by Terry Rogers
On July 7th, a press release that made the rounds on social media caused a buzz throughout the City of Milford. The press release, issued by R&R Commercial Realty, announced that the Isaac Farm, now owned by Key Properties Group, was being offered for sale to developers who were interested in creating “Innovation Park,” a medical campus that could include a “specialty hospital, medical or nursing school, a standalone rehabilitation facility, a senior living center, assisted living quarters, teaching centers including graduate, medical, nursing and associated technical centers or independent labs used in research or as a support for physicians.”
Elmer Fannin, the owner of Key Properties, pointed out in the release that Bayhealth’s $300 million hospital was right across Coastal Highway.
“In these COVID-19 times, this is a shovel-ready project that could quickly add an enormous amount of capacity and resources to Delaware’s healthcare system,” Fannin was quoted. “This project would allow Delaware to compete for the medical capital of the Mid-Atlantic region.”
Rob Pierce, Milford City Planner explained that this property was annexed into the City in 2007 before he came to work for the District. At the time it was annexed, the property was rezoned for Industrial Services (IS).
“IS allows for development that includes hospitals and I believe this property was one that Bayhealth may have considered when they were choosing land for the new building,” Pierce explained. “However, the land has only been zoned IS and there has been no site plan for a medical campus nor has anything been approved to be built on the land. The zoning is suitable for a medical campus, but again, there has been no approval for anything of this type.”
Charlie Rodriguez, the listing agent for the property, explained that the land is zoned for a medical campus but that there are currently no plans to build one nor have they provided site plans to the City for a medical campus.
“I am not sure what the press release said,” Rodriguez said. “I know there is a group out of South Carolina who is considering the property for residential use. We have no intention of building something on this land that would compete with Bayhealth.”
As far back as 2007, there was a discussion about putting a medical complex on the property. A letter, written by Judy McKinney-Cherry, Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office at the time, supported the building of the medical complex on the Isaac Farm.
“While the Delaware Economic Development Office does not routinely become engaged in local zoning issues, this opportunity warrants a written submittal,” McKinney-Cherry wrote. “I am writing in support of the proposed annexation of a piece of property known as Isaacs Farm. I understand Key Properties Group, LLC, has requested zoning designation on this property as Institutional Services for the sole purpose of creating a research park. A project such as this could be a stimulus for new economic development opportunities in Kent and Sussex Counties.”
Fannin was quoted in the press release that this was a shovel-ready project and that the purchaser would not need to spend years in “city council, county, and state-level meetings and forums to obtain the necessary approvals and permits.” However, before a medical campus can be built on the property, anyone who purchased the property would have to file site plans with the City of Milford and get all necessary approvals from the State of Delaware. Public hearings would need to be held before Planning Commission and City Council before it could be approved.
“No construction site plan has been submitted, this would be a task for the developer once they’ve done their architectural work,” Ian Gronau, Communications Manager with R&R Commercial Realty. “Innovation Park is a draft plan. It was designed to explore the potential approved uses for this property. However, this piece of land was already zoned Institutional Service District (IS) several years ago and the proposed uses conform to the state and its various departments’ master plan for the area. Although the site plan likely would come up for discussion in public hearings, the zoning and proposed uses therein, are already approved for this land.”