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For the second time, the site plan for the Anthem subdivision on Walker Road near Milton is up for debate.

In 2015, it was a request to remove sidewalks, and now residents are wondering how developer Milford Housing Development Corporation could alter an approved stormwater management plan in a four-acre section of open space in a dry pond to a wet pond without county approval.

Residents of the 151-unit subdivision say the open space is used as a recreation and walking area.

According to residents, under the new plan, the open space cannot be used for recreational purposes. In a recent letter to the editor, Anthem resident Corrine Baker blamed Sussex County officials for saving the developer money by scrapping the original open space plan. She says an agreement has been reached to replace it with “a wet, uneven drainage swale which won’t be of much use to us”.

She said the proposed change to the plan should have been presented to the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission for review. Following a July 29 meeting with county staff, she said, residents were unhappy with the county’s response and will be taking legal action.

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said once the final site plan is approved, the design, approval and inspection of a stormwater management system is coordinated by the Conservation District of Sussex.

Lawson said the system had been changed, but that was outside the county’s jurisdiction. “What the developer did was above the board and followed normal steps and processes,” he said. “And we are very offended by the assertion that there were behind-the-scenes deals.”

Lawson said it was not part of the process for county staff to review stormwater management systems or changes to those systems. “Should the county see a change like this? Maybe. We can watch that,” he said.

The final layout plan for the subdivision was approved in 2007, then amended in 2015 to allow for the removal of sidewalks.

Baker said in 2019 Milford Housing representatives told him the open space would be a dry area where the community could play its Thanksgiving Day football games. In 2021, she said she was told the area would not be flat but would be a dry rill.

Also in 2021, she said, a crew removed a substantial amount of dirt from the open space and created a swampy, swampy area. “We were told it was caused by over watering in the community and a rain garden would be needed,” she said. “We went from a dry, flat area to a humid rain garden.”

Meeting with the inhabitants

Due to questions from residents, county officials scheduled a meeting on July 29 with county administration and planning and zoning and engineering staff, the developer, County Councilor District 5 of Sussex John Rieley, District 3 Councilor Mark Schaeffer and Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commissioner Keller Hopkins.

The area where Anthem is located has changed from District 3 to District 5 following a recent redistricting.

At the meeting, Baker said Hopkins presented the original plan showing a pipe and stormwater infiltration system.

Baker said county staff told him a code update in 2017 would require substantial changes to site plans to be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission. Because Anthem’s plan was approved before 2017, the settlement didn’t apply, he was told.

“We don’t accept it and will address the situation from a legal perspective,” Baker said.

Baker said Rieley called her recently and told her he was trying to negotiate an alternate plan to the one that replaced the original plan. “I’m open to that, but I told him the area had to be dry. My concern is that any such plan that Rieley is working on will be stalled until after the election and will prove no better than what is currently on offer,” she said.