Groome parcel meeting most impressive

December 22, 2017

I am writing in the aftermath of one of the most impressive civic meetings I have ever attended, which took place Dec. 14, at the Rollins Center in Lewes. One purpose of the meeting was to learn about the proposed development plans for the Groome Church and the Great Marsh parcels. Another was to invite feedback from the community about the desirability of such plans, and to hear the wishes of Lewes residents concerning the value and wisdom of such plans.

I was heartened by the unanimity of voices in line with the view that rather than develop these parcels for building hundreds of homes, the lands should be retained and preserved as open space.

As a two-year resident of Lewes, I come to the area after having lived for 15 years as a homeowner in Glenmoore, Pa., where I experienced firsthand the issues of water table stress. My home was equipped with both septic and well, and I came to value the need to care for delicate systems in order to maintain a viable quality of life.

As a newcomer to Delaware, and to historic Lewes, I recognize, beyond my own immediate needs, the importance of preserving the delicate balance of ecology and beauty that is unique to the area. While I am not an engineer, it is clear to me that the future of Lewes depends on maintaining the health of the land, and that overuse could rapidly destroy what I have come to see as one of the Crown Jewels of the state of Delaware.

The area is valued, as it has been for centuries, as a wetlands haven for birds, fish and many other forms of wildlife that depend for their survival on a delicate ecology. As residents of the area, we are responsible for maintaining its status as a natural haven.

As government officials, it is of critical importance, in my view, that you recognize that such maintenance is not purely for the survival of the animal and plant species that live here. It is in Delaware citizens' economic self-interest to do so also. This is because people, including tourists, birders, naturalists, outdoorsmen, hunters, fishermen and residents, who want to maintain their quality of life, understand how important preservation contributes to the success of the area.

Put simply, it would be penny wise and pound foolish to turn over the natural beauty and vibrant ecology of the area to developers, whose core objective is to profit from home sales, at the expense of the quality of life of the remaining citizens and natural wonders, wonders that afford the entire state value for its economic future.

Toward that end, I am writing to ask that legislative moves be undertaken to update ordinances that will improve stormwater response, water quality control and enforcement. These are actions that can be supervised by our county officials.

Further, I am asking that any future development employ the expertise of the State Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to oversee and ensure the preservation of Native American and colonial graves and artifacts. This is especially important regarding the Groome Church parcels near New Road.

With respect to the Great Marsh properties (which, if developed, could result in the building of 1,400 homes), it is particularly vital to preserve the survival of its unique ecosystems and bird population. The challenges to the survival of said systems, if such development were to occur, should be obvious to any rational person.

In closing, I return to the comment I made at the beginning of this letter:  I am writing in the aftermath of one of the most impressive civic meetings I have ever attended… By my count, several hundred concerned citizens turned out on a weeknight to express, with one voice, concern for the developments proposed.

The standing-room-only citizen body captured a true cross section of key people from the state, county, city and church; government agency representatives in attendance got to see, with their own eyes, the concern of their constituents for saving a critical piece of property on New Road. Anyone listening got to hear the concerns upon learning of the associated consequences. Even the Groome Church pastor observed the gathering for a little while.

 The evening was billed as an educational forum by the sponsor, the Greater Lewes Civic Coalition. And it was.  The turnout, and attendance for well over two hours, showed significant resolve by concerned citizens, and was duly noted by the church, the media, and the government officials present.

It amplified awareness of the issues; more than that, it illustrated unanimity of voice for the citizenry.

Len Shyles

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