deal with either,” said Ms. Hoey Stevenson.

“So, if they are expanding the road or doing some other work … that ‘well wait a minute we’ve always had 12 parking spaces here or however many.’ We’re trying to look to the future and head off some problems.”

Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson, the county’s legal liaison for county planning and zoning, reminded commissioners that this is a commercial site plan. “You all have the ability to review with respect to traffic and circulation patterns, internal and external,” Mr. Robertson said.

Mr. Robertson’s recommendation for proper procedure was for the commission to deny the preliminary site plan with recommendations.

“That is my recommendation, that we deny this site plan with the recommendation that the parking to the north side of the building be eliminated to allow for better traffic flow, and parking also be taken out of the front-yard setback,” said Ms. Hoey Stevenson.

As proposed, the Royal Farms would be located between Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M & T Bank) and Bests’ Ace Hardware.

Thomas Best & Sons and Bests’ Store Inc. are owners the property, which is located within the combined highway corridor overlay zone. Zoning is General Commercial. County staff are in receipt of all agency approvals.

The Five Points Transportation Study Working Group, comprised of more than a dozen members, has met several times in formulating recommendations for improvements geared to reduce congestion and improve capacity on Del. 1 (Coastal Highway) as well as move local traffic around the corridor without having to consistently utilize Coastal Highway.

In the Five Points area, DelDOT’s Plantation Road realignment and improvement project is already on the books. The project is in design, the first public workshop about the concept was held in February 2018, said DelDOT spokesman Charles McCleod.

Project Plantation Road project includes operational improvements consisting of turn lanes and other intersection improvements, median turn lanes for residential entrances, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities throughout the corridor.

Realignment of the northern portion of Plantation Road/Beaver Dam Road near the US 9 intersection.

“Also, some of the feedback and ideas we’ve gathered from the Working Group are now going to be incorporated into planned projects in the Five Points area,” said Mr. McCleod.

That includes:

• Emergency pre-emption opticoms for traffic signals which we anticipate being installed next year;

• Tulip Drive connection to SR 1 will be incorporated into the Minos Conway project;

• Realignment of Old Orchard Road project will fill gaps in the sidewalk along Savannah Road.

Upgrades and other improvements may at some point be earmarked for the location.

“We have met with the developer and shared with them our plan and that we won’t approve any development that will interfere with infrastructure improvements,” said Mr. McCleod.

“That being said, we are still assessing whether the state needs to purchase this property.”

Royal Farms, a privately-owned chain of convenience stores headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, operates more than 200 stores throughout Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.

Earlier this year Royal Farms opened a store along US 113 in Millsboro and has also unveiled plans for new stores in Harbeson and Selbyville.

The company also plans to relocate its Dagsboro store location from the southeast quadrant of the US 113/SR 26 intersection to the north side.

 

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