Town discusses progress and setbacks

By Lynn R. Parks

Residents of Bridgeville heard at a town meeting last Thursday that two things are slowing progress in town. Several developers said the sluggish economy is forcing them to put on hold plans for development. "The real estate market has worked its magic on us just as it has in so many places," said Scott Dailey with Bridgeville Holdings LLC, the development company that is planning Lindenmere, a community at the intersection of the Federalsburg Road and Rt. 404.

And Joseph Conaway, town commission president, said that the Delaware Department of Transportation is taking longer than it should to complete a project to reconfigure the intersection of U.S. 13 and Rt. 404. Conaway told the nearly 100 people who attended the town meeting in the Bridgeville Fire Hall that the town had asked the engineer at DelDOT who is in charge of the project to send a representative. "But in the largest department in the state of Delaware, he told us that not one person was available to come to Bridgeville," he said. Tina Shockley with DelDOT's public relations department said that her office did not receive a request to send someone to the town meeting. Similarly, DelDOT's south district office that is overseeing the project was not notified of the meeting. "Certainly, if a request had been made to our office or to the office of the secretary, we would have been happy to find somebody to speak," Shockley said. In any case, without a representative of DelDOT at the meeting, the people there were "left without definite answers on some pressing issues," Conaway said. Among those issues is the ongoing road construction on Rt. 404, part of the intersection reconfiguration project. Because of the construction, a part of South Market Street, the town's main artery to south U.S. 13, has been closed. Construction on that stretch of roadway in front of Jimmy's Grille was set to be completed last March. Conaway said at the town meeting that he had been told that work on the project could go on until the end of the year. "This is a major frustration that you and I have had to put up with far longer than we should have had to," Conaway told the townspeople. "The arrogance and incompetence of DelDOT is beyond my understanding. There is no excuse for what we have gone through." Shockley said that the paving project in front of Jimmy's is set to be finished in November. Two things caused the project to be delayed, said Joel Leidy, construction engineer overseeing the project. First, he said, relocating the utility poles along the roadway took longer than Delmarva Power, which owns the poles, had predicted that it would. And second, water lines that had been put in earlier by construction firm Mumford and Miller were laid too high for pavement to be put down over top of them, he said. The pipes were west of the current road, in the path of the new road that is being put in, Leidy said. But the delay caused because they had to be relaid at the correct elevation affected the whole project in that area, he added. On Monday, Conaway refused to accept that excuse for the delay. "That is typical DelDOT, blaming somebody else for their problems," he said. Conaway said that some of the new water and sewer pipes were in fact put in too high. But they were laid according to plans that were approved by DelDOT, he added. Leidy acknowledged that the plan to put in the pipes was approved by his agency. "But the pipes were not put in per the plan," he said. "They were too high." The mistake was discovered by workers with Mumford and Miller, the firm that was hired by the town to put in the pipes. The Bear company was also contracted by the state to help with the project. As for the entire reconfiguration project, it was originally set to be completed by the end of the year. That completion date has been pushed back to April 2009, Shockley said. Changes in traffic patterns will take place gradually through the winter, she added.

Waiting for DelDOT In addition to the delayed road construction project, DelDOT came under fire for being slow in granting permits for businesses to access state roads. Several developers listed "waiting for DelDOT" among reasons for delayed projects. "We are dealing with DelDOT and [the state Division of] Soil and Water [Conservation]," said Joel Farr with FED Investments, the group that is planning the Bridgeville Gateway Center for the intersection of U.S. 13 and Rifle Range Road. "We are working with state agencies," including DelDOT, "to get the permits we need to proceed," added Dailey with Lindenmere. DelDOT spokeswoman Shockley said that her agency is swamped with requests for permits. "The permitted process is a very lengthy process," she said. "With that, and with the quantity of developments trying to get approvals, especially in Sussex County, we unfortunately do get backlogged," she said.

