Letter: Brittingham vote is a loss for democracy
Re: Lewes affirms Brittingham vote – 90 townhouse project to move forward under old regs
On March 15, the Cape Gazette published an article on the Lewes City Council decision to exempt a specific property from anticipated changes to zoning regulations. The changes would have prevented a developer from including, in particular, wetlands and flood areas in the acreage used to calculate the number of townhouses that may be built on the so-called Brittingham property fronting New Road and Canary Creek. Obviously, the concept of including wetlands in the acreage taken into account to determine how many houses may be built on a piece of land is grotesque. The vast majority of Lewes residents and homeowners in attendance on March 15 opposed this absurd concept, which contributes to traffic congestion, flooding, destruction of wildlife habitat and other environmental calamities.
Still, my point today is not to discuss this lamentable state of affairs. In your article, you indicated that after more than an hour of comments from the public, Lewes Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait and Councilman Dennis Reardon read from prepared statements, explaining why they supported the exemption. You also indicated that this was the tipping point for the writer of this letter and that I yelled “Shame on you; this is shameful” to these two council members. Your reporting was entirely accurate.
It is, indeed, despicable and shameful when elected officials make their decisions before hearing the comments they solicited from the public because such input is required by law (or because it seems wise for good public relations). Yes, local residents are used to being ignored and it normally takes more than this to bring us beyond the tipping point. However, I had never seen two elected officials intentionally add insult to injury by reading word-for-word statements prepared ahead of a meeting where the public is invited to comment. What I was lamenting with my outburst was not yet another loss of wetlands, open space, buffers and quality of life for all residents and visitors of this region. I was lamenting a loss of democracy.