Lewes duped on Savannah Road project

December 22, 2017

Please consider this a comment to the Dec. 15 Nick Roth article ( concerning the Lewes Savannah Road project.

It is the holiday season and the time for shopping has nearly run out! If you see an 80 percent off sale at your favorite store before the holidays you might rush on over to get in on the bargain. Apparently, not everyone in Lewes is in the holiday spirit or enjoys a steal of a sale. This seems to be the case with at least some members of Lewes City Council.

The Cape Gazette article announcing council's decision to strip an all-encompassing gem of a city-to-beach streetscape project to only bike lane improvements is coal in the stocking to all of us living in and visiting the greater Lewes area.

It was just Dec. 12 of last year when the public was presented with the original streetscape concept plan at Lewes City Hall. It was a comprehensive city-to-beach plan and sounded at the time like a much-needed mostly done deal? Why not; DelDOT would fund 80 percent of the cost of the project. A Dec. 30 Cape Gazette article detailed the plans. You can find the article and original design in the Cape Gazette archives: Savannah Road Streetscape Plan,

Having attended several Lewes Council meetings, byways and bicycle meetings over the last 12 months when the project was on the agenda, it became apparent that the streetscape project as presented to the public Dec. 12 was in significant jeopardy. Based upon my observations, at least two members of council and the bicycle committee appeared to have personal objections (cost and safety) to the project while the byways committee was in nearly unanimous support of the project. DelDOT in my opinion felt it was a great, safe project, and was ready to move forward quickly.

What concerns me is that in the 12 months since the project was announced until Nick Roth's article, something happened. The project went from an out-in-the-light-of-day, well-communicated city enhancement to, in my opinion, a back-office political mess. The concept plan as presented was a sorely needed streetscape "enhancement" to a stretch of Lewes that needs a facelift. It added, among other things: trees, benches, an overlook, brick crosswalks, and did I mention 80 percent of the cost was covered?

Several public meetings (council, byways and bicycle) I attended where the project was on the published agenda either removed the topic at the start of the meeting or tabled the discussion, citing nothing to report. At one byways meeting I attended, Dennis Reardon appeared annoyed that the byways committee asked questions about the project status. Councilman Reardon was one of two Lewes Council members assigned to work with DelDOT to explore alternatives to the original DelDOT plan.

The result after 12 months of Lewes Council for the most part privately exploring alternatives to the original project yields only improved bike lanes and no streetscape improvements. One might have thought after a full year of deliberation, that council's final decision to substantially limit a highly visible and generally supported project would have been better communicated to the public.

Jay Tomlinson

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