Lewes planners to revisit annexation zones

New council members vote in favor of further review
September 22, 2020

Lewes Mayor and City Council has tasked the planning commission with reviewing the city’s annexation zoning districts.

The annexation zoning may only be applied to land that is currently outside city limits but could be annexed. The city may only annex land that is contiguous with existing borders.

The two annexation zones – one for residential and another for mixed use – were thrust into the spotlight when Setting Properties Inc. used the new zoning districts to apply for the Lewes Waterfront Preserve major subdivision on New Road along Canary Creek. The plan, which has gained preliminary approval, seeks to build 90 townhouses on 34 acres.

Mayor and city council approved the annexation zones in May 2018. The zones were created by an ad hoc committee chaired by former Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait and former Councilman Dennis Reardon at more than a dozen lightly attended meetings over the course of  a year and a half. They are designed to be competitive with more lenient regulations in Sussex County by offering standards that are less restrictive than what’s available within Lewes’ borders.

Following backlash from the Lewes Waterfront Preserve proposal, the committee was tasked with tweaking the annexation zones. Those changes were approved by mayor and city council in September 2019.

Tim Ritzert, one of the city’s two new council members, said he could not find a public record of the planning commission’s review of the original annexation zones. He said planners certainly did not have an opportunity to offer feedback on the second review in early 2019.

Mayor Ted Becker and Deputy Mayor Bonnie Osler challenged Ritzert’s assertion that there is no public record of the commission’s review. They were each open to the commission reviewing the most recent tweaks, but voted against a motion to allow planners to review the annexation zones as a whole.

City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said the planning commission reviewed the zones when they were initially developed, but they did not review the tweaks that followed the Lewes Waterfront Preserve application. The minutes from the planning commission’s 2018 meetings where these zones were discussed are on the website for the Jan. 17, Feb. 21 and March 28 commission meetings.

Ritzert, Councilman Rob Morgan and Councilman Andrew Williams voted in favor of a full review.

“We certainly want them to look at the tweaks,” Ritzert said. “But it disturbs me to think that there are minutes that might not be posted. It bothers me that we might not have that record.”

Morgan said the planning commission members should not be limited in their review.

“I’d like not only to have a good record but also to have the benefit of the planning commission’s thoughts about the ordinance as a whole,” he said. “I don’t know how you can piecemeal it. Things have changed over the last couple of years.”

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