The final step in the listening and learning phase for the five-year review of Lewes’ comprehensive plan was completed April 26, as the Rossi Group and the city hosted a public workshop.
Officials said attendance was heavy, with most people arriving early, eager to have their voices heard. Savannah Edwards, associate planner for the Rossi Group, said whether people agreed, disagreed or were neutral about a topic, the feedback was positive and they were gathering quality information. Attendees were greeted with information about the review, as well as a tab of green, yellow and red stickers to cast their votes on each particular issue.
Regulations were a common question from participants, and across quite a few topics. The historical and cultural station featured considerable feedback on the city’s regulation and expansion of historical structures and the historic district. Judging by the amount of yellow and red dots, many residents believed there needed to be more regulations in place to protect historical structures. Conversely, when it came to expanding the historic district to include Lewes Beach, there were a few red dots against that proposal. The amount of green dots also in that section highlighted how polarizing that proposal may become, should it expand beyond the idea phase.
Affordable housing, a focus of the 2015 comp plan, is something the city understands is a unique challenge to conquer given the city’s characteristics; however, options could still be available in achieving this goal.
“Discussions mostly have been involved about what are some of the new options the city can adopt for housing,” Edwards said. “Some of the concepts we’ve been talking about tonight are like a missing middle type of housing. We have single-family housing and we have multi-family housing in the city. What are some of the other options that can be embraced, such as duplexes or the larger home [with multiple units]?”
Based on public voting, the majority of people liked most of the ideas proposed for affordable and workforce housing, but accessory dwelling units – where someone rents a structure on the property – received mixed reviews. People were concerned about the possibility of those spaces being converted into short-term rentals – another topic that was a big concern.
Lewes Planning and Development Officer Janelle Cornwell was on hand to answer questions about the proposed solutions.
Sources of alternative energy and various green infrastructure programs became a hot topic, as people discussed various solutions to improving utilities with Rossi Vice President Carter Hyde. Hyde said solar power seemed to be a more palatable option over wind power – many people asked about the solar panel options currently available. Workshop attendees seemed to be in agreement about the need for pervious pavement, planting trees and open spaces, but there were quite a few against a proposed rain barrel program.
Edwards noted the environmental station witnessed a lot of foot traffic, with concerns about the floodplain being the prevailing theme. Not a single red sticker could be found when it came to enforcing and strengthening regulations within the floodplain. The concerns about flooding were clear, but Lewes’ location puts a portion of the city within the floodplain, presenting a unique set of obstacles when work is necessary in those areas.
The Rossi Group will comb over the information gathered at the workshop. They will meet with a committee sometime in May to develop recommendations and assess policy positions against feedback. The public feedback will be presented to the Lewes Planning Commission, then a draft narrative will be developed over the next few months before moving completely into the refinement stage in August.
The five-year review will be completed in October after it is adopted by mayor and city council following a pair of public hearings with the planning commission in August and with council in September.
Feedback can be submitted and more information can be found at ci.lewes.de.us.361/Comprehensive---Plan-5-yr-Update. Comments can also be sent to Cornwell at email@example.com.