The City of Lewes has unanimously approved purchase of a 5.5-acre parcel, which will be the site of the new Lewes Public Library.
Mayor and city council, at a Dec. 19 special meeting, approved acquisition of the Thompson property, which lies adjacent to the existing library site.
Before the vote, Lewes Mayor Jim Ford gave a detailed report on how the $2.5 million purchase is being financed.
Ford said it took more than three years to reach the point of buying land, and land value fluctuated over that period of time. He said the accepted selling price was reached by offering slightly more than the average of two appraisals.
Ford said under charters of the city and Lewes Board of Public Works, a 24-month agreement will be established allowing the city to borrow $2.15 million from the board, enough to cover the purchase price.
The city will repay interest income on money borrowed during the loan period, and BPW ratepayers will not be financially affected, Ford said.
The city will pay the board the same interest rate it is receiving or would receive on invested funds.
During the two-year period, the city will sell three residential lots it owns and check into other funding options, such as a line of credit or short-term loan.
Ford, in a Dec. 19 interview, said the lots, which have not been recently appraised, might sell for $375,000 to $400,000 each.
He said the funding plan with the BPW creates financial flexibility, provides the city with beneficial interest rates, and reduces expenses.
Ford said settlement is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 28.
He said the city foresees being responsible for about 40 percent of the total purchase price.
Additional money would come from a variety of public and private sources including the Delaware Division of Libraries, Lewes Public Library, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and private donations.
The Delaware Department of Transportation has expressed interest in developing a trailhead at the site.
A DelDOT report released this month – evaluating trailhead options in Lewes – found the Thompson parcel presented the best location for a trailhead because of the opportunity to create a shared-use facility with the library.
“Once the city has obtained title of the parcel and finalized the library design, the department is willing to design and construct a trailhead facility on the parcel,” the report states.
The combined-use site is called the Lewes Gateway Project. With the library at its core, it will be a multipurpose amenity featuring connections to the adjacent Lewes-Georgetown Rail/Trail, and the nearby Junction and Breakwater Trail.
The project would also include shared parking space; comfort stations; and a connection hub for shuttles and public, private and jitney transportation.
Before DelDOT could proceed, the agency must through its land-acquisition procedure.
The agency has to determine acreage needed for the trailhead and subdivide that area from the primary parcel. The parcel would then be appraised but DelDOT is not purchasing it.
The existing library serves 18,000 residents; its service area extends to growth west of Route 1. Delaware Division of Libraries determined the Thompson site’s size is ideal to meet future growth projections and is accessible without significantly increasing traffic in the city.
A decision has not been made about what to do with the existing library building after the new library has been built. The city owns the building and rents it to the Lewes Public Library for $1 per year.
Possible options include renting or selling the building; use by various nonprofit organizations; or a partnership use with a state agency or educational institution.
“The options to be considered are based on community benefit and expenses incurred by the city. We’re not in a position to continue to maintain numerous public facilities without some consideration of how revenue would come about,” Ford said.
Lewes Gateway Project partners include the City of Lewes, Lewes Public Library, Lewes Board of Public Works, Greater Lewes Foundation, DelDOT, DNREC and Lewes citizens.