Lewes requires developers to either annex into the city or sign a pre-annexation agreement before receiving services from the Board of Public Works. The developer of Mitchell’s Corner, which was approved by Sussex County Council in July, is requesting to be exempt from annexation while still accepting electric and water from BPW.
The requirement of a pre-annexation agreement was at the center of a years-long dispute between the BPW and Lewes Mayor and City Council. As part of the resolution, BPW’s charter was amended to require mayor and city council’s consent before extending utility services to areas beyond the corporate boundaries of Lewes.
During a Sept. 28 meeting, BPW board members said they are interested in providing service to the future neighborhood located off Kings Highway across from Cape Henlopen High School. Delaware Electric Cooperative serves most of the area, but a portion of the parcel is within BPW’s electrical grid. At a minimum, developer Henlopen Properties LLC would like to be able to receive power from the BPW, but they are also requesting water service.
The BPW and DEC service areas split the Mitchell’s Corner property, making the logistics of the power situation tricky. The BPW believes the city is willing to waive annexation and a pre-annexation agreement in light of the unique situation. Added to a BPW motion to provide services, board members also agree it would be important to modify the line drawn by the Public Service Commission. Neither the board nor the city can change the lines, but they can share their desire with Delaware Electric Cooperative and go through the process with the Public Service Commission. The BPW’s motion passed unanimously.
BPW officials voted separately on water service because obligations vary slightly from electricity. The client can choose to go with Tidewater Utilities for water, and studies need to be conducted to ensure the BPW can handle additional customers. Consideration is being given to the plethora of communities set to tap into the city’s water system in the coming years. The water system will undergo several upgrades during that time, but officials say they should be able to provide service to Mitchell’s Corner regardless of whether those projects come to fruition. Timing of a new water tower is in BPW’s favor, as it is expected to be built by 2025, while the first phase of Mitchell’s Corner, a commercial portion, isn’t expected to be completed until 2026.
A motion to apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity passed by a 4-1 vote at BPW’s Sept. 28 meeting. Ring Lardner, an engineer representing Henlopen Properties LLC, said the next step for his client is to choose between Tidewater Utilities and the BPW for water service. Mayor and city council could vote to authorize the BPW to provide water service following a presentation from Henlopen Properties LLC at its Monday, Oct. 10 meeting.