With two public information gathering sessions in the books and the results of an online survey tallied, the Lewes Planning Commission is ready to dig deeper into planning for the city's future.
The commission met July 29 to analyze the results of both studies and set the stage for the next phase of the comprehensive land-use development plan process. The plan is due next year, and the commission hopes to have a draft ready by January.
“We certainly all feel the pressure of this project,” said Vice Chairwoman Kay Carnahan. “We know what it means, how it helps guide the city and how it helps us move forward. We're all well aware of what we need to do to get this right, and now it's a matter of figuring out a path forward.”
Ed Lewandowski, coastal communities development specialist with the University of Delaware, attended the commission's meeting to go over the results of two public meetings. Chairman Mike Mahaffie also revealed online survey results and presented the most common responses in word cloud format. The wants, needs and desires were similar in both: residents expressed concern with development, annexation and coastal flooding. Maintaining Lewes' six core values is still important, the results suggested.
“I didn't really see any surprises,” Carnahan said. “It seems like we're on the right track for a lot of what we're doing. People have things that make them angry, people have things they worry about, but I think in general nobody said they hate this place.”
Resident Scott de Kuyper urged the commission to move past the social study and begin work on issues facing the city now, like annexation.
“There are very specific discussions that I think are very important,” he said. “Let's get right to the meat of the matter, like when we talk about annexation. That's a great place to say, 'we're very concerned about this development on the outskirts of town. Do you feel that is good or bad for Lewes?' And that is a very basic question.”
Mahaffie said decisions are not so cut and dry. The commission includes recommendations in the comprehensive plan, but they do not necessarily take the city in the direction the commission was expecting, he said.
“The plan doesn't say we're absolutely going to accomplish these things,” he said. “We're going to try to accomplish something in this direction and may end up in a different place than we had expected.”
For Carnahan, what residents aren't talking about right now may be just as important as the big issues.
“I think so much of the news and what's currently happening drives people's emotions,” she said. “What is it that is not news right now, as far as our agendas, that is important to you? That is the thing I'm worried we're missing. I want to get to those issues that have fallen off our radar.”
Resident Ric Moore said the actions of the past have molded Lewes into what it is today, for the good and for the bad. He cautioned the commission that the decisions it makes today will affect residents now and in the future.
“The choices we make at this point in time will have consequences, and we need to think more clearly about it because it's going to affect every one of us,” he said.
Carnahan has mapped out the commission's comp plan meeting schedule for the rest of the year with hopes of having a draft of the plan ready for review in January. At its August meeting, the commission will tackle quality-of-life issues and a community development strategy. In September, focus will shift to flooding and sea-level rise, environmental protection, infrastructure and redevelopment strategies.
To view the results of the survey and to keep updated on the comprehensive plan process, the city has created a section on its website where pertinent information may be found. To access it, go to www.ci.lewes.de.us, then after selecting the planning commission under the meetings and agendas tab on the left side of the page, the information may be accessed by clicking the Lewes comprehensive plan updates button on the upper right side of the page.