Within the next 10 years, nearly 2,000 homes will fill 1,600 acres along Boyds Corner Road north of Middletown, but not without concern from residents about workforce housing and how the development will affect traffic in the area.

Within the next 10 years, nearly 2,000 homes will fill 1,600 acres of land along Boyds Corner Road north of Middletown, but not without concern from residents about workforce housing and how the development will affect traffic in the area.

Bleinheim Homes recently broke ground on the Village of Bayberry, which sits just a mile east of Jamison Corner and Cedar Lane roads.

Both Bayberry North and South were approved by New Castle County Council in July 2007.

Bayberry North is the first development below the canal that contains workforce-housing units to begin construction. Workforce housing is affordable housing geared to a household earning between 80 and 120 percent of the median annual income in New Castle County, which is between $47,000 and $89,000. These homes are priced between $137,000 and $278,000.

Many residents in the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend community have voiced opposition to workforce housing in this area because of the overcrowding it could pose to the roads and school system.

Rep. Dick Cathcart (R-Middletown), who lives in the adjacent neighborhood Grandview Farms, said he does not oppose workforce housing, but doesn’t think southern New Castle County is the appropriate place for it.

“Places where workforce housing has been successful are places where you can walk to work and where there’s an abundance of public transportation that can get them to work,” he said. “None of these things that are required apply to southern New Castle County. My complaint has been where’s the public safety coming from, how are the school districts going to keep up, and more importantly, who’s going to improve the intersections and roads?"

Jack Hiliman, manager of Blenheim Homes, said Bayberry North would include 20 to 40 workforce housing units, and most would be town homes.

He said Blenheim does not have plans to sell these properties, though. Instead they are going to rent them as part of Blenheim Rental Investment.

“One of the reasons we want to do that is so we can control things,” he said. “We’ve always maintained the exteriors of the homes, and that’s one way we can do that. We can bring in a grounds maintenance service so the lawns are kept up, the beds are mulched and the shrubs are trimmed.”

Dave Culver, general manager of the Department of Land Use for New Castle County, said although the ordinance changed in February 2009 to restrict workforce properties from renting out the homes, Blenheim Homes is able to rent them because their plan was submitted in November 2008 before the revision was made.

Hiliman said if the company decides to rent them, the allotted homes must stay workforce housing units for 25 years. If they are sold, they will be workforce housing for 15 years.

He said Blenheim is also able to transfer 50 percent of the workforce housing units from the community to another neighborhood, which would mean only 20 homes would be workforce housing units in Bayberry.

Culver said Blenheim is able to do that, but because it has not identified where that other 50 percent of homes would go, they would need approval from the county before doing so.

Hiliman said as far as traffic is concerned, the Delaware Department of Transportation does have plans to improve Boyds Corner Road to increase the road from one to two lanes each way and add central turning lanes throughout.

Middletown resident Leann Ferguson, vice president of the Southern New Castle County Alliance, said if the workforce housing units do end up being sold, she thinks it is important that home buyers in Bayberry be made aware that the development contains fixed-price units, which are houses that stay at a constant price for a specified period of time. Her group has been working with legislators to develop buyer notification laws.

Ferguson said if there are fixed-priced units in the development, it could affect another owner’s property values.

“When you go to sell your house, what an appraiser will do to set the market price is look at the home prices and adjust accordingly,” she said. “If there are 10 houses in a portion of Bayberry set at $190,000 and four of them were sold in 18 months, the home you’re selling would be adjusted accordingly.

“This is the biggest investment that anybody is going to make,” she said. “They deserve to know their investment could be affected by fixed-price units in the community.”

Planned for Bayberry

Hiliman said both the North and South developments will contain a range of housing types, including single-family homes on varying lot sizes, town homes, and possibly condominiums and apartments in the future. Bayberry South will also include an active adult community along Shallcross Lake and Boyds Corner roads.

“It’s a new lifestyle community,” he said. “There are no other communities like this south of the [Chesapeake & Delaware] Canal that have this diversity of housing with the amenities that we’re going to be providing.”

Hiliman said other features of the community include parks, walking trails, gazebos and man-made lakes.

According to a press release by Blenheim Homes regarding the ground breaking, the large development is meant to be a “self-sustaining community designed to reduce dependence on automobiles.”

While it is still in the county’s approval process, Hiliman said there are plans for a commercial center to be located on the north side of Boyds Corner Road, which would include offices, grocery stores, banks, restaurants and possibly more residences.

Hiliman said while Blenheim has not sold any properties yet, the company will most likely start selling by the end of the month.

Construction crews started building three-story, 20-foot-wide town homes and two-story, 24-foot-wide town homes at the center of Bayberry North during the summer months, and broke ground last week on the single-family homes.

“We really don’t know how long [completion] will take,” Hiliman said. “It depends on the market.”

He said construction may commence on the Bayberry South by the middle of next year.

“A lot is driven by market conditions,” he said. “One thing we would like to get started with sooner than later is 500 active adult homes on the south side.”

Hiliman said he has gotten positive feedback from those looking to buy in the development.

“People are really excited about the community,” he said. “We’ve had people come from outside the area, like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. This is going to be a destination community aside from serving the local community.”

Resident’s view

Sherri Brooks, who lives in the neighboring development Asbury Chase, said she was originally against Bayberry because of its size and the impact it would have on her and her neighbors’ quality of life.

Brooks said since she can see the new development from her kitchen window, she was nervous about what she would have to look at, but after public meetings with the developer and Blenheim homes, she was assured that berms would be put in and estate homes would be built along the outside of the development.

“I haven’t seen the plans since then, so I’m hoping that’s all still the case,” she said.

Brooks said she realized when she purchased her home that the space would be built on eventually, but she is disappointed that her view will be diminished because of the new property.

“We bought the house because of the beautiful sunset that we can see from our window, and that’s right where they’re building,” she said.

Brooks said the front entrance of Bayberry North was done beautifully, and she hopes that is an indication of what the rest of the development will look like.

“I’m not 100 percent against it, as long as they do the things they originally said they would do,” she said.