Nearly 200 Showfield residents filled chambers during the May 25 Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission meeting to show their support for a proposed amendment to the community's final site plan presented by developer Jack Lingo Asset Management to allow for gated access to Monroe Avenue Extended.
The current site plan shows open access from Freeman Highway through Monroe Avenue to Showfield.
The proposed gate would allow for emergency access, and passage for pedestrians and bicyclists and residents who would have a code to open the gate. It would not allow pass-through traffic.
Following the public hearing, commissioners deferred a vote to take time to consider the hearing's testimony.
Residents in support
Speaking for the residents, Rick Babiarz, homeowners association president, presented a petition signed by 151 lot owners of the 166 lots in the community.
“We have a strong desire to maintain our residential character and not become a secondary road from Kings or Freeman highways,” he said. “We want a safe environment for pedestrians, children and bicyclists.”
Babiarz said he wanted to clear up some misconceptions presented by those opposed to the gate. He said streets in Showfield are private streets maintained by the HOA and were not designed for transit traffic.
In addition, he said there are already motorists going through Showfield violating traffic rules and speed limits and running stop signs. Allowing more traffic on community streets would only exacerbate the problem, he said.
Babiarz said the road is closed now due to construction, but when it was open it was used by motorists and construction vehicles for access to Gills Neck Road.
Eventually, the road condition deteriorated so much that cars could not use it. Gills Neck Road provides access to Showfield.
He said Delaware State Police told the HOA that communities with one entrance are much safer, and the plan has the support of the Delaware State Fire Marshal and Lewes Fire Department, which would have access to use the gate by code and a siren-activated system.
Plans for the Monroe Avenue-Freeman Highway intersection include a traffic signal paid for by the developer of Olde Town at White’s Pond, which is being constructed in the farm field adjacent to Showfield.
A sidewalk is planned from Showfield to connect to Monroe Avenue Ext. and the Junction & Breakwater Trail.
Not a shortcut
Freeman Highway is heavily traveled by residents, and vacationers, and provides access to Cape Henlopen State Park and Cape May-Lewes Ferry. The Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail is west and the Junction & Breakwater Trail is east of the highway.
Babiarz said there are more than 1,450 homes in developments along Gills Neck Road.
He said frustrated drivers caught up in backups would use Monroe Avenue Extended.
“This would become a popular route for a lot of cars and not get better for us. It's not a shortcut, and it's the not the fastest route going through Showfield,” Babiarz said.
He added that traffic congestion, which is already a problem, will only increase with the construction of three planned communities, including Olde Towne at White's Pond along Freeman Highway.
“Showfield's private residential streets are designed for low-volume, residential-only use,” he said.
Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson reminded him that even private streets are dedicated for public use.
Monroe Avenue Extended will provide access to Olde Towne, which is in Lewes city limits.
A letter from the City of Lewes states that a condition of approval of Olde Towne is an open connection to the Showfield development.
HOA: Fixing traffic issues
Babiarz said Showfield has traffic issues within the community and measures are underway to solve those problems, including traffic-calming measures, crosswalks, stop lines, larger stop signs and even speed bumps.
He said a traffic study showed that 64% of motorists exceeded the speed limit, 63% did not obey stop signs and 10% to 15% of traffic used Showfield as a cut-through to Gills Neck Road.
Commissioner Holly Wingate said the HOA needs to fix traffic problems within the community first. “The people who live there need to slow down,” she said.
“The streets are extremely narrow. I don't understand why they are so narrow,” said Commissioner Keller Hopkins.
“Interconnectivity is important, but it's interesting that this community has to go through all this effort. It's extremely logical and makes sense.”
“I have supported interconnectivity, but I think we have created a spider web of shortcuts in Sussex County. However, I support this application,” said Commissioner Bruce Mears.