As Lewes City Council schedules a public hearing for annexation of Point Farm and prepares to consider plans for two new major subdivisions, a coalition of citizen groups has joined forces to address growing concerns over the potential impact of unfettered development on city taxpayers, including rising flood insurance rates and expanded infrastructure costs.
The newly created Lewes Community Partnership will hold its first public informational meeting at 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26, in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 211 Mulberry St. The afternoon’s agenda will begin with a brief status report on such major development projects as the Highland Heights subdivision and the Point Farm annexation. This meeting will also provide a forum for communitywide input around the need for both an updated comprehensive development plan and a professional city planner to oversee it.
LCP member groups believe that a legally enforceable plan will be the key to smart growth, now and in the future, given that rapid development takes a tremendous toll on municipal infrastructure, leaving taxpayers to assume the liability.
“What, where, and how we build will affect our town for generations to come,” says Ric Moore from Safe and Livable Lewes, a group of local residents formed to challenge the proposed Highland Heights subdivision project, which would displace the city’s last remaining natural forest. “And if we keep taking a project- rather than a policy-directed approach to development, we will all end up paying the price in the form of increased homeowner’s insurance rates and lower property values, at the very least.”
Former state representative Dave Ennis, a leading voice in Citizens Advocating Livable Lewes, wholeheartedly concurs. “Like all cities in Delaware, Lewes is required by law to have a long-range comprehensive plan in place for land use, zoning, transportation, public safety, and historic preservation. But we’re falling behind other communities, and that failure has already resulted in higher flood insurance rates. So it’s time to take a far more proactive approach that looks at all the issues, from mitigating storm damage to protecting our rich cultural and archaeological history.”
According to local architect John Mateyko, who was instrumental in halting construction of a major shopping center across from Cape Henlopen High School, any development plan must be legally sound, financially sustainable, and policy-driven. It will also need plenty of community input and support to succeed over time. “Although our ad hoc efforts have been relatively successful to date, it’s time to look at a bigger vision for Lewes that focuses on building safe, healthy, and sustainable neighborhoods. When all is said and done, individual and community wellness begins and ends with good planning that takes everyone’s needs into account.”
To ensure that all needs are met, LCP member organizations urge Lewes residents to join their neighbors in positive action by attending the meeting at St. Peter’s. For more information, go to www.LewesCommunityPartnership.org, email info@LewesCommunityPartnership.org, or phone 302-827-4092.