Letter: Lewes officials explain stance on decision

January 11, 2019

There have been many concerns expressed in the community about the decision of Lewes Mayor and City Council to subject the subdivision application for the Brittingham property (Lewes Waterfront Preserve) to the provisions of the Annexation Residential (AX-RES) zone currently in place and not to apply any future changes to the zone to the pending application. Understandably concerns have been expressed, but it is important to share the context of this decision. 

The 2015 Lewes Comprehensive Plan prioritizes annexation of areas surrounding the City of Lewes. Development is happening, whether or not we annex land, and we believe that it is important for the city to influence how this development occurs. Annexation allows us this influence. 

Feeling the development pressures of the surrounding area, in June 2016 the city created an Annexation Regulation Ad-Hoc Committee to evaluate how we could best encourage annexation. This committee held 24 public meetings over 17 months. One of the products of these efforts was the creation of annexation zoning districts which would provide regulations for a transition between the city and Sussex County, and that would allow for development standards comparable to what would be applied in Sussex County. Options for clustering were included in the zones to allow for opportunities to preserve open space and minimize environmental impacts of the development. As with any zoning regulations, there is a need to continually evaluate and update the zones to ensure they meet the city’s objectives. The city is committed to reviewing and improving the annexation zones. 

Settings Properties applied for annexation of the parcel known as the Brittingham property on New Road under the AX-RES zone which was adopted in May 2018, and following annexation submitted a subdivision application. In December 2018, Sussex County amended its zoning ordinance to remove tidal wetlands from its density calculation. There was immediate pressure for the city to follow suit, which we intend to consider as applied to future annexations. 

After evaluating this matter with our city solicitor, the majority of city council determined any changes to the zones would be applied going forward. 

The planning commission has not yet begun its review of Lewes Waterfront Preserve. Once the planning commission initiates its review, it will schedule a public hearing. 

The city is aware of the flooding issues in the area, and we are engaging the services of a coastal engineer to provide analysis and develop a model to allow us to better understand, manage and mitigate the effects of all of the development planned in the Canary Creek basin. The developer has met with members of the Historic Lewes Byway Committee to understand their concerns about the New Road view shed. 

The developer must comply with DelDOT requirements for road improvements. The Lewes Parks and Recreation Commission has reviewed the development plan and will provide a report to the planning commission. Perhaps most importantly, the public will have opportunities to comment on the design of the project, and the planning commission will thoughtfully weigh these comments and the factors identified in the subdivision regulations in its review of the application. Following the completion of the planning commission’s review, the application will be forwarded to mayor and city council for final action. This also involves a public hearing.  

I encourage members of the public to be patient, but remain engaged. As with so many things in Lewes, the engagement of the community will lead to a better result for the entire community. 

Ann Marie Townshend
Lewes city manager


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