MILLSBORO — It probably won’t rival the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, but a tug of war tied to growth and annexation may be brewing in central Sussex County.
Millsboro, the fastest-growing municipality in Delaware’s fastest-growing county, is aggressively looking to expand its footprint and annexation horizon.
The town’s potential expansion, through an amendment to its comprehensive plan, maps out in all directions, including to the south, where county property that Millsboro identifies as its “secondary annexation area” clashes with a section that the town of Dagsboro calls an “area of concern.”
“And you can see that there is actually some overlap,” said Amy Mendelson, staff planner for the consulting firm AECOM, during Millsboro’s Monday council meeting. “There is some overlap between your secondary annexation area … and some overlap with Dagsboro’s area of concern.”
The land in question lies south of Thorogoods Road.
“What is ‘area of concern’? Can you explain that term?” asked Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “Does that have a legal definition, or is that a concept? ... Does that mean it is off-limits to us, legally?”
Ms. Mendelson explained that “area of concern” is defined in Dagsboro’s 2019 comprehensive plan “as being land, if they were to develop or be developed, (that) would have potential impact on the town. So they are just requesting, since these are currently within county jurisdiction, that if those parcels were to be developed, Dagsboro would like to be part of that conversation of development happening.”
“How does that transpire?” asked Councilman Tim Hodges, the town’s vice mayor.
In response, Ms. Mendelson said she had researched the Preliminary Land Use Service comments in Millsboro’s comprehensive plan process.
“It is not really an issue that they overlap. I did look through the PLUS comments that you had received during the comp plan process,” she said. “The only comment that was made by the state was that, in the future, there should be some kind of an agreement between Dagsboro and Millsboro to have a procedure of what to do if someone were to annex these properties.
“It’s not their secondary annexation area, like you guys have. It’s just an area of concern, parcels that they are looking at.”
Mr. Hudson continued, “So you’re saying, basically, generally speaking, in the state’s eyes, the secondary annexation area trumps the area of concern, if there is a conflict?”
Ms. Mendelson said that may not necessarily be the case.
“I don’t know if I would say that one trumps another one because they are both kind of long-range ideas,” she said. “Your secondary annexation area is described as an ‘area of study’ in the comp plan. It is an area of study, and for the secondary annexation (area), it should be considered after parcels within the primary annexation area are developed, with exception of parcels strategic for water and sewer infrastructure and providing existing residential development with utilities. That is how it is described in your current comp plan.
Contacted Tuesday, Dagsboro Town Administrator Cindi Brought declined comment, noting that there is nothing substantive at present.
AECOM, contracted by both Millsboro and Dagsboro, offered maps at Monday’s meeting, highlighting:
The bulk of Millsboro’s primary annexation area expands north along both sides of U.S. 113, south to Dagsboro’s “area of concern” and annexation area, and west of current annexed lands. Millsboro’s current southern boundary is Cricket Street.
“After creating this map, there are opportunities to pick up some parcels, but you are kind of limited. You’ve got the wetlands to the south. You’ve also got the town of Dagsboro, plus their annexation area to the south,” Ms. Mendelson said.
Millsboro Councilman Larry Gum added, “When people come and want to be part of it, and they are not in your growth area, … I think it (should) be shown that we realize that this is something we considered before somebody comes and asks for annexation,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought we would have been (down) to Delmarva Power, but we are there. And the north is set for … we don’t know what, with the bypass and some of the predicted growth up there. So we could take off north, also.”
Council requested from AECOM modified maps showing only recommended additions to its secondary annexation area for mayor and council’s review this month with plans to address it further at their Dec. 6 meeting.
“If you decided you wanted to move forward with this, you would have to go through the comp plan map amendment process. That would be PLUS review — meaning all the state agencies would review this map — Sussex County planning, as well as the town of Dagsboro would review the map and would be allowed to comment,” said Ms. Mendelson. “If the state said they recommend approval for this, then you would go through a public hearing process to adopt it.”