Lewes development draws traffic concerns

86 homes planned for White’s Pond Meadow
September 2, 2019

Story Location:
Monroe Avenue Extended
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

A plan to build 86 single-family homes on nearly 37 acres along Freeman Highway faced little public opposition at an Aug. 21 public hearing before the Lewes Planning Commission – aside from traffic problems.

White’s Pond Meadow developer Showfield LLC, an affiliate of Jack Lingo Asset Management, is seeking approval for the subdivision within existing R-2 zoning, low-density residential.

Although the project does not call for an interconnection to the adjacent Bay Breeze Estates community, the homeowners’ association made it clear a road connection is not wanted.

Carolyn Claypoole, president of the Bay Breeze HOA, presented the commission with a petition signed by 98 residents in opposition to any road connection to White’s Pond Meadow. She said no respondents were in favor of a connection.

“I would like to see the members of the planning commission demonstrate accountability to wishes of the many rather than yielding to the money and influence of the few in this community,” she said.

The community will connect to the 133-unit Showfield subdivision to the south via Monroe Avenue Extended. Showfield residents have also expressed consternation about a road connection. Until recently, the Showfield homeowners’ association board was controlled by the same developer as White’s Pond Meadow, but it was recently turned over to homeowners.

Because Showfield’s roads are privately owned, some residents oppose the use of their community as a cut-through for other Gills Neck Road communities.

Nick Hammonds, principal with Jack Lingo Asset Management, said some residents are in favor of adding a gate at the Showfield property line, while others are in favor of a direct route to Freeman Highway and downtown Lewes.

“We will not take a position on the gate,” he said. “Given that those are privately maintained roads, that is a decision for the Showfield board to make.”

No traffic signal

Freeman Highway is owned and maintained by the Delaware River and Bay Authority. As part of the application process, DRBA required the developer to complete a traffic operational analysis and a traffic signal justification study for the Monroe Avenue/Freeman Highway intersection.

Ring Lardner, principal and engineer with Davis, Bowen and Friedel, said the study showed there is no need for a traffic signal. However, the ultimate decision lies with DRBA.

Without a traffic light to stop vehicles, commission Vice Chair Kay Carnahan asked if the developer would consider adding a pedestrian bridge over Freeman Highway.

“I have a great discomfort level with the thought of a kid on a bike going into town crossing traffic in a busy intersection,” she said.

Lardner said the sole decision-maker for improvements to the Freeman Highway/Monroe Avenue intersection is DRBA. He said a HAWK pedestrian signal has been considered to stop traffic for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Resident Richard Claypoole said Lewes’ infrastructure cannot handle any more homes.

“Freeman Highway as it intersects with Kings Highway is already a logistical nightmare,” he said. “Additional traffic from 86 homeowners plus another possible 133 coming from Showfield would be a further devastating blow to the peace and tranquility that was once Lewes’ reputation.”

Buffers and open space

For buffers, the plan calls for a 25-foot buffer from Freeman Highway and a 50-foot buffer from Bay Breeze. The Junction and Breakwater Trail runs between the community and Bay Breeze, with direct trail access planned for White’s Pond Meadow residents.

Like she has on other proposals, Commissioner Melanie Moser commented on the orientation of the homes along Freeman Highway, saying the back sides of homes should not be facing a major roadway.

Lardner said there will be a landscaped buffer to block the view of the homes from Freeman Highway. A berm may also be considered, he said.

At an earlier meeting, planning commission members criticized the plan for lack of useable open space. Lardner said lot lines will be adjusted to provide residents access to all open space areas, most of them around stormwater ponds. The plan has 8.86 acres of open space, or 24 percent of the parcel.

Project goes back 14 years

What is now proposed to be White’s Pond Acres was once part of a larger plan with Showfield. Jack Lingo Asset Management purchased 230 acres from the Otis Smith family in several transactions from 2005 to 2008.

The original plan for 607 units was spread across City of Lewes land and Sussex County land; the goal was to annex the land lying in Sussex County.

Showfield developers attended 54 public meetings in an effort to annex the land while also gaining approval for the project. However, the project was put on hold indefinitely in 2008 when the housing market collapsed.

When the local real estate market began to bounce back in 2012 and 2013, the developers revived the project. Due to market conditions, they altered the original plan to reflect the demand for large single-family homes and lots.

The developer again sought to annex the Sussex County portion, but Hammonds said the city’s approval process was too time-consuming. In May 2014, they submitted a plan for what is now Showfield to Sussex County for approval under AR-1 zoning.

The plan received preliminary approval in October 2014 and final approval in May 2015. Construction began later in 2015, and 153 of the 166 lots are now spoken for. Lots have sold for $265,000 up to just over $500,000, Hammonds said.

“Given the success of Showfield and the strength of the local real estate market, it was decided in 2018 to make an application for the approximately 37-acre parcel which is now White’s Pond Meadow,” he said.

The public record will remain open until Friday, Sept. 6. With a public hearing held, the planning commission has 90 days to make a decision on preliminary consent.

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