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Development requests approved by council

Terry Rogers Government & Politics, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

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Three development requests were approved by Milford City Council

Requests from three developers were approved by Milford City Council at a recent meeting. Cypress Hall asked for approval of Phase I of their project, Wickersham requested approval for a revised site plan while Milford Ponds requested approval for an extension. Public hearings were held for the Cypress Hall and Wickersham requests.

“We are only reviewing Phase I tonight even though Phase II is included in the information,” City Planner Rob Pierce said about Cypress Hall. “It’s considered moderate density residential and fits with the comprehensive plan as a planned use development. Subsequent extensions in August 2020 and July 2021. Phase I includes 96 townhouse units.”

According to Pierce, the developer made minor revisions to lot layouts, most of which were in Phase II which were not being reviewed. Tim Metzner, Associate and Landscape Architect for Davis, Bowen and Friedel spoke on behalf of the developers.

“We’re here requesting final major subdivision Phase I which is the portion of Cypress Hall that comes off of Route 113 into the site where the townhouse lots are located,” Metzner said. “As you guys have probably noticed out there, construction has started for it. That is because the back portion, which is the apartments, is the main reason why we had to come back for the revised approval from council because the apartments changed since the approval time. There were a couple minor changes as far as lots and also dedication of active recreation areas in the center.”

Councilman Jason James asked about a comment about a slope not meeting DelDOT requirements, expressing concern that there could be issues down the road. Pierce stated that the original plan was approved 10 to 12 years ago, and the slope met DelDOT criteria at that time. City Engineer James Puddicombe reviewed the plans along with DelDOT engineers and they determined that although the slope did not meet current standards, it did when the approvals were previously granted and that they would be sufficient for the development.

There was no public comment during that section of the discussion and council approved the request from Cypress Hall unanimously.

The Wickersham project, located along Route 1 and Johnson Road, has been before council several times since the land was annexed in 2006. Council approved 2015 townhomes on the property in 2013 and the developer has been waiting for utilities and other factors to come together before beginning construction.

“Council approved a waiver that would allow for no sidewalks along the entrance with the developer agreeing to allow a 10-foot wide shared use path that would lead from Johnson Road through the site and tie in with potential areas to the north consistent with the Master Bicycle Plan,” Pierce said. “Council also granted a waiver from the shade tree separation of 150 feet on the condition that any trees lost due to the clusters of townhomes be replanted elsewhere along the street.”

Cliff Mumford, Civil Engineer with Davis Bowen & Friedel, spoke on behalf of the developer.

“This has been on the books since 2013 and it came back around last year because they wanted to remove the alleys from behind the townhouses,” Mumford said. “So, the owners and DBF got together and redesigned it without the alleys. Rob asked for the shared use path as part of the Bicycle Master Plan and we incorporated that in the project and brought it in around the water tower and into our site, then we brought it out to Johnson Road. It’s a 10-food wide path that will be dedicated to public use.”

Mumford explained that some of the amenities in Wickersham will include walking paths, picnic areas, multi-use sports fields and a “tot lot.” There is a tree every 40 feet as well as a five-by-five grassy area surrounding the trees. Because the development will be constructed along Route 1, Mumford stated that DelDOT required a noise analysis.

“We contracted with Century Engineering to put sensors out where the houses would be and determine what the decibel level was,” Mumford said. “They determined there was a row of houses, from 41 to 72 or so, that would be impacted, and they would have a decibel level above the threshold that is believed to impact the ability to enjoy your yard. The way to reduce the impact is to build a berm and a noise wall. That is part of the plans now to build a four-foot berm or an eight-foot wall down Route 1 so any of those houses or backyards will have that reduction in sound and get them to that level that makes it more enjoyable.”

Councilman Dan Marabello asked what the berm or noise-reduction wall would be made of and Mumford stated there were many different materials that could be used. Councilman Marabello expressed appreciation that the noise analysis was completed. There were no comments during the public comment section of the discussion and council approved the request unanimously.

The final development was Milford Ponds who were requesting an extension on their preliminary major subdivision application. Councilman Andy Fulton asked if the developer had addressed issues with sewage and roadways in the development. Puddicombe stated that the city was working with Davis, Bowen and Friedel on issues in the development and that they were hoping to have them all resolved in the next month or so.

“When Phase III was preliminarily approved, we needed to get items in, essentially get the Ponds redesigned, reapproved and constructed,” Metzner said. “We just got Phase II approved last year. They were able to start with the actual work on The Ponds Phase III to fit into the revised Phase II approval. So that construction started last summer and then went into the winter. As far as the stabilization of all of these, it impacted Phase II’s approval. Essentially, Kent County Conservation would not approve Phase III until all of Phase II was complete. As of June, that approval was obtained.”

Mumford explained that this led to some construction related items that the developer was working on with the construction company. The contractor was still involved in getting items corrected.

“There are A-pluses and B’s and all this stuff in schools,” Councilman Fulton said. “The original construction, we thought you were on a plan for an A-plus and then it kind of became a C. You got your POA, these are problems you can correct with that, so you got to a passing B. What are your plans to prevent from getting a C again for the future phases? I am concerned for the residents, too.”

Mumford agreed stating that the original plan for Milford Ponds was created by a contractor not familiar with the City of Milford. Those plans were approved between 2008 and 2010. At that time, he stated, there were just not clear communications between the inspector and the contractors like there is now.

“The construction that occurred in 2020, it was a new contractor under the current owner who was not really familiar with the City of Milford standards,” Mumford explained. “They really did lower quality work than the owner wanted. The owner has acknowledged that and has moved from that contractor, hired a more reputable contractor who has come back in and corrected a lot of these items, is familiar with the City of Milford and now, I believe there is a comfort level moving forward with the current contractor, the owner and the city of what is expected to be a quality project and quality installation.”

There was no public hearing related to the Milford Ponds request and it was approved unanimously.

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