Master Planned Resort Community

Complex and Overlapping State and Federal Approval Process

A major residential and retail development company had quietly assembled 867 acres on a bay in southeastern Delaware near the popular Delaware and Maryland ocean resorts. The county government had earlier designated its southeastern area for future growth in a comprehensive plan that specified both preservation and development areas. The company applied for and ultimately received county zoning approval for a large, mixed-use development. Several environmental and community organizations strenuously objected to the project's density. Moreover, given the property's sensitive location on a major bay just west of the ocean, federal and state wetlands and water quality permits would be required. Issues involving the habitat for an experimental population of an endangered species and potential historic sites were also raised by project opponents and government regulators.

The company prepared a master plan for a resort community of 1,640 residential units (single family, duplex, townhouse, and condominium) centered on a championship golf course, a town center with retail and commercial uses, and other recreational facilities and features. Importantly, as a master planned "smart growth" community on a bay, more than 50 percent of the site would be in open space. Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. was retained to guide the company's project managers and environmental consultants through the thicket of a complex and overlapping state and federal approval process. Reviews were triggered under state environmental laws as well as the federal Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act.

Following public hearings and many months of field work and negotiations with the various agencies, wetlands and water quality permits were issued, historic sites identified, no endangered species habitat set-aside was required, and an environmental assessment laying out the community's features and wetlands permit conditions was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. No project opponent appealed any of the federal and state approvals or decisions. By August 2005, home sales were moving briskly, the town center was underway, and Jack Nicklaus attended the opening of his championship signature golf course on the bay.

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