Lewes looks to future of Army Reserve property

Municipal campus plans could set the tone moving forward
February 14, 2023

Lewes officials are conceptualizing what a new municipal complex might look like on the 5.25-acre site of the former U.S. Army Reserve property on Savannah Road.

Mayor and city council, the Board of Public Works and the Lewes Police Department recently submitted a list of requests to engineering firm George, Miles and Buhr. During a Jan. 31 joint meeting between mayor and city council and the BPW, officials discussed those needs.

Morgan Helfrich, GMB’s senior vice president, presented what her firm had discovered so far. She said an initial site assessment has found it to have good soils, and it is outside of any flood hazard areas. She said there is one underground storage tank on the site. GMB does not know what is in the tank at this time.

The existing building has a footprint of 20,000 square feet, she said. According to a needs assessment, the police department would like 16,700 square feet of internal storage, which is more than three times the existing 5,000 square feet the department occupies now. Helfrich said some items may be able to be stored outside.

City hall is 7,750 square feet. Following calculations of space needed for requests, city hall would need to be 20,000 to 25,000 square feet, or about three times larger than the current space.

Adding the BPW’s request of 14,400 square feet – less than three times the size of the existing space office – the total size of the wish list municipal building is about 56,000 square feet, or triple the size of the 18,000-square-foot building that currently houses city hall, BPW and the police department. Helfrich said that’s a lot, but there are opportunities to share areas like the break and filing rooms.

“After doing a little bit of research for other town halls and the size of Lewes, I’d like to get that number down to 40,000,” Helfrich said.

Delaware Department of Transportation requires 250 linear feet between separate entrances to a site. Currently, there is 320 feet of linear space along Savannah Road. DelDOT has reportedly made exceptions in the past and Helfrich thinks one is possible because of police utilization. However, if an exception is not made, she said there would probably be one entrance and an additional lane secured for police use. 

Resident Stephanie Tsantes asked about the bond for the existing municipal building and when that would be paid off. She was told 2025. 

“I think it is a global city issue,” Tsantes said. “I think the city needs to bring the public into these discussions, because I don't think you can talk about abandoning the current structures without talking about the impact to town.”

With plans in the preliminary stages, Mayor Andrew Williams said a community advisory group comprising people with planning and property experience would be helpful moving forward.

“We have a community that is rich in their expertise and I think we can leverage that,” Williams said.

Officials said things are going to take some time before any tangible progress is made, but they believe GMB’s analysis is a good start. Further studies will be conducted on the property, including one by the former tenant.

“The Army is conducting an environmental study of that property and it’s expected [they will] find some problems there,” said Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba. 

Saliba added that it’s going to be a long-term process, and he didn’t think there would be so much information available so fast.

Brad Dilla, who has lived next to the motor pool for the last 10 years, thanked elected officials for their work in securing the site.

“Thank you all for doing that. We’re very happy to have some part of the city in that property as opposed to 50 diesel trucks,” he said, also thanking the Army for performing an environmental assessment.


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter