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Sussex County officials have approved The Grove at Carillon Woods, an age-restricted rental complex in Long Neck. The site plan needs final approval by the county's planning and zoning commission.

With a unanimous vote at its April 14 meeting, Sussex County Council approved a pair of rezonings that will allow an age-restricted apartment complex in Long Neck near the Route 24-Route 5 intersection.

The rezonings replace a previous plan that included a 54,000-square-foot shopping center and 124 townhouses. The new plan, The Grove at Carillon Woods, offers 204 age-restricted rental apartments on 27 acres, a density of 7.5 units per acre.

Carillon Square Apartments LLC filed a rezoning application that included downzoning 8.6 acres from commercial, C-1, to agricultural-residential, AR-1. A second application upzoned a 7.5-acre parcel from AR-1 and C-1 to high-density residential, HR-1, for a 17-acre parcel.

Eight acres in the AR-1 zoned area of the parcel will be preserved as woodlands with a walking trail and will not be developed, said project engineer Zac Crouch.

Amenities for the 55-plus community include a clubhouse, fitness center, four-seasons pool, dog park, walking path, sidewalks, community garden and courts for pickleball, bocce and shuffleboard.

Commercial development near the parcel – including a Wawa and Rite Aid pharmacy – has already been completed. The developer has constructed two access roads along Route 24 and one access road along Route 5.

Sussex County's Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended approval of the project.

During the hearing, Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, expressed concern about a 20-foot buffer between a section of wetlands and the community. Crouch said the buffer could be changed to 30 feet.

Jax Corrado, property manager of Beach Plum Dunes Apartments, said Ocean Atlantic Companies, which manages the Lewes complex, will also manage The Grove at Carillon Woods. All 194 apartments at Beach Plum Dunes are rented with a waiting list of 65, she said.

While not age-restricted, more than half of the residents there are older than 55, said Preston Schell, a partner in Ocean Atlantic. “We saw how incredibly social they were and that they were tenants by desire and not necessity. Many can afford to buy a home three or four times over but choose to live in a rental.”

Schell said there is a void in the market for those who want to move here and not make the commitment that comes with purchasing a home. “Some people don't know if they will like it here,” he said. “There are not a lot of options and not a lot of rentals out there. Those who live in the rentals love the flexibility.”

He said others want the option to pull up roots and move without selling a home.

Paul Chandler, president of the Delaware Apartment Association, said there is no end in sight on demand for apartments in the area. He said people are looking for upscale amenities and a community atmosphere with an active social circle. “A 55-plus community is pretty much the answer here,” he said.

Schell said his company is looking to build more apartments in the Rehoboth Bay area.