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Lewes Ice House neighbors oppose rezoning request

Zoning sought is out of character, residents say
March 13, 2018

Neighbors of the Lewes Ice House on New Road were unanimous in their opposition to a rezoning request for the 2.11-acre parcel. 

Sandbox Land Development LLC is seeking to rezone the property from industrial to R-4, medium-density residential. It is the developer’s intent to construct 10 single-family homes on the parcel. All land surrounding the property is zoned R-2, low-density residential. 

Under R-2 zoning, Jeff Savage of Sandbox said, he can build only six single-family homes, but the project is financially feasible only if more units are allowed.

“You would be in a hole before you ever built a house,” he said, appearing before at a March 6 public hearing before Lewes Mayor and City Council. 

The average lot would be about $300,000. He estimates purchase of the property, demolition of the existing concrete building, environmental studies and other necessary work would total about $2.5 million. He said he looked at comps in the town to determine the value of lots. 

“Give or take market value, chances in development, [10 lots] is the more feasible number to make this project work,” he said. 

Savage is seeking R-4 zoning in the middle of R-2 because, he said, it fits with the area. He said 82 percent of the lots that border the parcel are less than the minimum of 10,000 square feet required for R-2 zoning. The average nonconforming lot size in the vicinity is 8,069 square feet. Savage said the average square footage for his proposed 10 lots would be about 9,000, less than 900 square feet from meeting the R-2 requirement, but still larger than some neighboring properties.

Savage said the properties likely became nonconforming when Lewes updated its zoning code several years ago.  

The proposed project would add five lots fronting New Road and another five lots with access via Carey Lane, a 14-foot wide roadway that connects to Pilottown Road. Several Carey Lane residents attended the March 6 public hearing to oppose the project as proposed, saying the narrow road cannot handle any more traffic.

“If we have five houses facing Carey Lane and someone decides to have a luncheon or dinner, we cannot move on Carey Lane,” said resident Virginia Falgowski. 

The Lewes Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend city council deny the request, citing the impact on Carey Lane and noting the parcel does not meet the requirements for R-4 zoning, specifically that the requirement that it be adjacent to the town center. 

New Road neighbor Marta Nammack said the adjacency issue is important to consider.

“Why have a comp plan that says the purpose is this, only to change it later?” she said. “One reason we bought there is because we didn’t want to be closer to town because they are smaller lots and closer to people and more noise and more traffic.” 

She said if council approves the rezoning, it could be precedent-setting for future development. 

Savage said the size of the lot limits what can be built on it under R-4. He said the lot does not meet the 2.5-acre minimum size to build multifamily homes. 

“The only thing that would be permissible under R-4 zoning is single-family houses,” he said. “I’ve tried to present something from the beginning that could possibly appease the public as well as the town, and make this a viable redevelopment project.”

Council did not take action on the request. It is likely to appear on the agenda for the Monday, March 19 city council meeting.