The Lewes Beach Parking Committee took a step back from discussing new parking lots and beach etiquette of visitors to have a conversation about the vision for Lewes Beach in the future.
“I’ve been coming here all my life,” said Councilman Dennis Reardon. “It’s very much like it used to be, except there are now big houses where there were small cottages.”
Several members of the public said they would support tighter regulations to control the size of homes on Lewes Beach.
“We need to preserve its charm, its character and its size,” said resident Stephanie Tsantes. “We’ve seen Rehoboth deal with the McMansions being built. I think the city needs to set some density limits for these large houses.”
Joe Smith, a Lewes Beach resident since 1955, said he is also worried about the size of homes. His vision of Lewes Beach is to have a community of law-abiding citizens, respectful neighbors and a welcoming environment.
“We really need to maintain those values,” he said. “I’m concerned about being welcoming, and I’m concerned about elitism.”
For committee member Linda Rathmanner, the relationships between in-town residents, beach residents and visitors need to be better.
“I think a small-town feel has to come from the community,” she said. “It’s not the beach side versus the city side or the people of Lewes against visitors. We all have to cooperate and make everybody feel welcome.”
Resident Gail Van Gilder said the city needs to take care of its residents first and foremost. She said the city should consider priority parking for residents.
“There are people who live here who pay taxes, who pay to maintain the parking lots and all that,” she said. “It seems to me the city residents should have some priority parking at the beach so they don’t get shut out while we invite everybody else in.”
She said the exploding population just outside the city borders threatens to overwhelm.
Resident Sally Boswell encouraged the city to consider safety as a top priority moving forward.
“When we make it safer for children, elderly and even the environment, we make it a better place,” she said.
Yield vs. stop
The committee also spent time discussing the possibility of changing all stop signs on streets feeding into Bay Avenue to yield signs.
The idea was met with universal opposition from committee members and the public.
Bay Avenue is one way to vehicular traffic, but bicyclists and pedestrians are legally permitted to travel both directions. Several residents said a stop sign is much safer as drivers typically look both directions, while they are more likely to drive faster and look only one direction at a yield sign.
“Yield signs are confusing to motorists,” said Police Chief Tom Spell. “And with two-way bike and pedestrian traffic, that adds to the confusion.”
Limited visibility with trees and shrubs near the road only adds to the confusion, he said.
Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait, the committee chair, said changing stop signs to yield signs would allow for 20 to 25 more parking spaces at the beach because state law prohibits parking within 30 feet of a stop sign; no such law exists for a yield.
“It seems it would be more dangerous with a yield sign,” said committee member Pres Lee.
The committee will continuing discussing ideas for parking on Lewes Beach before making formal recommendations to city council. The topic of the next meeting will be parking on the residential streets from Savannah Road to Roosevelt Inlet. The meeting is set for 2:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 13, at city hall.