New TID could draw interest to Frederica area
DOVER — Kent County and state officials are taking the first steps for a Transportation Improvement District (TID), a move that eases the path for pockets of development in Little Heaven and South Frederica.
The TID outlines future transportation infrastructure around the three small towns, and creates a fee formula to subsidize those improvements. By partnering with the Delaware Department of Transportation, Kent County officials believe with more infrastructure, development will soon follow along the Route 1 corridor.
For Little Heaven, the TID boundary would follow Buffalo Road and Skeeter Neck Road as far north as Clapham Road. South Frederica’s proposed TID would follow Frederica Road and Route 1 north until it reaches town limits, and as far south as Tub Mill Road.
Both areas have long been thought of as Kent’s next hotbed for development by county officials over the years, buoyed by the success of the DE Turf Sports Complex and the completion of the Route 1 interchange. Kent County officials recently completed master planning Little Heaven and South Frederica separate from the comprehensive plan, with the mindset that both areas could be large employment centers within the next decade.
“I think [the TIDs] solve a lot of the concerns with the potential intensity that those plans have identified, with the improvements that Route 1 as well as holding significant potential for pressure development pressure,” Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange told the county planning services committee Tuesday night.
Specifically, Little Heaven is envisioned as a future business park or professional campus, with some accessory retail and commercial services to support a large corporate presence. South Frederica is envisioned as a vibrant sports tourism destination, with retail, recreation and dining options to serve people who come to the DE Sports Turf Complex throughout the year.
With state and county officials working in tandem under a TID agreement, the goal is to plan transportation around future land development so projects within the district can get bumped into the state’s capital transportation program.
It also authorizes the county to charge developers a predetermined fee for future road improvements when a project is approved. These fees are determined by square footage of a development or per residential housing unit.
For developers, it also eliminates the need for a six-to-nine-month traffic study and helps narrow down the idea of a project’s cost when it comes time to secure financing.
“When developers can enter into a program like this and not be saddled with spending time and money on these improvements instead of their overall system, I think it’s very attractive,” Petit de Mange said.
In a later interview, Kent County Economic Partnership Executive Director Linda Parkowski said that the TID would go a long way in eliminating uncertainty surrounding the permitting process.
“There were a lot of questions and concerns, and sometimes people would struggle with understanding the process,” Parkowski told Delaware Business Times. “The TID is a natural progression of the planning process that’s been happening over the past two years, and it’s a favorable move for future development in these areas.”
Development can go hand-in-hand with a TID, as seen in Middletown over the last six years. A TID was proposed in 2015 west of Route 71 and focused mainly around Route 301, and Principal Planner Sarah Coakley said about half of the transportation projects are done. Apartments, townhomes, and large swaths of retail and restaurants have opened in that area since.
For the next steps, DelDOT, county and Frederica officials have to sign TID agreements and finalize service standards for transportation facilities (such as lane widths, sidewalk locations, and intersection delay standards). From there, DelDOT will develop a list of specific improvements, cost estimates for each of them, and a fee structure to build them.
Once a fee structure is established, the county can collect fees to be set aside for those transportation improvements.
At this point, there is little word on immediate interest in development. Kent County Planning Director Sarah Keifer said Rob Meding, owner of Meding’s Seafood in Frederica, is looking into building a Wawa, although nothing is set in stone.
Parkowski told DBT that before the pandemic, much of the interest focused on South Frederica, since it had more land readily available for development than Little Heaven.
“I think people have just put their ideas on pause because of the uncertainty about the pandemic,” she said. “I’m sure the interest will be there again once things have settled.”