Farr and Dailey were among the developers who talked about the slowing economy. Farr said the Bridgeville Gateway Center will include a Super 8 motel, a combination of fast food and sit-down restaurants, a second hotel with a pool and meeting room and perhaps a bank. He hopes to start construction later this year. "We will have to wait and see, with the economy," he said. "Right now, sales are down. We'll wait it out and after the economy improves, we will be on our way." The start of construction at Lindenmere also has been delayed by the economy, Dailey said. "We still believe that there is a need for housing in Bridgeville," he said. But development of the larger portion of the community, on the north side of the Federalsburg Road, has been put on hold. Bridgeville Holdings plans to start work on the smaller parcel on the south side of the Federalsburg Road, which will have 230 units, 80 of them townhouses, as soon as permits are in place, Dailey said. Ryan Showalter with Allen and Rocks, the developer of the Heritage Shores golf community, told the group that nearly 290 homes have been completed in the development. Work on Heritage Shores South, with 1,800 planned homes, will get underway as soon as DelDOT grants permits for access roads, he said. Heritage Shores is also working toward the development of two commercials parcels along U.S. 13. "We are in significant negotiations with a drug store and a hotel," Showalter said. The developer also hopes to bring in a grocery store, from 40,000 to 45,000 square feet in size. Real estate agent Woody Hunsberger said that construction of a Felton Bank, planned for the southwest corner of the intersection of Antique Alley and U.S. 13, is on hold. "We are just waiting to see what happens with the economy," he said. John Snow, representing Highway One, which owns Jimmy's Grille, told the meeting that his company has applied for permission to subdivide the Jimmy's property into four parcels. One parcel would be where Jimmy's currently sits and another would be where the banquet center is. On the other two parcels, the company would like to build a hotel and a pub, he said. "We are trying to make this area a destination for events," Snow said. Conaway said that there are several other possible projects in town. An Arby's is planned for U.S. 13, across from Scott's furniture store, and the site of the former News Print Shop on U.S. 13A is considered for a professional office building. In addition, the Bridgeville Diner "is being marketed with some interest," he said. "It is my understanding that it will not be reopened as a diner."

Wastewater treatment plant expansion nearly complete

By Lynn R. Parks

A project to double the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant in Bridgeville is nearly complete. Engineer Annie Williams with the town's engineering firm Davis, Bowen and Friedel told residents at a town meeting last Thursday night that completion of the $6.7 million project will mean that the town will be able to spray treated wastewater onto an agricultural field instead of dump it into a small tributary of the Nanticoke River. "This is good for the town and good for the environment," Williams said. The new wastewater disposal system will enable the plant to treat waste from 2,500 homes. The plant is currently allowed to treat waste from 1,300 homes. A test of the system Friday turned up a "small glitch" in one of the pumps of the system, Williams said Monday. She anticipates that engineers will be able to put the system through a second test run within a week or two and then, if everything goes well, put the plant into full operation. Williams said at the town meeting that the wastewater that will be sprayed on the field will be treated at the Bridgeville plant to the point that it is "clean enough to swim in." "It is really a great plant," she said. Even after treatment, the wastewater will still contain high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, nitrates that, if they get in area waterways, contribute to algae growths that can choke the life out of a river. But the nitrates in this wastewater will be taken up by feed crops and hay that will be grown on the field on which the waste will be sprayed. The town bought a 127-acre farm about three miles east of town in order to have land for the spray irrigation. Purchase price of the property was $3.8 million. The town paid $1.1 million of that purchase price, half with a loan, which residents of town will pay back through their water rates, and half with a grant. The remaining $2.7 million came from an advance from the Heritage Shores development on impact fees that residents of that community will be required to pay to the town. Town commission president Joseph Conaway said at the town meeting that the land that the town purchased is next to a 1,100-acre parcel that is in the state's agriculture preservation program and that the town has leased. "That gives us 1,200 acres that we can spray on," he said.

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