First Baptist Church site plan approved in Lewes

New building coming to Kings Highway gateway
January 19, 2023

Some members of the First Baptist Church of Lewes are struggling to enter their place of worship.

Leaders from the church have designed a new building and parking lot to address the situation. The site plan was approved 4-1 by Lewes Mayor and City Council Jan. 9.

Church leaders began working with the city in August, then revealed plans to the joint site development review committee in October. The plan received unanimous approval in November, with two member recommending the parcel be fully annexed. City Planner Janelle Cornwell said it is unusual to have one property in two different jurisdictions. 

Council’s approval Jan. 9 came with 10 conditions, including:

• Construct a sidewalk on Bay Breeze Drive

• Construct a sidewalk connecting the church property to the Bay Breeze Drive sidewalk

• Provide architectural options to soften the appearance of the back side of the building

• If DelDOT’s Kings Highway project does not move forward, install a sidewalk or multimodal path that adheres to DelDOT standards along Kings Highway with a time frame set forth by the city manager

• Enter into an agreement with DelDOT to bond funds for a sidewalk or multimodal path along Kings Highway if the road’s rehabilitation does not move forward

• Gain approval from Sussex County for the parking lot site plan before final site-plan approval

• With construction occurring in two phases, the landscaping shall be included in phase one

• Within 120 days from the date of approval, First Baptist Church will meet with the the Historic Lewes Scenic Byway Committee with a special focus on view

• The final landscape plan should be signed and sealed by a landscape architect registered with the state

• The stone proposed around the building should be switched to wood to reflect materials found in the area.

Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba was the lone no vote, citing concerns about the burden of cost placed upon First Baptist Church with the conditions. Estimates had not been given on the cost of each condition. 

“This is a church that has limited sources of revenue,” Saliba said. “I simply want to be sure that the costs will not be prohibitive.”

His comment followed confirmation from City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas that Councilman Tim Ritzert’s proposal was legal. Ritzert, who was credited with extensively reviewing the application, believes the location has heightened significance to Lewes.

“I really want to elevate our thinking [about] how impactful this gateway is and how meaningful it is to the City of Lewes,” Ritzert said. “It is our entrance.”

Mandalas noted that if the conditions create a financial hardship for First Baptist Church, they can come back before mayor and city council. They would need to demonstrate how their attempts to meet a condition or conditions have been cost prohibitive. 

Saliba was glad there are options for the church, but was not comfortable voting for conditions with costs that are not yet known. 


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