Showfield residents oppose road connection

Concerns raised at public hearings on proposed Lewes subdivisions
January 15, 2024

Residents of the Showfield community near Lewes turned out Jan. 11 to oppose a vehicular connection to their neighborhood from the proposed Henlopen Bluff development.

They were packed into the Rollins Center for a Lewes Mayor and City Council public hearing on the proposed 79-lot major subdivision along Gills Neck Road. A public hearing on the proposed White’s Pond Preserve major subdivision was held immediately after.

When Bob Valihura, who spoke on behalf of the Showfield Homeowners Association, asked who was there to oppose the connection, almost the entire audience raised their hands.

The Lewes Planning Commission approved the preliminary site plan for Henlopen Bluff in November. The panel attached 39 conditions related to open space, traffic mitigation on Gills Neck Road and more.

The commission also approved two requested waivers, but denied the developer’s request to reduce the required 50-foot corridor buffer to 25 feet on Gills Neck Road.

The most contentious of the conditions calls for a vehicular connection between the new development and Battlemixer Drive in Showfield.

“We are willing to work with the developer, but we want our property rights respected. We are not willing to allow vehicular access,” Valihura said.

Valihura asked council to eliminate the condition when it votes on the preliminary site plan.

He said Showfield supports a public-use bicycle and pedestrian path connecting the communities.

“We should be celebrating that opportunity to connect. That’s what Lewes is all about, bike and ped,” Valihura said.

David Hutt, attorney for the developer of Henlopen Bluff, said the applicant did not propose a vehicular connection from Henlopen Bluff to Showfield. He said the applicant would ask the Showfield HOA for permission to connect to the multimodal path.

Resident Chip Davis said he supports the vehicular cut-through.

“Gills Neck Road has become a nightmare,” he said. “The more accesses we have to get people in and out of town will be beneficial to everybody.”

In 2023, Showfield residents also opposed a vehicular connection with the Olde Towne at White’s Pond development, which is under construction along Freeman Highway. Residents requested a limited-access gate be added, but it was denied by Sussex County Council. 

Showfield resident Denise Stokes spoke about the impact both Henlopen Bluff and White’s Pond Preserve could have on the pond, which Showfield also surrounds. 

“My concern is that the water quality, health of the pond, its current use as a habitat for wildlife is not limited to stormwater management,” she said. “The owner of Whites Pond has not put together a comprehensive plan for all those developments that share responsibility for things like vegetation around the pond.”

The second public hearing of the night was for White’s Pond Preserve, a proposed 13-lot major subdivision along Monroe Avenue Extended.

The Lewes Planning Commission gave the green light to the preliminary site plan in November. The panel added 16 conditions, mostly dealing with tree density and landscaping.

The development would include an ephemeral wetland and rain garden for stormwater management that would be located in a cul-de-sac at the end of the new street, Clara Lane.

Attorney Jon Horner spoke for the developer. He addressed some neighbors’ concerns over removal of trees around the pond, specifically on three lots.

“We don’t own all the way to the pond’s edge,” he said. “There are significant trees that we have no rights to remove. Anybody who buys there is going to want a pond view, but we’re not going to clear-cut to do that.”

Horner said tree-planting requirements added by the planning commission mean there will be more trees than in neighboring developments.

Mayor and city council could vote on the both the Henlopen Bluff and White’s Pond Preserve preliminary site plans at its meeting Monday, Feb. 12.


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