The Lewes Board of Adjustment meeting scheduled for Monday, Sept. 20, has been canceled.
The board was set to consider an appeal from the Lewes Historical Society regarding the menhaden fishing net reel and whether the city’s historic preservation architectural review commission has jurisdiction over the cultural/historic zoning district.
The postponement of the appeal hearing comes after Board Chair Brook Hedge resigned Sept. 11. Prior to her resignation, Hedge had announced she was planning to recuse from consideration of the issue after she made comments about the Lewes Historical Society and the net reel in emails to Mayor Ted Becker in June.
After the emails came to light Sept. 8, Lewes Historical Society attorney Mark Dunkle sent a request to Becker that Hedge be removed from the board and replaced.
On Sept. 15, board of adjustment attorney Barrett Edwards said the historical society’s appeal was postponed in order for Dunkle’s request to be considered.
“Although it became moot once Brook resigned,” he said.
The board of adjustment comprises five members. With Hedge’s resignation and the already announced recusal of Bill Sharkey, the Lewes Historical Society appeal was to be heard by the remaining three members; however, a new member may now be appointed prior to consideration.
The issue before the board is limited to whether the historic preservation commission has jurisdiction over the cultural/historic zoning district. City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the other issues, such as historical and racial importance of the net reel, are not part of the appeal.
The net reel was relocated to the historical society’s campus in 2020 after sitting for many years along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal next to the Lightship Overfalls.
In 2020, LHS Executive Director Jim Abbott said circumstances out of the society’s control required the net reel to be moved. After repairs, the net reel was reassembled at the corner of Shipcarpenter Street and West Third Street.
The LHS did not seek permission to do so, saying that it had not needed permission to place artifacts on society property in the past. A group of neighbors objected to the net reel’s new location, and the historic preservation commission determined it did not fit in with the rhythm and scale of the streetscape and denied an application for it to remain in place.