January 12, 2001

A Pennsylvania-based developer will seek 'corrective rezoning' to permit construction of a large upscale retirement community along the west side of Montchanin Road between Buck Road and the Reading Railroad track and adjacent to Greenville Manor.

"An extraordinary property in an extraordinary location" would provide rich retirees "a comfortable neighborhood environment similar to what they're used to for their later years," John Dusling, of Springton Development Co., told a community meeting attended by about 80 residents of the Greenville area on Jan. 11.

Using a provision of the Unified Development Code which permits clustering of residences, the company would erect between 50 and 70 free-standing and semidetached houses in the center of the 72.5-acre tract where the late Donald and Wilhelmina du Pont Ross lived. Their estate has selected 

Springton as a potential purchaser of the property. The new houses have 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of space on one floor and sell for between $500,000 and $600,000.

"There is quite a demand for high-level retirement facilities. Most of the operators now have fairly long waiting lists," said John Bolling, who represents the estate. He said the property definitely will be sold and indicated that development is its only economically feasible future. 

Mrs. Ross, who lived there for at least 60 years, discussed

John Dusling, of Springton Development Co., describes the age-restricted community for the affluent that his firm wants to erect in Greenville,

the possibility of putting a retirement community there before her death, Bolling said.

County Councilman Richard Abbott said present 'suburban estate' zoning permits construction of single-family residences on two-acre lots. Before the present development law was enacted three years ago about two-thirds of the property was in a zoning category that would have allowed construction on third-of-an-acre lots. That would be comparable to what is now allowed in the 'suburban' classification, which also permits cluster development, he noted.

Since the zoning map adopted after the development code went into effect has, in effect, 'downzoned' the property, Council could determine by simple vote that fairness requires 'correcting' the present classification. Abbott said he has not decided what his position on doing so would be "until I hear what the community wants." Support of the councilman who represents an area generally is a prerequisite for Council as a whole to go along.

In any event, Abbott explained that the Ross estate and Springton could seek concurrent approval of a conventional rezoning and a development plan.

Bolling said that an alternative to the retirement community would be to put 32 houses on the large lots allowed by current zoning. The downside of that would be that, although more palatial, they would just about fill the property. That was the only point that any meeting attender challenged. One woman suggested that wetland, trees and other components of the property would prohibit development to that density.

Dusling said that Springton would not be interested in the property other than for an age-restricted community. "We don't do anything else," he said.

Its low-profile buildings would be "nestled down in the hollow" at about the center of the property and scarcely visible from outside, he said. Moreover, he added, conventional development would result in "the only open space [being] the front yards and the back yards of the individual houses."

As he described the proposed community, there would be a private road leading into the cluster, preferably connecting with Buck Road and not more heavily traveled Montchanin Road, where the Rosses had their driveway. The exiting Ross house and barn would be converted into communal facilities like a clubhouse and exercise unit. Those structures probably would be torn down if a conventional community is put up, he said.

There would be no assisted-living or medical care on the site "or anything else that would be institutional." However, those kinds of services would be made available under contracts with providers already located in the vicinity.

Dusling said houses would be sold as 'age-restricted housing' only to persons 55 years of age and older. Such clientele would fit easily into the neighborhood. "They don't have loud parties or kids taking up room in the schools," he said.

Although their quarters would come with two- and possibly three-car garages, they would not contribute significantly to traffic volume in the area. "Fortunately, seniors don't have to commute to work so they do all their driving in the middle of the day when there is less traffic on the roads," he said.

2001. All rights reserved.

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