In an effort to gain more control over development within city limits, Lewes Mayor and City Council is considering the purchase of two parcels totaling 0.6 acres across from the Dairy Queen on Savannah Road.
The owners of that property, 203 E. Savannah Road, were at the Rollins Community Center June 6 to answer questions during a public hearing.
Rick Quill, Joe Johnson and Karla Johnson purchased the property in January 2017 for $1,255,000. Quill said the ownership group had considered several options in developing the property, including building a restaurant with housing above, but settled on 12 carriage houses.
The opportunity for the city to purchase the property came about in the fall of 2021, said Councilman Khalil Saliba. Saliba said there are other properties in the area the city could purchase, a sentiment echoed by the public during the hearing, but the property in question has impervious pavement that could be removed to help with stormwater management.
Quill and the Johnsons are asking for $2.5 million; they had listed the parcels for $2.75 million. Kaplan Appraisals, who Lewes contracted for an appraisal, found the value of the land to be $2,215,000. The appraisal lists the property as being in Zone X on the FEMA Flood Hazard Map, outside the 100-year floodplain, but that is incorrect. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control flood map, the property is in Zone AE, within the 100-year floodplain. There are also 217 linear feet of the property along Alaska Avenue, 40 feet of which sits on wetlands. It is believed the appraised value will be minimally affected by the floodplain designation.
If the city moves forward with the purchase, City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said, the deal will be financed through banks. She said Lewes has a bond that would be paid off by 2025.
“Under the terms that we are looking at with the banks that are reviewing this, we would do interest-only payments until the current bond is paid off, and then we would begin making principal and interest [payments],” Townshend said.
Mayor Andrew Williams estimated it would take around 50 years to pay off the property, and how the city develops the property would aid significantly in facilitating those payments.
Many members of the public were in favor of using the 0.6 acres for parking. Joe Johnson said he parks about 75 cars a day at the lot now, and he is hearing people are happy to have parking close to the beach. If they were to develop a parking lot, Townshend said, they would have to comply with regulations that could not accommodate as many spots.
Williams said if the city chose parking, it would be a ground lot with no paving.
Stormwater management emerged as another theme.
Most in the audience agreed that purchasing the land would be a good decision because the city could control what happens there.
“It sounds like a fantastic idea. You can only purchase a piece of property once. Once it’s developed, that opportunity is gone,” said resident David Schaen.
If the city moves forward with the purchase, council must consider zoning. If officials choose open space, then it is locked into the extremely restrictive zone. Open space was brought up favorably by several members of the public. Those in favor of open space saw an opportunity to manage flood problems, increase the amount of open space in the city and provide a green area for people to enjoy.
According to the real estate agreement, which must be finalized by June 30, mayor and city council has until Monday, June 27, to vote on the purchase. A discussion and possible vote is on the agenda for mayor and city council’s Monday, June 13 meeting. Public comments will be accepted until 4 p.m., Friday, June 10, and can be emailed to Planning and Development Officer Janelle Cornwell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by filling out the form available at ci.lewes.de.us.