Lewes council expected to decide on Fisher’s Cove March 16

Officials to consider major and minor subdivision requests
March 13, 2020

Editor’s note: The meeting mentioned in this article has been postponed. The Fisher’s Cove subdivision will be considered at a future meeting

Lewes officials are set to resolve the lengthy dispute over the 11-acre parcel known as Fisher’s Cove.

Mayor and city council will consider the major subdivision along with a minor subdivision at its Monday, March 16 meeting. The two applications had been considered separately until a planning commission vote Feb. 16 brought council’s consideration into line. 

Planners voted 5-1 to recommend approval of a lot-line adjustment that would add about a quarter-acre to Fisher's Cove and allow for an easement for pedestrian and emergency access through what is known as the historic Fisher’s Paradise property on Pilottown Road.

After deferring on the minor subdivision for several months, commissioners finally decided to move the issue forward so it could be decided by council. Many commissioners say the two issues are married and should have always been considered together.

Some commissioners believe that approving a 20-foot-wide easement connecting Pilottown Road to the Fisher's Cove property would eliminate any chance, now or in the future, of a road being built to service the property other than from Rodney Avenue.

“I never liked the idea of there being one way in and one way out, so I hope council keeps this in mind as they go forward,” said Commissioner Sumner Crosby.

Developer Burke and Rutecki LLC is seeking to access the proposed 18-home community via Rodney Avenue, which dead-ends at the 11-acre Fisher’s Cove property. In voting to recommend denial of a major subdivision plan in November, many members of the planning commission said an access, either primary or secondary, should be added through what is now the Fisher’s Paradise property. 

In analyzing surveys provided by the developer, city planning consultant Tom West determined a road through the Fisher’s Paradise property is not possible because the right of way required for a road – 40 to 50 feet – would make the Fisher’s Paradise property noncompliant with city code. The street frontage would be too narrow, he said, and a new road would make the parcel a corner lot, requiring a front-yard setback from both Pilottown Road and the new road. 

City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said city officials cannot approve plans that would create nonconformities, so the road could not be built under the existing land use. 

Commission Chairman Drew McKay said the developer could be making a mistake by urging the commission to move the application to mayor and city council because there may be other solutions to the major subdivision that don’t involve the Fisher’s Paradise property at all but still offer more than one access to the community.

“I think the developer is going to have to be creative,” he said. “The developer is taking a risk.”

While not ideal, Crosby said, the developer could choose to demolish the historic home. While the Fisher’s Paradise home is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not within the city’s historic district and is not protected from demolition. The developer says there is already a buyer for Fisher’s Paradise, but the major and minor subdivision applications must be sorted out before they can move forward with renovations. The home on Fisher’s Paradise dates to the 18th century and was home to Major Henry Fisher, who often corresponded with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton during the Revolutionary War.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter