Lewes is set to study how development affects neighboring communities.
Mayor and city council approved a $60,000 proposal Jan. 14 to work with Rehoboth Beach-based AECOM on a comprehensive study of the area, focusing specifically on the impact of four proposed developments on or around New Road.
Betsy Hicks, a coastal engineer with AECOM, said her company will develop a 2D computer model representing the existing conditions of the Canary Creek/Great Marsh basin. A second model will incorporate proposed developments, taking into account land cover and building footprints.
Each plan will utilize available data on topography, tides and precipitation.
“Our initial focus is going to be on Fisher’s Cove and Lewes Waterfront Preserve, both of which are located right on the fringe of the Great Marsh, where you see combined effects of coastal flood sources and precipitation flood sources,” Hicks said.
The developer of Lewes Waterfront Preserve is seeking approval to build 90 townhouses along New Road, while the developer of Fisher’s Cove is proposing to build 18 single-family homes off Rodney Avenue, near the Virden Center.
Mayor Ted Becker asked that the study also include the effects of development on the Groome Church property – approved for 292 single-family homes on New Road – and the Harbor Point development – approved for 69 lots – on Park Road.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to include all four of those developments because they are all concurrently going on,” he said. “They all contribute to the Canary Creek basin. If we only do half, we’re not getting the full picture.”
Council opted to move forward with three proposed additions to the contract that will further educate council and the public on existing and future conditions. One will simulate climate change scenarios, while the others will evaluate the city’s stormwater systems and determine marsh deterioration caused by sea-level rise.
Hicks estimates it will take 10 to 11 weeks to do the base analysis and present findings to the city. The additional work to refine the model will add about four weeks, she said.
Since the findings will offer valuable data for land in both Lewes and Sussex County, council will reach out to county officials for a financial contribution toward the study.