Lewes council approves moratorium on townhomes

No new special exceptions will be accepted in marine commercial district
March 31, 2014
Lewes Mayor and City Council unanimously enacted a moratorium on special exceptions to the marine commercial zoning district. SOURCE FILE

Lewes Mayor and City Council voted unanimously March 25 to place a moratorium on a special exception that was allowing townhomes to be built in the city's marine commercial district.

The moratorium, effective immediately, will be in place until Nov. 11, but could be lifted earlier.

“I feel there are questions whether the marine commercial [district] is really doing what we wanted it to do,” said Councilman Fred Beaufait. “The special exception I think has given us the opportunity to circumvent the marine commercial [zoning].”

By granting special exceptions, the city allows developers to sidestep regulations that require commercial space on the ground level of all buildings constructed in the marine commercial zone, paving the way for townhouses.

Two townhouse complexes have been approved in recent months on Savannah Road at the corners of Anglers Road and Massachusetts Avenue. In February, a townhouse developer approached the city's planning commission to rezone property to marine commercial in order to later apply for a special exception. The plan was not well received and has been pulled off the table, said Building Official Henry Baynum.

“I think we need to take a pause and look at the uses in the marine commercial [district] to ensure that we have zoned this correctly,” said Councilwoman Bonnie Osler.

Sentiment at a public hearing on the moratorium in February was almost entirely in favor of the measure.

Moving forward, mayor and city council will work with the planning commission to determine if the special exception should be amended or eliminated altogether.

“It was something that seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Councilman Dennis Reardon. “I don't think we really considered all the ramifications of it. This gives us an opportunity to take a good, hard look at all those options and make a more qualified decision.”

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