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Editorial: Lewes’ annexation decision perplexing

January 1, 2019

“Presuming to know is a disease.” - Tao Te Ching

It may be clear to Lewes Mayor and Council how the city has benefited from the recent annexation of the 34-acre Brittingham parcel along New Road, but we find it perplexing and ironic.

Anyone who has been monitoring development and density issues around the city for the past couple of decades would assume that any move by the city to annex contiguous lands would at the very least ultimately result in development densities no greater than what Sussex County permits under current zoning. But in the case of the Brittingham property, it appears that for the developer of the property, annexing under the cluster provision will result in a density - at the approved 90-townhouse level - more than 30 percent greater than the 65 or so units county zoning would allow.

During discussions leading to annexation, a highly suspect assertion was made that if annexation weren’t approved with the higher-than-expected density, the developer could go to the county and likely apply for, and receive, a conditional use allowing up to 120 units on the property.

That presumed likelihood does not stand to reason. There’s little precedent along New Road indicating that density-increasing conditional uses - much less upzonings - would be granted willy-nilly by the county, especially in the current climate. The county’s zoning-change and conditional-use processes require more public hearings prior to any vote than there were on the annexation process in Lewes.

Given the attention paid to the nearby Groome property development, even though proposals for that property stayed entirely within the 2.1-units-per-acre density permitted by existing county zoning, it seems highly unlikely any attempt to get county approval for additional density on the Brittingham property would have gained any traction.

Who would have ever thought that when Sussex County is finally tightening up on permitted densities, the City of Lewes would take steps in the opposite direction?

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.