On Tuesday, February 16, Milford Planning Commission approved a preliminary site plan extension for the Hickory Glen subdivision and an initial preliminary site plan for changes to the Milford Plaza Shopping Center.
“Hickory Glen is currently in their second preliminary site plan extension,” explained Rob Pierce, City Planner. “A one year extension was granted on February 17, 2015 by the Planning Commission and by City Council on February 23, 2015. Under City Charter, if the developer cannot present a final site plan within one year, they must request an extension.”
Phil Tolliver, an engineer for Bold Richey & Associates who is handling the site plans for the developer, explained to the commission that achievements had been made over the past year. He said that they had received approval for the stormwater management, something that was critical as changes to the code could have delayed the project even further if approval had not been received prior to July 2015. The developer received approval in June 2015. The developer is also working with the City regarding a Public Works agreement and is partnering with Baltimore Air Coil and Crop Production Services, the new owners of what was to be the Amberwood subdivision next to Hickory Glen. Mr. Tolliver said that there had been delays that required the developer to request the extension.
“I am not warm and fuzzy about granting these extensions, said Commissioner Ed Holloway. “I understand that projects like this take time, but we need to see some progress and growth. I asked you when we granted the last extension if you thought you may need to seek an additional extension, and you were honest in saying you didn’t know. But at that time, you said it was because there was no buyer yet for the property, that you needed a buyer before you began construction. Is this still an issue?” Mr. Tolliver said that there was not a buyer at the present time and that he could not predict whether a buyer would come forward before the extension ran out again, but that the developer was moving forward.
Mr. Tolliver explained that it was nearly impossible for a project of this magnitude to be completed in 12 months and that extensions were often requested. Commissioner Michael Yosifon asked City Solictior David Rutt if the commission could preclude the granting of an extension. Mr. Rutt explained that if the developer could show good cause why an extension was necessary, the commission could grant the extension, but it was up to the commission to determine if the developer showed good cause. Mr. Tolliver said that the developer wanted to avoid what were known as “zombie projects.”
“You can ride around Milford and see subdivisions that were supposed to happen but didn’t,” Mr. Tolliver said. “We don’t want Hickory Glen to become one of these. Dunn Development has expended a significant amount of money for this project and they don’t plan to lose that money. They are providing the upgraded sewer and water to the land at their expense, so the City benefits from those upgrades. In addition, the City is seeing tax monies from the property now.” The commission voted six to zero to approve the extension for both the preliminary site plan and the major subdivision approval.
The second item on the agenda was related to a new site plan dealing with proposed changes to the Milford Plaza Shopping Center on Dupont Highway. The new site plan included demolition of the current Citizen’s Bank and Donut Connection buildings in order to construct a new bank building along with a four-suite retail pad. In addition, the owners of the property planned to reconfigure the entrance from Dupont Highway and relocate handicapped spaces. The owner was also planning to install a sidewalk and bike path around the perimeter of the property which was requested in a previous site plan.
“The new proposal does not currently meet the 925 required parking spaces under the city code,” Mr. Pierce said. “It only has 877. The owner has offered to add spaces in the back of the buildings to bring it up to code, but I was not supportive of that. They could apply to the Board of Adjustments for a variance.”
Doug Lieberman of Larson Engineering explained that the owner of the property planned to add islands that would better direct the flow of traffic and that they may be able to stripe the parking lot so that they could meet the parking requirement without having to go before the Board of Adjustment. He also explained that the changes to the shopping center would actually create more green space and would decrease impervious space rather than increase it.
“There are two new restaurants looking at the new retail pad space,” Mr. Lieberman explained. “These are two national chain restaurants, but they are not ready to announce a new Milford location at this time. There is also a national retail chain looking at the space as well. We will also be installing new handicapped ramps at all entrances for access from the new sidewalk and bike path. We are working with DelDOT to correct the entrance issues as well as develop the best plan for the new sidewalks.
The commission approved the preliminary site plan with a vote of six to zero with all commissioners indicating that the new retail space could bring significant economic benefit to the city. The request will be presented to City Council on Monday, February 22, 2016 for approval.