Lewes planners debate Harbor Point proposal

Zoning, potential flooding among concerns
The Lewes Planning Commission recently discussed potential concerns with the proposed Harbor Point (previously Point Farm) community. ARTWORK BY CHRISTOPHER FOSTER
July 14, 2014

Before granting preliminary consent for the proposed Harbor Point community, the Lewes Planning Commission wants to talk through its major concerns about the project.

Members met June 24 to lay out potential problems with the 69-lot subdivision proposed for a 108-acre parcel off Park Road near the Canary Creek community.

Vice Chair Kay Carnahan said city code requires a project satisfy 22 factors before approval is granted; so far, she has concerns about nearly half of them.

“In the past I've had some discomfort with some, but to have serious pause at nine out of 22 is a lot at this point," she said. "I have read, read and reread, so I have a long way to go to get a comfortable level.”

Among the top concerns were with proposed zoning – R-3, beach zoning – and the impact development could have on the neighboring Great Marsh.

Commissioner Barbara Vaughan said before a vote, she wants to better understand the implications on the marsh, specifically potential flooding in Harbor Point as well as other communities in the area. Developer Jack Lingo Asset Management provided a report from a hydrogeologist in its application, but Vaughn said it further complicated the matter.

“The problem is what's in this document might be the best science man is capable of understanding, but I cannot read it and understand it,” she said. “I can't draw conclusions that make me feel comfortable about the issue of water. I don't even know how to ask the right questions.”

Commission Victor Letonoff agreed.

“I have a degree in engineering, and I read this book until it fell apart, and I feel the same way Barbara does,” he said. “A lot of it is in foreign language to me. I don't have the answers.”

The commission has 90 days from the May 28 public hearing to make a decision on preliminary consent. The group agreed to meet at least twice a month to work on the Harbor Point application.

City attorney Michael Hoffman said many of the concerns will be addressed by the city engineer when the application reaches a more technical review after preliminary consent is granted. That didn't relieve the apprehension of some commissioners.

“I think there is a worry on the part of some of us and on the part of some of the public that if we give preliminary consent, then the dominoes are going to fall in line and this thing is going to get built,” said Chairman Mike Mahaffie.

Hoffman assured commissioners that there will be opportunities to put a halt to the development in the future if conditions are not met. The planning commission will have a say in the final site plan approval process and at least one more public hearing will be held before mayor and city council renders a final decision, he said. It is important, he said, that if the commission has concerns moving forward, they are put on the record when granting preliminary consent.

“I completely understand and respect the proverbial train leaving the station,” Hoffman said. That's valid. But that's why the planning commission and everybody on every step along the way needs to be clear what it is deciding and what it's expecting and what it's requiring.”

No decisions were made on the application, as commissioners will continue pouring through reports and testimony to fully understand the developer's proposal. Dialogue will continue in future meetings.