Royal Farms has proposed constructing one of its convenience stores at the current location of the failing Sunoco gas station and the home adjacent to it at the intersection of Duncan Road and Kirkwood Highway in Mill Creek Hundred.
But the redevelopment still faces some opposition from residents who live on Wild Cherry Lane near that tract of land.
New Castle County Councilman Tim Sheldon (D-Roseville Park) introduced the resolution for the Royal Farms in Mill Creek at NCCo Council's Land Use Committee meeting held Tuesday at the City/County Building.
Land use attorney Shawn Tucker, of the Drinker Biddle & Reath law firm, represented Royal Farms while Duffield Associates engineer Jeffrey Bross represented Fred Wittig, who would lease the parcels at that intersection to Royal Farms.
Tucker said this tract was already zoned commercial, including the vacant home next to Sunoco. However, his client required a new deed restriction for the land. The current deed restrictions were designed to protect the community from unwanted commercial uses by requiring parking restrictions, limited use of signs and enhanced landscaping to serve as a buffer.
In sum, Royal Farms and the property owner requested that New Castle County Council give them a new deed restriction that would consolidate the three parcels off the junction of Kirkwood Highway and Duncan Road into one parcel and give it more extensive landscaping and a retaining wall to separate it from a nearby residence, Tucker said.
Tucker said the Royal Farms redevelopment would be a vast improvement upon the current state of the property with extensive landscaping on the perimeter that included 10-foot, fast growing, evergreen, Leyland cypress trees. The landscaping and buffers provided by Royal Farms would be unrivaled on the heavily developed Kirkwood Highway, Tucker said.
The Leyland cypress trees and the retaining wall were added to the plan in response to quality of life and property value concerns raised by Olivia and Bill McClintock, who have shared access to Duncan Road with the current office building on the property, Tucker said.
Royal Farms felt it had a solid plan going into the land use process, Tucker said. Now, his client felt the plan was even stronger.
Councilman John Cartier (D-Penny Hill) asked about storm water management on the property.
Bross said this property, which predated the county's Unified Development Code, was 100 percent non-conforming presently. But, the redevelopment would bring the three parcels to within 50 to 60 percent conforming, he said.
Nonetheless, Wild Cherry Lane Civic Association President Larry Hall, past president Fred Cushing and fellow Wild Cherry Lane resident Gina Connor expressed ongoing opposition to the plan. Cushing presented council with a petition of 60 signatures of local residents stating their opposition as well.
Page 2 of 2 - Cushing said there had been violations to the deed restrictions of this land in the past, so he and other Wild Cherry Lane residents were skeptical that a new deed restriction would be effective.
Councilman Bill Bell (D-Middletown) said that was unfortunate. But he assured Wild Cherry Lane residents that anything put into the plan would have to be adhered to by law and would be monitored by the NCCo Department of Land Use.
Councilman William Powers (D-Townsend) advised Wild Cherry Lane residents to obtain copies of the actual plans that would note any promises the developer made to them.
But, Councilman Bob Weiner (R-Chatham) pointed out that notes could be removed upon the sale of the property. So, he urged community members to become involved in writing the new deed restriction prior to NCCo Council's next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.
Tucker pointed out that he and Bross met with Wild Cherry Lane residents for more than an hour to address their concerns. In addition, he said his law firm would pay for anyone who legally and successfully challenged any violation of the deed restriction.
"They aren't going to be any broken promises," he said.
The NCCo Department of Land Use and the Planning Board both gave a favorable recommendation to the proposed deed restriction. Land Use General Manager David Culver and Planning Board Chairman Richard Killingsworth signed the recommendation on Feb. 19, 2013.
The NCCo Councnil Land Use Committee also indicated favor for the redevelopment plan.