Letter: Public safety demands no vote on Groome subdivision

December 4, 2018

Take a look at everything we already know about the former Groome property where an out-of-state developer wants to build 292 houses on bucolic Lewes farmland, and you’ll see certain truths that can’t be ignored. 

At some point - probably sooner rather than later once all of the concrete is poured - it’s going to flood. Once it’s developed, it will set a precedent for more paving and developments all the way up to the very edge of the Great Marsh, which is the only thing protecting Lewes and Milton from even more catastrophic flooding during the hurricanes that will only get worse with climate change. 

The only access to the property is on two-lane roads with no shoulders that are about a half mile from the Nassau Bridge, where there are already dozens of traffic accidents a year. The developer has offered to widen Lynn Road and add shoulders but that will do nothing to mitigate the more than 2,800 extra vehicles that will travel along New Road and Lynn Road in an average day once the development is built. 

Those 2,800 vehicles will compound the jeopardy we already face since New Road is one of only three ways to evacuate Lewes when a storm comes. Thousands of people will be at risk when traffic along New Road, Savannah Road, Kings Highway and Route 1 comes to a complete standstill.

Local fire and EMS departments are already extremely disadvantaged by the fact that tens of thousands of homes have been built in Sussex County during the past 10 years without sufficient improvements to the roads. Like the developer’s plans for the Groome property, at least half of these houses are for seasonal residents - which significantly compounds the danger of fires that aren’t reported when no one’s home. These fire departments are also struggling to recruit enough firefighters - the vast majority of whom are volunteers. And none are looking forward to maneuvering 30-foot fire trucks at emergency response speeds down two-lane roads. 

Yes, there is a plan underway for improvements to New Road that will supposedly improve traffic flow - but construction is years away. These developers want to build these houses right now.

They’ll make a lot of money very fast and will be long gone when the traffic pile-ups, flooding, and plunging property values converge into a nightmarish reality for taxpayers (who, not incidentally, will now have to pay a lot higher taxes to maintain the roads and deal with storm mitigation). 

With all of this in mind, Sussex County P&Z and others need to examine the stakes of saying yes to this development. First and foremost, it’s a significant threat to public safety on several fronts. That alone should be enough reason to deny the plan. People who’ve lived here for years are justifiably cynical and angry with the probability that officials will say yes to it anyway (because we all know “the developers always win”). Prove us wrong. 

Protect the public, the environment and the economy. Do your job, and say no. 

Chris Beakey


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