Senior housing project gains preliminary ‘thumbs-up’ from Millington officials

MILLINGTON — The circuitous route that has been the Town of Millington’s in its bid to bring affordable senior housing to the area appears to be back on track.

At their regularly scheduled monthly meeting Dec. 28, members of the town’s planning commission embraced the preliminary site plan presented by project manager Frank Hodgetts and his team.

Hodgetts is the president of Home Partnership Inc., a 501(c) nonprofit located in Joppatowne that has done a 77-unit project in North East, a 53-unit project in Perryville and another 53-unit project in Cecil County — among others.

He and Town Administrator Elizabeth Jo Manning have been working on various iterations of a senior housing project in Millington for about 10 years.

“Sounds fabulous,” planning commission Chair Joyce Morales said following the presentation by Hodgetts, architect Megan Elcrat who participated by phone and civil engineer John Gonzalez.

Since this was only a preliminary site plan, no action was required — or taken — by the town’s planning commission.

However, the immediate feedback was universally favorable.

Morales and commission member Maurice “Moe” Morton said they had “no negative comments.”

“Looks good,” added member Rahul “Rocky” Datta.

The plan is to put 52 senior living units on two of the three parcels that make up what was once Millington Elementary School, a 24-acre site that the town purchased for $1 from the county in December 2022.

Either Home Partnership Inc. or another agency will manage the facility, not the town.

Home Partnership will lease the property from the town for $1 a year for a minimum of 40 years, according to Manning.

There will be 16 units in what has been designated as Parcel 1, on the south side of the shuttered school building and near the water tower, and the remaining 36 units in Parcel 3, which is on the north side of the building and adjacent to the ball field.

Also planned for Parcel 1 is a separately constructed building that will serve as the leasing office for what has been named Millington Senior Village.

Parcel 2 is the former school building.

The property was annexed into town limits in 2022.

Hodgetts told the planning commission that the project will meet the town’s landscaping requirements, plus there will be walking trails to provide connectivity within the site. The hope is to be able to preserve some of the existing trees.

Parking would include some designated handicap spaces, and there would be electric vehicle charging stations.

Currently in the works is a stormwater management concept.

Water and sewer will be provided by the town. Some grinder pumps may be needed because of the topography.

Access will be from the existing state Route 313 (Sassafras Street).

Hodgetts said that the buildings — consisting of four and eight units — will be “sprinklered.”

To help facilitate the presentation, Hodgetts brought along concept drawings and a map.

Speaking by phone, architect Megan Elcrat, founding principal of Baltimore-based Present Company, said, “We’re thinking about how this looks from neighboring yards and the street. We’re trying to foster a sense of community and village concept.”

Hodgetts said the building material would be cementitious along with vinyl, and that they would be applying for energy-efficient credits.

“These are going to be top of the line,” he said of the units.

Of the project in general, Hodgetts said, “There’s been a lot of thought and work by the development team.”

Options are one or two bedrooms, each with one bathroom.

A one-bedroom unit would run from 620 to 712 square feet; the square footage for two bedrooms could be up to 805.

The monthly rent would be as low as $416 and as high as $1,083, based on income of the renters. These numbers will change as “they change once a year,” Hodgetts said at the meeting.

He said the least-expensive units would be the first to go.

“The market says we won’t be able to suffice the demand,” Hodgetts said.

Manning said she already has a waiting list of 25 people, most of them Kent County residents or those who moved away and want to return. There are a few from Queen Anne’s and Cecil counties too.

Senior apartment complexes in Galena (Briscoe Manor) and Sudlersville (Foxxtown Apartments) also have waiting lists, according to Manning.

What’s next?

Hodgetts told the Millington Planning Commission that he anticipated breaking ground in November 2024 and that construction would take about 14 months, though the time frame would be a function of the supply chain.

The next step is for Hodgetts and his team to return with a full set of architectural and environmental plans for review.

They will be asked to address issues such as design, utilities, forestation, roads, erosion control and stormwater so that the town planning commission and other agencies, such as the Office of the State Fire Marshal and Kent Soil and Water Conservation District, can really “nitpick,” Town Administrator Manning told The Evening Enterprise in a follow-up phone interview Friday, Dec. 29.

“They can dig in deep and see what they want,” she said.

Manning said she does not anticipate that Hodgetts will appear before the planners again until the February meeting at the earliest.

Millington Senior Village is a $13.8 million project.

Manning said all but $1.6 million has been secured.

State and federal agencies and private investors have committed to the project, according to Manning.

Also, she said, the town will assist by waiving some permitting- and construction-related fees.

‘We have started’

In the Dec. 29 follow-up phone interview, Manning said the Town of Millington had begun exploring senior housing as early as 2012 and had a concept plan in 2013 — before Hodgetts’ involvement.

In 2018, the town signed a development services agreement with Home Partnership Inc. That’s when the plan was to build about 14 senior affordable housing units on 2 acres that the town owned on Carville Drive in the Mill Village subdivision.

The project was slowed down, and ultimately altered, because of bureaucracy, funding challenges, the COVID pandemic and other obstacles.

“We have started over four times, but now it seems like everything is falling into place,” Manning said in the Dec. 29 telephone interview.

Hodgetts told the planning commission last week, “We finally hope to thread the needle on this. … We’ve got a long way to go, but we have started.”

Uses for former MES building

In the Dec. 29 phone interview, Manning said the plan is for the former school building to become a community business center.

Already, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office is using a small space for a substation.

Manning said she has letters of intent from a pre-K daycare and the Crumpton-Millington food bank to lease out space.

In another interview Wednesday, Jan. 3, Manning said space could be rented by anyone in the county for uses as varied as public meetings and social events.

At the Dec. 28 planning commission meeting, Hodgetts wondered aloud if the portico could be used as a stop for Delmarva Community Transit to help facilitate the creation of a route servicing the upper part of Kent County.

The county officially took ownership of the property in May 2019, nearly two years after MES was shuttered as part of school consolidation and subsequently declared surplus.

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One Response

  1. I am beyond thrilled to see that this concept is about to become a reality. It’s about time as Seniors and folks on limited incomes cannot afford to live in Kent County and want to return to where they feel they belong. Have been working with the Homeless and underserved for many years. Very welcome initiative, for sure.

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