State calls Groome property historic and culturally significant

State agencies are reviewing project before it surfaces at county level
June 1, 2018

Story Location:
New Road
Lewes, DE
United States

State officials are calling the Groome property along New Road outside Lewes an important historical site.

During the May 23 Office of State Planning Coordination Preliminary Land Use Service meeting on the project, Tim Slavin, State Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs director, called the parcel one of the most significant cultural sites in Delaware with evidence of Native American burials as well as other burial sites. Officials said there are two archeological sites as well as the Prettyman family cemetery on the parcel.

In addition, officials said the parcel is in an environmentally sensitive area and development and design should be done to have minimal impact on the environment.

During the meeting, a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control official did not offer comments, but comments will be provided to the applicant, said DNREC spokesman Michael Globetti.

During the PLUS process, state agencies review larger commercial and residential plans as well as comprehensive plans. A representative of the agency then attends the monthly PLUS meeting in Dover to ask the applicant questions, offer recommendations or provide comments. That information is later submitted to the applicant in writing.

Those comments and the applicant's responses are used by county and municipal officials when voting on applications.

PLUS review of Groome parcel

New Road Ventures LLC has submitted a plan that includes 293 single-family lots on AR-1, agricultural-residential, land along New Road on both sides of Lynn Road. The parcel contains 36 forested acres and 10 acres of nontidal wetlands.

Under Sussex County code, 2.178 units of housing are permitted per acre through the environmentally sensitive developing district overlay zone cluster subdivision process, which the applicant is seeking.

Delaware Department of Transportation representative Bill Brockenbrough said a traffic impact study is under review. He said the developer would be required to contribute funding to improvements at the Route 1-Minos Conaway-New Road intersection as well as improvements along Lynn Road and New Road.

Among those improvements would be a shared-use path on both sides of New Road along the frontage of the development with enough right of way preserved for a possible widening of New Road to four lanes in the future.

He said New Road is part of the Lewes Historic and Scenic Byway, and a proposed new master plan for the roadway could impact other possible road improvements. He said the developer would be required to provide updates to the byway committee.

The proposed development would generate more than 2,800 vehicle trips on an average weekday.

Lewes planner Tom West requested that he be kept up to date on details of the proposed project. “I will testify at county meetings,” he said.

In the months since the church announced intentions to sell the property, a group of Lewes-area residents formed the group New Road Preservation Alliance to protect the New Road and Great Marsh corridor, including the Groome property.

State and local officials have also tried to convince church officials to change their minds. The state’s Open Space Council earmarked $1 million toward the purchase of a portion of the parcel, while the City of Lewes and Sussex County Council have each committed $500,000 to the purchase.

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