Groome property subdivision on Sussex P&Z agenda

Controversial project along New Road expected to draw a large crowd
November 23, 2018

Story Location:
New Road
Lynn Road
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

A controversial housing project along New Road near Lewes is sure to bring out a large crowd at the Thursday, Nov. 29 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Tower Hill – Groome Memorial Methodist Church has filed an application for a 292-single-family lot subdivision on 134 acres in an AR-1 environmentally sensitive developing district overlay zone. The parcel is located along New Road and on both sides of Lynn Road.

Meetings get underway at 6 p.m. in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown. It's the same time as Hospitality Night in downtown Lewes, one of the most popular holiday events on the calendar.

Groome United Methodist Church officials plan to use funds from the sale of the inherited property to build a new church to replace a historic structure on Savannah Road in Lewes.

The property has been at the center of controversy since church officials announced their intentions to sell the parcel in September 2017. Following the announcement, a group of Lewes-area residents formed the New Road Preservation Alliance in an effort protect the New Road and Great Marsh corridor, including the Groome property.

Efforts to preserve 1,100 acres, including the Groome property and three other parcels along the corridor, have been underway since 2014.

The state’s Open Space Council earmarked $1 million toward the purchase of a portion of the Groome parcel, while the City of Lewes and Sussex County Council each committed $500,000 to the purchase. Church officials rejected the offer and decided to sell the land to a developer.

The project's Preliminary Land Use Service application indicates historical or cultural resources are present on the property, which are being evaluated by a private company. The developer is not open to a site evaluation by the State Historic Preservation Office nor would it permit a state agency to visit and review the parcel’s features.

As far as traffic, the developer anticipates the subdivision will generate 2,812 trips on an average weekday.

The developer has completed a traffic impact study under review by Delaware Department of Transportation officials.

In his comments on the application, DelDOT's Bill Brockenbrough said the developer would be expected to contribute funding to the $4 million project to realign Old Orchard Road and Wescoats Road to be constructed in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, and the $32.7 million Route 1–Minos Conaway grade-separated intersection project to be constructed in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

In addition, he said the developer would be required, at a minimum, to upgrade Lynn Road with 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders, and New Road with 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders along the frontage of the property.

He said a Lewes Historic Byway master plan for New Road could ultimately determine off-site road improvements. The developer may be required to work with the byway committee or at least provide construction updates, Brockenbrough said.

In a letter to state planners, Lewes Mayor Ted Becker listed comments on the application from city officials. Those include: dedication of sufficient right of way along New Road for future projects such as widening and a multi-use path; contributing funds to upgrade Canary Creek bridge to raise it to base flood elevation; construction of two access points from the parcel to New Road; and working with the Historic Lewes Byway Committee to discuss ways to increase a buffer along New Road.

“The area along the New Road corridor is one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of Lewes with Canary Creek and the Great Marsh. In addition to ensuring that the development adequately addresses impacts on the transportation network, we encourage the developer to use a design that minimizes impacts on these sensitive environmental resources,” Becker wrote.

The public record on the application is available at the county planning and zoning office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter