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Wyoming firm proposes 1,350-unit Milton community

Katie Tabeling

The Granary at Draper Farm is proposed for 1,350 units, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, 50 acres for parks and emergency services center. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CONVERGENCE COMMUNITIES.

MILTON — A real estate development firm with Delaware ties has announced plans to develop 450 acres in Milton into a 1,350-unit community that will map out the next stages in western Sussex’s residential growth.

Convergence Communities, the Wyoming-based developer connected to private equity firm Convergence Investments, has revealed its vision for land off Sand Hill Road and Gravel Hill Road. The project, tentatively called The Granary at Draper Farm, would include about 877 single-family homes and 473 townhomes.

Other preliminary plans include 60,000 square feet of commercial space, 55 acres for parks and ballfields, a bicycle and pedestrian trail system and Milton’s second emergency services station. Pending annexation and permitting, construction could start as early as 2023 with full completion targeted in 20 years.

The property is owned by the Cox family, and Convergence Investments CEO and Managing Partner Colby Cox is spearheading the development. Cox grew up in Milton before heading out to the University of Colorado. He came back to Delaware in the firm’s early stages, but eventually headed back out west and settled in Jackson, Wyo. 

“There’s definitely growth in Milton and they’re building pressure on the shore, specifically around Lewes, and it’s been pushing growth west,” Cox told the Delaware Business Times. “The town of Milton should be in control and see that it grows in a smart way, and as a family that owns legacy land in town, we want to make it in the best interest of the people and well-designed.”

The Cox family owns assets around the Lewes area and in Milton. The 450 acres for the proposed The Granary at Draper Farms represents about one-third of the property the family owns in Milton, and has been in the family for 80 years. Cox’s grandfather originally discussed developing the land in the mid-2000s, but that dream did not become a reality.

Roughly 12 miles west of Lewes, Milton has been slowly growing in the last decade and it is expected to boom in the next three decades. The town’s census showed that between 2000 and 2010, the town grew to 2,576 people, with an annual average increase of 92 people. That annual growth rate that decade was four times the annual growth rate in the 1990s. The Delaware Population Consortium expects Milton to reach a population of 4,000 people by 2050.

The Cox family land is identified as one of Milton’s best and largest opportunities for growth through annexation, according to the town’s 2018 comprehensive plan. That plan also states that the Delaware Department of Transportation identified needed intersection improvements at Sand Hill Road and Gravel Hill Road.

“The beauty of this project is that it’s in the hands of Milton in terms of how fast the town grows. When it comes to infrastructure, the pace of this project will be critical, and we believe a methodical approach can address the traffic improvements and infrastructure needs,” Cox said.

To help pay the uncalculated expense for infrastructure improvements to handle hundreds of people living at the Granary at Draper Farm, Cox has been in talks with Milton officials to create a special development district. A special development district allows towns to levy an additional tax on a specific area to help pay for projects like road improvements and sewer extensions.

In April, Milton officials were reportedly in conversations with Cox about the prospect and had signed off on the potential charter changes. Sen. Ernie Lopez (R-Lewes) and Rep. Steve Smyk (R-Milton) introduced a bill that would cement the special development district in Milton’s charter, and it later passed both the Senate and House in June. Senate Bill 174 now awaits Gov. John Carney’s signature.

“You can’t build the infrastructure, including the emergency services station, without this,” Cox said. “Growing up, I remember the midway to the beach was nothing but farmland. Now it’s becoming more alive with development. Somebody can control this growth in a smart way by working with the town to ensure that it develops in the right way.”

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