On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, the City of Milford Planning Commission held a public hearing regarding proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The Planning Commission, under authority of the City Council, recommends any amendments made to the Comprehensive Plan every five years. The last plan was completed in 2008.
At the public hearing, three suggested amendments to the plan were presented to the council by City Planner, Gary Norris. These amendments included rezoning of land owned by the Lynch family, located off of New Wharf Road, from open space to commercial use; rezoning of land owned by Elmer Fannin and the Mills Family be rezoned as business park; and rezoning lands near Bayhealth’s Milford Memorial Hospital as institutional.
Norris explained to the commissioners that David Edgell of the Office of State Planning expressed concerns about development of the land on New Wharf Road. Some of these concerns included the size of the parcel and traffic and highway safety issues. In addition, the Lynch family has requested that the land be annexed into the city, which the state finds concerning as there is no connectivity to the rest of the city from this land. Edgell also indicated that the state always expected land east of Route 1 to remain open space and that development would be limited.
“Part of the land will be used by DelDot to create an overpass at Route 14, but at the last meeting I attended, I learned that the overpass in that location is not anticipated to be completed until 2020,” Norris explained.
“We do not feel the state understands that there is already development east of Route 1,” said Dave Kenton, the realtor representing the Lynch family. “Lighthouse Properties is east of Route 1, and Mr. Fannin received approval for a business park that is very close to the Lynch property.” Kenton went on to say that the Delaware Department of Agriculture labeled the land “agricultural preservation,” and it was placed in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan as open space without anyone contacting the Lynch family.
“It is the Lynch’s understanding that the overpass at Route 14 is scheduled to be completed by 2016, and this overpass is part of the problem,” Kenton explained. “We had originally been told that the overpass would use about two or three acres. When we got the final plan, we learned that the state would be taking about 25 acres, which are worth about $200,000 per acre, to create the overpass. Of the 96 acres on the parcel, about 30 of them are wetlands. After the overpass is built, this will only leave about 64 acres for development. Now the state is telling the Lynch family that they not only have to give up 25 acres of land, but cannot develop the remaining land. This is essentially confiscation.”
Randy Lynch explained that his family has been planning to develop the property for almost 30 years. His father purchased the land in 1985, had it surveyed and plans created showing the entire property was to be developed, before he passed away.
“This land was always supposed to be developed,” Lynch explained. “We spent five years in a court battle with a partner related to this development and when that was settled, the city told us that we could not do anything with the land until 2013 due to the comprehensive plan, and now the state is telling us we still can’t do anything.”
In addition to the Lynch property, the commissioners heard from Elmer Fannin regarding rezoning of property that is close land already zoned for an industrial park.
“The overpass at Wilkins Road has not moved as quickly as we had hoped, but it is now underway,” Fannin explained. “I am receiving more requests for business property in the area, plus the Home of the Brave is close to this land as well. This zoning coincides with the city’s Master Plan, and adds more business park space, which is needed because the current business parks are full.”
The land surrounding the hospital which needed rezoning is based on future expansion of the hospital. Land near the hospital, currently zoned residential, must be rezoned as industrial should the hospital need to use the land for future expansion.
Commissioner Archie Campbell suggested that rezoning all of the properties seemed to be beneficial as it would mean more revenue for the city. Because the Lynch’s plan a shopping center on the land, it would bring jobs as well.
The commissioners voted unanimously to amend the 2013 Comprehensive Plan to zone the Lynch property as commercial, the Fannin land as a business park and the parcels near the hospital institutional. The plan will now be presented to City Council for approval before it is submitted to the state. The Annexation Committee will hear information about annexing the Lynch property, and make a recommendation to City Council.