New Castle County Council unanimously approved plans for the redevelopment of the failing Sunoco at Kirkwood Highway and Duncan Road into a new Royal Farms during its meeting Tuesday night at the City/County Building.
New Castle County Councilman Tim Sheldon (D-Pike Creek) introduced the resolution for the Royal Farms in Mill Creek Hundred.
Land use attorney Shawn Tucker, of the Drinker Biddle & Reath law firm, testified on behalf of Royal Farms before NCCo Council. 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, he said.
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 and fast-growing, 10-foot Leland Cypress trees to separate it from the home of Bill and Olivia McClintock Tucker said.
The Leyland cypress trees and the 7-foot retaining wall were added to the Royal Farms plan in response to quality of life and property value concerns raised by Olivia and Bill McClintock, who would have shared access to Duncan Road with the current office building on the property, Tucker said.
The McClintocks attended council's meeting Tuesday night and said Royal Farms had worked with them to address their concerns to the development's effect on their property value and quality of life. They were now "more supportive" of the project than they had been initially.
Councilman Bob Weiner (R-Chatham) called their comments "refreshing."
Weiner asked Tucker if his offer at last week's Land Use Committee meeting to allow Wild Cherry Lane residents to participate in writing the deed restriction still stood. Tucker said it did and that if there were ever a violation of the deed restriction and it was successfully challenged in court, his law firm would pay for the legal expenses incurred.
"We'll keep that open until the end of the week," he said.
However, some members of the Mill Creek Hundred community still expressed opposition to the project.
"This development will have a dramatic impact on quality of life," Milltown-Limestone Civic Alliance President Bill Dunn said. "They're going to remove 6 feet of dirt and remove existing trees."
Dunn asked New Castle County Council for more time to negotiate.
In his rebuttal, Tucker later said that Royal Farms would not accept a delay in approval. In addition, the Royal Farms redevelopment would be a vast improvement upon the current state of the property with extensive landscaping on the perimeter that included trees and vegetation that would be unrivaled on the heavily developed Kirkwood Highway, he said. And the growth of at least 3 feet per year of the Leland Cypress trees would soon block out the view of Royal Farms from nearby residences.
Page 2 of 2 - But, Wild Cherry Lane Civic Association President Larry Hall demanded to know why Royal Farms could not build a smaller, eight-pump gas station in Mill Creek similar to the one in Fenwick Island to the south in Sussex County.
Tucker said the Royal Farms in Fenwick was built some time ago in an historic area, but since then the company had determined that a 16-pump gas station would be its standard gas station.
"This is the smallest store Royal Farms will build," he said. "If they can't get that, they just won't build."
Duncan Road resident Anthony Casella expressed concern about leaking gas pipes in the ground at the current Sunoco gas station and how that affected drinking water.
Councilman John Cartier (D-Holly Oak) said that was a problem with old gas stations throughout the county and that did not affect drinking water. Councilman David Tackett (D-Christiana) added that redevelopment was the best way to remedy that problem.
All in all, Councilman Joseph Reda (D-Elsmere) said that the area would be nicer after this redevelopment project.
Council then voted 13-0 to approve the Royal Farms application.
The NCCo Department of Land Use and the Planning Board both had given 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.