Showfield a no-show at Lewes meetings

Developers seek waivers to allow project to move forward
A portion of the proposed Showfield at Lewes community could be built on this parcel. Project developers are asking the city to waive requirements for them to go back through subdivision planning again. SOURCE FILE
November 11, 2013

Developers of the proposed 607 unit Showfield at Lewes community have twice been on Lewes Mayor and City Council meeting agendas, and twice the company has failed to appear.

Developers Showfield LLC and Sophora J. LLC are requesting waivers that would allow the project to proceed, even though it has exceeded the period of inactivity allowed by city ordinance.

No one representing the project showed up for an Oct. 21 meeting, and no one appeared for an earlier June 10 meeting.

“Second time we have not been notified that we were on the agenda,” Bryce Lingo wrote in an Oct. 31 email responding to a question about why the company did not attend the meetings.

City officials said the developers knew the waivers request was on both meeting agendas.

Bryce Lingo is a principal and developer, in partnership with T. William Lingo of Showfield LLC and Hazell Smith and Karen Parker of Sophora J. LLC.

The waivers request, if granted, would allow the project to proceed without starting over and going through subdivision planning.

Showfield is planned on a parcel between Freeman Highway and Gills Neck Road, land better known as the Smith Farm. The development would lie on a 230-acre tract, with 90 acres in the City of Lewes and about 140 acres in unincorporated Sussex County.

The development would be completed in phases over a 10-year period, starting with 188 single-family homes, according to the last subdivision plan approved in fall 2009.

The city and developer had been negotiating about how the developer would finance public aspects of the project, such as maintaining Whites Pond, barns and trails on the property and the extension of Monroe Avenue.

Lewes Mayor Jim Ford said Showfield representatives wanted to pay a lump sum, after which the city could use the money as it chose. Since those discussions occurred, nothing has happened for five years.

Ford said proposed development must be revisited because the city has adopted a revised zoning code since Showfield’s application, and the revised code might change aspects of the project.

In an April 17 letter to Lewes building official Henry Baynum, Bryce Lingo cited city ordinance allowing Lewes Mayor and City Council to grant a waiver of a cancelled application if good cause is shown.

“The application was put on hold by the project owners due to the financial crisis, the real estate market crash, and the associated pressures that coincided with those events,” Lingo wrote, adding market conditions lasted longer than extensions provided for in the city code.

The waivers request was written based on guidance provided by city attorney Glenn Mandalas, Lingo wrote, following meetings with Ford, city manager Paul Eckridge and other city representatives.

Further consideration and discussion of the waivers request was placed on mayor and council’s June and October meeting agendas, but no project representative came forward to speak.

In September 2008, a City of Lewes annexation committee concluded it would be a good idea for the city to annex the 140-acre parcel. Plans called for the city to hold one vote on annexation, zoning and maintenance agreements. The annexation vote is still pending.

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