The development of the highly-contentious Addison Farms proposal is set to move forward to the next stage after Delaware City Council voted to approve ordinances for a rezoning amendment, conditional use permit, and preliminary development plan following the fourth readings during Monday’s meeting.
Each of the three ordinances was approved with a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Stephen Tackett being the lone council member to vote against approval of the proposals.
Formal discussions on the Addison Farms proposal began as a concept plan review by the Delaware Planning Commission on July 7 of last year after the developers signed a purchase agreement in March 2021.
During its Dec. 15 meeting, the commission voted to recommend approval of the three requests by Addison Properties, sending the proposal to council for final considerations. Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said at the time, “This is, from certain perspectives, the largest and, in many ways, most complex mixed-use development to date in the community.”
The site is comprised of four parcels that encompass approximately 273 acres of land located just east of U.S. Route 23, west of Troy Road, north of the Shelbourne Forest and Hayes Colony subdivisions, and south of the Oakhurst and Oakdale subdivisions. Addison Properties is proposing to create a mixed-use development that would be divided into eight subareas lettered A-H.
Four of the subareas (B-E) have proposed residential uses that would encompass 153 acres of the site. The residential uses range from 133 two-story attached townhomes in Subarea B to 76 single-family detached lots in Subarea C, 180 single-family lots in Subarea D, and 315 one-story, multifamily units in Subarea E.
Subarea A has proposed uses of two or three-story townhomes or multifamily residential units, single-family attached or detached dwellings, and senior housing. The development text for Subarea F shows a range of possible land uses that includes mixed-use development, multifamily units, light office space, and retail development.
The conceptual design for Subarea G, located just west of U.S. Route 23, proposes commercial, restaurant, and gas station uses, while Subarea H has a limited range of possible uses that include single-family attached or detached units senior age-restricted housing.
Under the city’s recently adopted Delaware Together comprehensive plan, nearly all of the land within the development is identified as being of suburban residential character.
As part of the proposal, Merrick Parkway would be extended from U.S. Route 23 to the railroad tracks southeast of Smith Park and, eventually, over the tracks to connect with the existing Merrick Boulevard west of Troy Road. As a north-south connector, Heritage Boulevard would be extended north to Hills-Miller Road.
According to city documents for the proposal, the extension of Merrick Boulevard has been included in the city’s transportation plans for more than 20 years. The document stated the extension is considered “an integral and necessary element to establishing a quality roadway network for the northwest area of the community.”
From the time the Addison Farms proposal was first presented to the existing community in the area, it has been met with considerable discontent. Issues of natural resource preservation, land use, and the proximity of the Merrick Parkway extension to existing homes have been among the many issues brought forward by the community members who organized to speak out against the proposal since last summer.
During Monday’s discussion of the Addison proposal, which included the consideration of two petitions submitted by residents to require changes to the proposal, Councilwoman Lisa Keller addressed the seemingly prevailing notion among residents that the city and residents get to decide what they want to see on the land.
“I feel like part of this process feels to me like this is (supposedly) communal land, and we’re all deciding together what goes in here,” Keller said. “But what it actually is is the property of Addison Farms, which is coming to us with a proposal that we have to determine if it meets our comprehensive plan … This is hearing from the developer, who owns the property, that this is what they’re proposing to place here, and we have to take it and compare it with what’s in our comprehensive plan, what’s in our zoning code, and say that yes, it meets it, or no, it doesn’t. We’re not setting up chess pieces together because we don’t have that right and neither do the residents, unfortunately.”
Keller added, “It’s also very difficult to say to Addison Properties that the properties to the north and south look very similar to what you have here in the middle, but we’re going to say no to this because we’re going to protect the natural resources after he’s purchased the property. And basically say we’re going to render this (site) undevelopable for anything different than what’s to the north and south because now we’ve created this new arbitrary area that we’re deciding, based on nothing that we have in front of us, that you can’t do this. There’s simply no justification to do that, and it’s not fair to ask us to do that because it wouldn’t be lawful and it wouldn’t be maintaining property owners’ rights.”
Tackett, who represents the city’s First Ward where the development would be constructed, noted that he is still receiving an “outpouring” of concerns from residents in the area about what is being proposed, what they’ll ultimately get from the developers, and that they’re still not being heard by the city.
Councilman Drew Farrell assured all who have been locked into the progression of the proposal that throughout the process, council has read every comment submitted, did its research, and weighed the pros and cons of the proposal.
“No development that is going to go into this place will be a no-impact development,” Farrell said. “It’s going to have impacts, both positive and negative, as every development does … I think that, generally, what we’ve been trying to do is balance what that impact is as much as we can with respect to the natural resources, with respect to tree preservation, to how it impacts the neighbors around it. I don’t think we’ve rushed the decision by any means.”
Ferrell went on to point out that the preliminary development plan is just “the foundation” and “an idea” for what the development will be as it moves into the advanced stages, where many of the residents’ concerns will still be addressed.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer concurred with Ferrell’s comments, stating he believes the developers have been “very responsive to the public’s concerns.”
“As this project moves forward, each one of these subareas will come before us again, and we will continue to listen,” Shafer said. “And I’m confident the developer will continue to work with us and the citizens in that area to do everything we can to get this right.”