Henlopen Bluff proposed in Lewes

Parks and rec also comments on White’s Pond Preserve plan
July 21, 2023

The Lewes Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously recommended approval for the preliminary site plans for two new subdivisions, Henlopen Bluff and White’s Pond Preserve, at its July 17 meeting.

Henlopen Bluff, comprising 79 lots, is proposed by Showfield LLC for 61 acres on Gills Neck Road near the Freeman Bridge and White’s Pond.

White’s Pond Preserve, with 13 lots on 8.2 acres, is also near White’s Pond, with access off Freeman Highway near Monroe Street Extended. The subdivisions would be adjacent.

Also surrounding White’s Pond are Showfield and Olde Town at Lewes, which is under construction. 

In the case of Henlopen Bluff, commissioners asked for improvements on bike safety and path connectivity to the Junction & Breakwater Trail.

As part of the development, a multimodal path will be built parallel to Gills Neck Road.

“Gills Neck is extremely dangerous. I’m very concerned about dumping more bicycles on Gills Neck,” said Chair Janet Reeves.

The preliminary site plan does not show the new path connecting to the Junction & Breakwater Trail, but city planner Janelle Cornwell said the intent is to provide safe access to bicyclists and pedestrians. She said the details are being worked out between the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the developer and the Delaware Department of Transportation.

The commissioners also asked for changes to the types of street trees planned for Henlopen Bluff; commissioners want the developer to remove redbuds and dogwoods.

Before signing off on White’s Pond Preserve, commissioners asked for clarity on construction and maintenance of a proposed rain garden that will be built in the center of a cul-de-sac and serve as the community’s stormwater management feature. They also recommended educational signage to explain how the rain garden works.  

On July 19, the Lewes Planning Commission scheduled back-to-back public hearings for Henlopen Bluff and White’s Pond Preserve. The Sept. 28 hearings will be the only opportunity for that commission to receive public input on the preliminary site plans for both subdivisions.

Tree and bench policy

Parks and recreation commissioners also had a spirited discussion about the city’s commemorative tree and bench policy, specifically whether to allow for-profit businesses to donate amenities in exchange for a having a plaque with their name.

The current policy states, “Benches and trees are permitted to commemorate a family member or friend, or, at the discretion of the city, a special event. Commemorative benches or trees will not be permitted for pets.” 

Commissioner Kay Carnahan, who is responsible for the beaches, spoke out against the proposal. 

“My area, probably more than any other, is under pressure to be commercialized by people who want to use the beach as a for-profit enterprise. I fight that. I think that the visitors want simplicity, the old-fashionedness of it,” she said. 

“George Smith Park has need for several capital projects,” said Commissioner Harry Keyser, who is responsible for the park.

He said George H.P. Smith Park needs as much as $150,000 for repaving and $80,000 for two fishing piers he’d like to have installed. 

“If somebody wants to pick up the ticket on that and get a plaque no bigger than the plaques that are on the benches in the parks now, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

Commissioner Barry Dunkin said the city should not turn down a donation when the city can control the size of the plaque and the project.

After the discussion, the commissioners voted 5-5 on the for-profit bench and tree policy. There was one commissioner absent from the meeting, so the panel tabled the issue until August.

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