Developer is proposing apartment complex on Water Street property

By Lynn R. Parks

After plans for construction of 52 condominiums along the Nanticoke River in downtown Seaford fell through in the wake of the recent recession, a developer is proposing putting two apartment buildings on the Water Street property.

Eugene Bayard, with the Georgetown law firm Wilson, Halbrook and Bayard, and Salisbury architect Keith Fisher were at last Tuesday night's city council meeting, to explain the project, dubbed the Residences at River Place. Developers are members of the Diamond and Perlmutter families, Bayard said. They have developed properties throughout the mid-Atlantic area, he said, and are "capable, sophisticated and very experienced builders."

"They are very conscious of the surrounding neighborhood and are committed to creating a high-end, quality product," Fisher added.

There is a problem, though: The apartment buildings as designed do not comply with the city's zoning laws. As the city's Riverfront Enterprise Zone is written, there isn't even any room for waivers to permit the construction.

"At this stage, we can't even apply for a building permit," Bayard said.

Bayard asked the city to authorize city solicitor James Fuqua to write a new zoning ordinance that would permit the developers to apply for waivers to allow construction of the apartment complex. Mayor Bill Bennett and the council agreed; a new ordinance is scheduled to be presented for the council's consideration at its next regular meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Fisher said that the complex would have two buildings and 72 rental units. The complex would include a clubhouse and pool, as well as open space to allow residents room for recreation. Plans also call for construction of a marina.

The buildings would be 58 feet tall to allow for some parking space to be put underneath them.

"A building that would sit on the ground would be hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper," Fisher said. But that would also mean that area that is designated for open space would have to be used for parking, he added.

"The developer is committed to doing this the best way that he can."

In a Dec. 18, 2012 letter to Bayard, Fuqua outlined how the proposal is not in compliance with downtown zoning. The buildings would be too tall, he said; C-3 zoning permits heights up to 35 feet. There would be too many units per building as well as too many units per acre and there would be too few parking spaces. Zoning requires two parking spaces per unit; as designed, the complex would have just 1.5 spaces per unit.

It would also be out of compliance with requirements regarding minimum unit size (3,630 square feet) and maximum lot coverage, Fuqua said.

City manager Dolores Slatcher said that if the council approves the new zoning ordinance at the Feb. 12 meeting, the ordinance will still have to go through a public hearing and a second vote by the city council. Following that, the Residences at River Place will have to present plans to the city's planning and zoning commission. Any waivers from zoning laws will have to be approved by the Board of Adjustment.

Final plans will also have to be approved by the city council.

Plans for the condos that were originally planned for the property were approved by the city council in 2005. Those plans called for two four-story buildings.

In 2001, this same property was the site of a proposed library, to replace the Seaford District Library then on Porter Street. But the high cost of the waterfront property generated complaints from the community and the new library was eventually built in the Ross Business Park.

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