MIDDLETOWN — Meeting for the first time this year Monday, the mayor and Town Council moved on COVID-19 regulations, approved a jiujitsu facility and heard concept plans for an apartment/town home complex on Garden Gate Drive.
Council passed two COVID-19 policies. Resolution 22-01-02 requires all new town employees to be vaccinated before hire, mandates COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated employees, enacts a mask requirement and allows Mayor Kenneth Branner to create policy as needed throughout the duration of the pandemic.
The second approved COVID-19-related motion ratified an agreement with Delaware State University’s Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory to process town employees’ coronavirus tests.
On the development side of the meeting, martial arts academy 302 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu received approval for a conditional use permit at 119 Patriot Drive, expanding its footprint from its Wilmington location.
Instructor Bill Waters has over 20 years of jiujitsu training.
“We teach kids and adults jiujitsu. It is a wrestling-based sport, and it’s for self-defense,” he said. “We do community outreach, where we have women’s self-defense programs, and we have open forums for them to be able to come in and kind of do an introduction and learn basic safety.”
Council also heard concept plans for a partially age-restricted subdivision of town houses and apartments on approximately 51.6 acres on Garden Gate Drive. The area is zoned C-3, which permits the construction of garden apartments.
Joseph Calabro of Apennine Development Co. was representing the developer, Investment Properties Associates, and presented the neighborhood’s plan for 208 rental apartments for ages 55 and older, as well as 78 town homes to be offered for ownership and not age-restricted.
“We feel it’s an ideal location, particularly for the 55-plus community,” Mr. Calabro said. “We didn’t think that industrial made sense, given that it’s next to existing residential and, given the lack of frontage, didn’t think that adding additional retail would make a ton of sense and could be a bit challenging. Adding a variety of housing types by introducing flats would make sense, and there’s demand for it. And then, obviously, with it being essentially walking distance to entertainment, dining, shopping, places of worship, (it) would just be a really good location for some more residential.”
Mr. Calabro added that a variety of amenities are proposed, including a pool, a clubhouse, a fitness center, a walking trail and pickleball fields, with the intention of creating an active-adult community. He also said that providing a variety of housing types “complements nicely” the single-family homes in the connecting Spring Arbor neighborhood.
The apartment buildings are slated to be either three or four stories tall, a detail that led several Spring Arbor residents to voice their concern.
Chuck McCausland, president of the Spring Arbor Community Association, said he chuckled at the claim that new developments would increase the value of current homes in his neighborhood.
“You are going to have four-story structures looking down on top of one- and two-story residential homes,” he said. “I’m really against a four-story structure. I understand what you’re laying out there. It’s a nice concept, but I just think we have a lot to work with. You’re talking about 286 homes, 598 parking slots. It’s a lot of traffic back there. We’re already surrounded by apartments.”
Mr. McCausland said opponents’ biggest concern, however, is traffic being directed through Spring Arbor. But Mayor Branner said “there is no way in hell” town officials would approve a plan without another road out.
“When we designed Spring Arbor, the thought was that, if we ever did active, adult, single families, an expansion into there would make logical sense, not apartments and town houses that go through Garden Gate (Drive) and all the way through the development to get out,” he said. “Commerce (Drive) is set up perfectly for that.”
The mayor also suggested adding ample parking to the plan. He said Middletown already has a huge issue with rentals not having enough parking.
“It has created a nightmare,” he said. “And we’ve always said we would address that going forward.”
There is no deadline for the developers to return with a preliminary plan, so it is unclear when the project will move past the comment period and on to a vote.