Lewes council sends Fisher’s Cove back to planners

Officials want more information on flooding and stormwater
April 17, 2020

The Fisher’s Cove saga in Lewes will continue for at least a few more months, as mayor and city council opted, April 13, to send the major subdivision application back to the planning commission instead of voting to approve or deny preliminary consent. 

In November, planners voted 8-1 to recommend denial for the 18-unit community planned for about 11 acres off Rodney Avenue near the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. The commission’s recommendation was based on stormwater management and access concerns.

Stormwater management is also a concern for mayor and city council. Councilman Dennis Reardon, liaison to the planning commission, said he needs more detailed information about the project’s stormwater management plan and the development’s impact on neighboring parcels in order to make an informed decision on preliminary consent. In adopting Reardon’s motion, city council is seeking information on changes to Rodney Avenue if the street is used as the primary access to Fisher’s Cove.

“We just don’t have enough information to really understand the impact of this development,” said Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait. “I’m very much in favor of giving the planning commission the opportunity to study this again.”

Councilwoman Bonnie Osler said the developer offered three solutions to stormwater management during review and included a fourth idea very late in the process.

“This course of action has muddled the record, as the planning commission noted,” she said.

She said flooding already occurs on the Fisher’s Cove parcel and many neighboring properties. A city-funded flood study showed this project would likely increase flooding, she said.

“These stormwater and flooding issues are matters of critical importance,” she said. “[Everybody] deserves, at the preliminary consent stage, a clear, fleshed-out proposal from the developer.”

Among council’s requirements is to have Sussex Conservation District review the stormwater management plan, which typically occurs prior to final approval of a plan.

“This is a very difficult parcel to develop,” said Mayor Ted Becker. “I think getting as much information would be much more helpful earlier in the process.”

It’s unclear when the issue will be back before the planning commission. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the full commission has not met since February.

Minor subdivision approved

A minor subdivision adjacent to the Fisher’s Cove property was approved April 13 by mayor and city council. The action transfers a quarter-acre from the Fisher’s Paradise property on Pilottown Road to the Fisher’s Cove parcel and allows for a 20-foot easement for a walking path from Fisher’s Cove to Pilottown Road.

Some members of the planning commission had previously pushed for the Fisher’s Cove developer to add a second entrance to the community through Fisher’s Paradise. The city’s planning consultant determined a legal road would not be possible without demolishing the existing home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. In February, the planning commission recommended approval of the minor subdivision to move it to council for consideration at the same time as the Fisher’s Cove application. 

While council sent Fisher’s Cove back to planning commission, they were essentially required to approve the minor subdivision based on city code.

“The minor and major are obviously very closely related, and it would’ve been nice to keep them together,” said Councilman Rob Morgan. “But we’ve been advised there is no remand option for the minor, so we don’t have a lot of discretion.”

Planning commission to review
  • Is stormwater management plan viable?
  • Perform flood model specifically focused on Fisher’s Cove’s impact
  • Have Sussex Conservation District review stormwater management plan
  • Provide more information on topography change of the parcel
  • More detail on potential changes to Rodney Avenue

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