MILLSBORO — Amid ongoing residential and commercial growth, officials are seeking to expand the town’s annexation footprint through an amendment to its comprehensive plan.
While primary target areas are south along U.S. 113 and Del. 20, heading toward Dagsboro, leaders are comfortable in extending boundaries in every direction, including eastward, across the Indian River and along John J. Williams Highway.
“The bottom line is, looking forward, I want to make sure we don’t run out of highway commercial land to offer to developers because there is an insatiable appetite for commercial,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “We’ve had all of this residential growth. Now, we’re seeing a big wave of commercial growth, as you have seen in the last couple of years.”
Millsboro has experienced continued residential construction and an influx of commercial properties along U.S. 113, which includes a furniture store, fast-food restaurants, Grotto Pizza and Texas Roadhouse. An Avid Hotel is nearing completion, as well.
“Again, we are not out of commercial land yet. As you know, we’re No. 1 in Kent and Sussex for growth,” Mr. Hudson said. “We want to make sure we can give the public the amenities they want. People are tired of driving to Rehoboth and Salisbury. Now, they’ve got two new sit-down restaurants. People love that. We all hear that. If we can keep adding amenities, I think that’s a good thing.
“People talk about traffic. But if you keep people in town, off of SR 24, you actually help with the intertown, intercity traffic by keeping people in town,” he added.
Vice Mayor Tim Hodges said he views the situation a little differently.
“I think it’s the town’s job to show we’re willing to grow,” he said. “It’s the developers’ job to come in and look at that plan and say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be easy for us to get this land annexed,’ because they’ve already identified it into their growth area, which is what the comprehensive plan is all about.”
Mr. Hudson replied, “I 100% agree with you.”
With mayor and Town Council’s 6-0 blessing this week, the amendment proposal will head to AECOM, the town’s planning consultant. Any proposed change to the 2021 comprehensive plan — which was approved by council in February and then OK’d by Gov. John Carney — would require a public hearing and subsequent state approval.
Any potential annexation area must be contiguous to existing town limits.
“Certainly, from my perspective, it would be advantageous to look at pushing further south,” said Mr. Hudson. “I just wanted to kind of tee up that discussion tonight to see if you are interested in pushing further toward Dagsboro to accommodate that — specifically along U.S. 113.”
Councilman Larry Gum said the town might be wise to make the commitment now to expand through a comprehensive plan amendment rather than later, saying if “somebody else has grabbed it, … the opportunity would be gone.”
Vice Mayor Hodges continued, “It’s not about the town saying that we’re going to develop that property because town doesn’t develop property. The town doesn’t have to build restaurants. The town doesn’t build residential developments. But it is showing a willingness of where the town is willing to grow.”
Mr. Hudson added that the process could take some time.
“Of course, just because that’s approved doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow. But it at least lays out a vision for the next 10 years,” he said.
Vice Mayor Hodges suggested that the town consider looking at potential expansion in other unincorporated directions.
“Because we’re seeing so much growth to the north, personally, I think we ought to consider going south and east,” he said, adding that Del. 20 south “might actually be more attractive for some developers with the amount of traffic. Not to mention the land is more buildable, easier to build on.”
Mr. Hudson concurred.
“I’m certainly fine with east, too,” he said. “Certainly, to pull some of that Long Neck, as well, would be good.”
Millsboro’s boundary currently extends south to around Cricket Street. “This would be to push us down to Country Gardens and further down toward Dagsboro,” Mr. Hudson said.
Cindi Bought, Dagsboro’s town administrator, is hopeful Millsboro’s proposed expansion south along Del. 20 does not conflict with Dagsboro’s comprehensive land-use plan, which includes proposed development along Dagsboro Road.
“We have got those developments coming in, and they want to annex into town,” Ms. Brought said. “That annexation is in our comprehensive plan.”