Lewes officials have restricted parking on four Lewes Beach streets, and will now turn their attention to reclaiming rights of way lost to many years of encroachment.
Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait said establishing the boundary between private land and public right of way will provide a safer environment for parking and easier street navigation.
“Over the years we have allowed property owners to plant trees, build fences, whatever, and it has been done on the city right of way,” he said. “This is an effort to help with the parking situation and not to take out just four streets that have a problem.”
At its April meeting, council voted 4-1 to prohibit parking on the east side of Ohio and Oregon avenues and the west side of New Hampshire and Vermont avenues. Residents of Lewes Beach the streets are too congested during the summer season when visitors park on both sides of the roadway.
Council's action does not open the door for parking restrictions on other streets, Beaufait said.
“We're not going to make this an open invitation for all of the streets on Lewes Beach to ask for no parking,” he said. “We're making it very clear that these four streets are identified as very definite problem streets.”
The next step, he said, is addressing right of way encroachment. He said the city will ask property owners to voluntarily clear the right of way areas. If there are significant expenses involved, he said, the city may need to get involved.
“I think while the intent is to reclaim our right of way, we have to do it judiciously and look at each case to see what it is that's impeding,” he said. “It's not cut and dry on exactly what we would do.”
Councilman Dennis Reardon said the city should look at each street on a case-by-case basis and be reasonable in its attempt to recover its land. Some Lewes Beach homes were built prior to setback requirements, he said, so pieces of some homes sit in the right of way.
“I'm hoping we're keeping an open mind here, and we're going to look at these and do what's right and not just take back property,” he said.
Beaufait said he is aware right-of-way encroachment is an issue citywide, and council may take action on the rest of the city at a later time.