Daisey family seals grandfather’s wish

September 5, 2023

The Aug. 31 meeting of the Lewes Historic Preservation Architectural Review Commission was a continuation of the Daiseys’ Aug. 3 tour de force master-class application for the release of their 331 Chestnut St. property from HPARC’s jurisdiction and rebuttal of their experts. These meetings reminded me of a heavyweight title event: the Daiseys are the upstart challengers and HPARC is the defending champions. HPARC had flexed its muscles previously, but the Daiseys had watched and listened during previous bouts and began their counterpunch Aug. 3. The Daiseys continued with a barrage of uppercuts at HPARC’S criteria and jabs at the not-so-independent panels of experts. These blows went largely unanswered as the Daiseys laid waste to HPARC’S tried-and-true defenses and reliance on apparently dubious and somewhat tainted independent experts.

The Daiseys’ polite and articulate response was to ask for the actual assessment or survey (these terms appeared to confuse everyone, so I suggest the words be defined in the future). The assessments/surveys claimed by the experts never surfaced, as HPARC continued to rely on older records. By round 2 and most of round 3 of the three-and-a-half-hour match, it was clear that the Daiseys’ research, data and evidence overwhelmed HPARC’s criteria and the sloppy records of the experts. The final vote was 4-2 in favor of the applicant. The two dissenting voices continued to cite sections of the code ad nauseam; one dissenter seemed to struggle to make a coherent argument to maintain the property as contributing (historic). Neither dissenting party included the new criteria of cultural values. Here, cultural values meant to me a euphuism for Black people who had no voice in their historic designation. Another word that needs a code definition is “Lewes vernacular.”

The word floodgates was mentioned. Given the uniqueness the applicants’ race and the lopsided property development, with less than 1% Black population of Lewes, it is hard to envision a similar applicant. It surprises me that some members of HPARC seem to believe that Lewes exists in a bubble, immune to the world around us. The concern that HPARC should have is if any other applicant repeats the Daiseys’ footsteps and discovers similar errors and omissions. The word floodgate as an argument was denounced by board of adjustment, and is not a defense available to HPARC. 

After the recent sales of three Black properties were ignored by HPARC and demolished, it seemed the criteria was raised on this property as if to compensate for their previous oversight. Finally, a family who has been here since the 1700s sealed their grandfather’s wish.

Alicia Jones


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