The much-anticipated third reading of an ordinance to reallocate the number of units as part of the upcoming Willowbrook Apartments came and went without a final vote at Monday’s Delaware City Council meeting. Instead, council members unanimously voted to send the ordinance back to the Delaware Planning Commission, per the request of developer Ron Sabatino and his attorney, Jeff Lewis.
Sabatino’s T&R Properties is seeking to add an additional 40 units to the 140 units that have already been approved for area 3 in the final development plan. In return, 55 units will be taken away from area 4, which currently has no development plans.
The development spans approximately 36 acres and sits on the east side of South Houk Road, just north of the Delaware Community Center YMCA.
The first proposal of the ordinance submitted to planning commission was met with resounding opposition and a unanimous vote to recommend denial of the ordinance.
Speaking on behalf of his client, Lewis stated, “Obviously, it’s no secret some people have some concerns with what my client proposes … what we would like to do at this point in time is ask that this case be remanded to the planning commission so, perhaps, the plan can be tweaked to satisfy some of these concerns.”
Residents of the communities adjacent to the soon-to-be Willowbrook Apartments again packed council chambers on Monday night to voice their opinions and even present their own research, some relevant and some not, on Sabatino.
Some residents spoke of past instances with Sabatino failing to take care of his properties, some voiced their wishes for a better buffer between their communities and the apartments, but all who spoke reiterated their concerns about the density of the area with the possible addition of 40 more dwellings.
At a density of 11.56 units per acres, the additional units would give the Willowbrook Apartments the highest density of any apartment complex in Delaware dating back to at least 2000. As it is currently approved, the density would sit right at eight units per acre, on par with recent developments such as The Meadows at Carson Farms and Arthur Place.
Original zoning for the property was done in 1999, leaving many to question the relevance of even the approved 140 units for an area that is far different than it looked 19 years ago.
Sabatino and Lewis would not comment on the types of changes they are open to making, but Sabatino stated, “It’s important to rely on planning and zoning. It’s our intention to go back and present a plan they recommend and are in support of.”
Said Councilwoman Lisa Keller, “I am optimistic (Sabatino) will recognize the very clear majority of council members who spoke Monday evening, indicating 140 units is where we’d like to keep it. I’d like to at least give him a chance to hear that feedback and revise his plan.”
Keller, who represents the 2nd ward and area of focus in the ordinance, has previously been threatened with a civil lawsuit by Sabatino and Lewis, should the ordinance be denied. Keller spoke out against the ordinance, as a resident, when it was first presented to planning commission, leading Lewis to call for her recusal from council discussions and final vote.
The next planning commission meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 2, but it is unclear how long it will take T&R to revise and resubmit its plans.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.