Fisher's Cove, a proposed 18-home major subdivision near the Great Marsh in Lewes, is mostly out of the 100-year flood plain, but it will require fill to build some homes.
Bob Rosenberger of engineering firm Karins and Associates said all fill will come from within the existing footprint of the property, but it will not be taken out of proposed open space areas.
Developer Burke & Rutecki LLC plans to use 12 acres behind existing Rodney Avenue homes to create a small community. Rosenberger presented the plan to the Lewes Parks and Recreation Commission Oct. 22.
The subdivision would be accessed via Rodney Avenue and snake around wetlands to two streets, each ending in a cul-de-sac. Lot sizes vary from about 11,000 square feet to 34,500 square feet, but most are about 16,000 square feet, or one-third acre. The property is zoned R-2, low-density residential, which requires a minimum of 10,000-square-foot lots.
The plan calls for a 20-foot forested buffer around the perimeter of the property, including the area between Fisher's Cove and Rodney Avenue homes. Ten lots on the north side of the development will be partially separated by a forested buffer between lots.
Many mature trees stand on the property. Rosenberger said trees will be cleared selectively and many choices will be left to the homebuyer before construction begins. He said the developer is seeking an arborist to evaluate the health of the existing trees.
“We do not want to build a new house and then have the potential of a tree causing damage to that house,” Rosenberger said.
Two street trees per lot are also proposed.
The development will have four open space areas totaling about 2.22 acres, including two wetland areas and one area fronting the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal that will be available for use by community residents. A walkway will be built along the property of an existing historic home on Pilottown Road to provide access to the canal open space area.
The historic home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will not be razed or removed. Rosenberger said the home will be deeded separately from the development, but the property is needed for a walkway for residents to access the canal and an easement for the water main.
The property contains both tidal and nontidal wetlands. The city has no buffer requirements for wetlands, but the developer says the community was designed with 20-foot buffers and grading to protect the community from flooding.
Rosenberger said DNREC has identified the property as an excellent water recharge site. Soil evaluations are already underway to determine the rate of infiltration, he said.
“The current rules and regulations in place between FEMA and DNREC make it impossible for us to even develop unless we get approvals to show that we are managing runoff in accordance with regulation,” he said.
Rosenberger said the plan will not create additional runoff; it will reduce runoff from what’s there now, he said.
Nearby residents raised concerns over flooding. Rodney Avenue resident Janice Pinto said the Fisher's Cove lot gives water in the Great Marsh a place to go during nor’easters and other big storms. She worries developing it would negatively affect her property and the properties of her neighbors.
“We’ve been experiencing a lot of flooding and hydrostatic pressure issues,” she said. “We strongly support the city to make decisions based upon science that’s available.”
Hoornkill Avenue resident Linda Gaynor showed commissioners photos she took of flooding during Hurricane Sandy and other nor’easters. Her concern is further development will make flooding even worse.
The plan calls for stormwater to be pushed out into the Great Marsh. After witnessing water coming in from the Great Marsh during several big storms, Gaynor said, she’s worried the water will be pushed toward her home.
“Like with the nor’easter we might get this weekend, we’ll have water in our backyards,” she said. “If there’s any fill or change of elevation there, we’ll be impacted. No doubt about it.”
Hoornkill Avenue resident Patti Campanelli said flooding was not a problem when she moved into her home in 1980. But as the climate has changed, she said, water has creeped closer and closer.
“We’re not against development. We just won’t survive the impact of more water,” she said. “When they’re talking about bringing water back into the marsh, it’s definitely going to affect us.”
Residents also questioned the use of Rodney Avenue as the access to the development. Pinto said trash and delivery trucks have to back out down the street because there is not enough room to turn around.
The parks and recreation commission will submit a report to the planning commission regarding the proposed project’s affect on open space, adjacent park areas and other natural features within the city. The developer withdrew a presentation to the planning commission earlier this month, but is expected to appear at the commission’s November meeting.