The planning commission approved construction of 192 apartments Dec. 18.

The Camden Planning Commission approved the construction of an apartment complex in an open field between town hall and Route 13 at their meeting Dec. 18.

Davis, Bowen and Friedel will construct eight three-story buildings for 192 total apartments. The plan includes 365 parking spaces, garages, a pool, pool house, 13 off-street parking spaces, a maintenance building and three retention ponds.

The commission approved this plan with four conditions:

No construction traffic will go through East Street. Construction vehicles will only use Route 13 and South Street. Construction will be limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. No construction allowed Sundays. The apartment complex must install security cameras. A six-foot white vinyl fence is required along William and East Streets. (This is the highest fence allowed by code, chairwoman Mary Ellen Gray said.) 

These conditions addressed a few concerns about traffic, construction noise and safety raised by more than a dozen residents during the public hearing.

Maxine Wayson lives in a home on William Street that backs up to historic buildings on Main Street. She asked the commission to turn down the plan.

“It’s so wrong to do this to our neighborhood,” Wayson said. “Even though we’re all in town, it feels like the country to us.”

A few teachers and families talked about the need for sidewalks to prevent students from cutting through backyards or using busy streets when they walk from the apartments to Caesar Rodney High School.

Ring Lardner, the civil engineer representing DBF, said there would be a sidewalk connection on the same side of the street as Northeastern Supply. The planned Camden bypass, a Delaware Department of Transportation project from Route 13 to Main Street, would have a path for both bikes and pedestrians, he said. There will be an entrance to the complex off this bypass.

The complex will likely attract families with 60% two-bedroom, 25% one-bedroom and 10% three-bedroom apartments, Lardner said when he first introduced the plan to the commission Nov. 14, 2018.

With the increase in population, several residents said they were worried about more pressure on the fire department, police department and schools.

The commission responded saying the code does not require a study into a possible increase in services.

Other residents said they were concerned about an increase in traffic. Instead of conducting a traffic study with DelDOT, DBF agreed to contribute to the bypass project by paying for its right-of-way in-kind.

Lardner said he predicts the construction to start in April and last three to five years. They will finish a few buildings at a time.

After he introduced the preliminary site plan Nov. 14, 2018, another representative from DBF gave a project update Aug. 21, 2019 and Lardner led an informal meeting with neighbors in November.

Camden passed its 2019 Comprehensive Plan May 6, setting goals for future development and updating zoning. The town amended the plan to change the land-use of the parcel where the complex would go from agricultural to multi-family residential.

New Camden resident Gale Christensen said the issue of residents not wanting an apartment complex in their neighborhood goes back to zoning.

“It’s the town’s responsibility to have ordinances that determine where the town sees itself headed,” she said.