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New plan almost doubles homes in proposed Smyrna development

Ben Mace
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
The plan for the Graceville subdivision includes 709 lots for 314 single-family home and 395 townhouses on the west side of Rabbit Chase Lane, across the road from the Centerville development which is under construction. In this plan, Rabbit Chase Lane is along the top, and Sunnyside Road is at left. The open space in light green on the left side is the proposed site for a new school, across the road from Sunnyside Elementary. SUBMITTED GRAPHIC

Development plans that started in 2004 for a field on the southwest side of Smyrna are moving ahead 17 years later, but with significantly more homes than the original proposal and possibly land for a new school.

The developers, Liborio Investments III LLC, requested increasing the previously recorded 430-lot Graceville subdivision to 709 lots on 115.42 acres on the west side of Rabbit Chase Lane, between Sunnyside and Brenford roads.

The neighborhood will include 314 single-family homes and 395 townhouses.

Mayor Robert C. Johnson said he voted in favor of the plan at the Jan. 4 Town Council meeting because it fit the zoning and he liked the idea of the “planned village community” with prospects for land set aside for a new school.

“It has parks, amenities and open space which I think is nice. There’s a pool and a clubhouse,” Johnson said. “A lot of utilities are in front so that should settle some easement problems. It should be a good project, as long as the developer provides the amenities he promised.”

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the plan after a public hearing.

Johnson said in considering these development proposals, the town has to balance growth while trying to preserve the small-town atmosphere and answering the requests of residents.

“We’re in a Catch-22 situation when businesses say we don’t have enough homes for them to bring their business here,” he said. “Do we try to get more businesses, which is what a lot of people say they want? Because if we don’t have the rooftops, then we’re not going to have the businesses. We also need to be careful to keep single-family homes in the mix along with townhouses and apartments.”

The mayor said the town will also have to plan for growth of services to accommodate the residents of the 709-home neighborhood and the 425-duplex Centerville subdivision under construction on the east side of Rabbit Chase Lane.

“We’re going to be in constant contact with DelDOT to talk about the need to upgrade Rabbit Chase Lane to handle traffic,” he said.

He said conservative estimates are for another 2,000 residents if the Graceville neighborhood and nearby Centerville development fill up.

“The Police Department is going to have to expand for that as well, and we need to be cognizant of that and start planning for that,” Johnson said.

The town planning and zoning commission held a public hearing on the proposal Dec. 2. Months earlier, on April 20, the council voted to rezone the property to allow townhomes in addition to single-family homes and more units per acre and to approve the “planned village community” application. The original subdivision plan dates back to January 2004.

Possible site for a new school

The preliminary plan for the Graceville subdivision includes a site for a new school on the west side of Rabbit Chase Lane, across from Sunnyside Elementary.

“We are in the planning stages with the state, the town and the developer to procure approximately 13 acres for a future elementary school,” said Smyrna School District Superintendent Patrik Williams. “We are awaiting all approvals prior to engaging in a negotiation on price.”

Messages left for the developer Friday and Monday haven't been returned.

Johnson said, “There have been talks about the need for another school, and so I’m glad to see the plans to set aside land for that.”

Design of the new development

Jeremy Rothwell, the town’s senior planner, said the development will have a density similar to more traditional town designs.

Lots are smaller and more narrow than a conventional suburban subdivision. Homes must be between 10 and 20 feet from the front sidewalk, while almost all lots will be served by rear-access alleys. The plan includes sidewalks, trees, street lights and crosswalks.

Streets will be more narrow than most typical suburban subdivisions to mimic streets in a downtown neighborhood. 

MORE SMYRNA NEWS:South Main Street reopens after 18-month project

Next steps

Rothwell said the developer has to get approval from state agencies.

“I don’t anticipate any issues,” he said. “They’re at least another six months away from final approval.”