Highland Acres residents are split on whether they want to be annexed into the city of Lewes.
Lewes Mayor and City Council is moving forward with the process; they created an annexation committee July 14 to explore the positives and negatives of bringing the 56-home community within municipal limits.
At the meeting, some Highland Acres residents said they want to remain outside Lewes.
Bennet Anderson said he feels he's being railroaded.
“I'm against being annexed by the city,” he said. “I don't think we've really polled all the people who are living back there to find out who is for it and who is against it. It seems like a handful of people have taken this thing and moved it ahead very quickly without informing the rest of the people who are living there.”
Following a June 26 meeting with the Lewes Board of Public Works, 19 Highland Acres residents signed and submitted a petition to the city for annexation consideration. City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said it takes only five residents from a subdivision to spark an annexation discussion.
Mandalas assured the Highland Acres residents opposed to annexation that it is not a done deal.
“There is still plenty to be done before an annexation vote,” he said. “You are wise to be looking and watching and making sure you're fully informed, but I don't want anyone to go away thinking this will happen overnight without a lot of public process.”
The annexation committee consists of Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait and council members Rob Morgan, Bonnie Osler and Dennis Reardon. The committee has 90 days to complete its review and report back to council.
If the city chooses to move forward with annexation, an election will be held. Highland Acres residents will vote in one booth and Lewes citizens vote in another. A simple majority is needed for annexation to pass.
Residents approached the city and BPW about annexation in order to tap into city water and wastewater services. If approved for annexation, the city would provide those services and bring Highland Acres' streets up to city standards. BPW General Manager Darrin Gordon estimates the project would cost Highland Acres residents about $40,000, broken down into $200 monthly payments.
Resident Edith Page said many of her neighbors have aging septic systems that are failing or have already failed. New, more stringent regulations implemented by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control make it nearly impossible to replace septic tanks, she said.
“My septic is 30 years old; it's not if, it's when it fails,” she said. “We cannot buy a new septic, so what can we do?”
Ric Moore, who does not reside in Highland Acres, questioned the legality of annexing an entire community when a homeowners association does not exist.
“Would that not require each owner being annexed to separately agree to annexation?” he asked.
Mandalas said he did not know the answer and would look into the question.
Highland Acres resident John Warrington said the lack of a homeowners association creates problems.
“It seems strange that in this day and time when we don't have a governing body in Highland Acres that a group of people who want something can force me and other people who are against it,” he said. “It is going to cost us money. If we had a homeowners association I could understand. As it stands right now, it feels like I'm being pushed into it.”
Highland Acres was at one time a part of Lewes. Mayor Ted Becker said the community seceded from the city sometime in the 1950s.
Former Councilwoman Stephanie Tsantes said the city should not move forward while contention remains among Highland Acres residents. She said they should work out matters and come back to the city as a unified group.
“I think for years I've heard there are a lot of residents out there who don't want to come in,” she said. “I don't know that we should be Big Brother and force them.”