Protect wetlands on Coral Lakes parcel

April 26, 2022

The following letter was sent to Sussex County Council with a copy provided to the Cape Gazette for publication. 

The beautiful landscape of Sussex County includes our beaches, state parks, farmland and wetlands. Visitors flock to our community for its irreplaceable landscape that residents have a role in protecting. The wetlands are invaluable to the success of our community, as they provide “flood protection, water quality improvement, shoreline erosion control, natural products, recreation, and aesthetics,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey.   

On Aug. 30, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona abandoned the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. NWPR left wetlands unprotected and favored irresponsible development. Agencies are now to follow the “waters of the United States” consistent with the pre-2015 rules. Including wetlands in protected “waters of the United States” is essential to ensuring clean and safe water in all communities – supporting human health, animal habitat, agriculture, watersheds, flood management, local economies and industry. 

The application for Coral Lakes, a 315-unit cluster subdivision on 152 acres, was submitted to the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission Jan. 18 and appeared on the Jan. 27 agenda for presentation and public comment. At the March 10 meeting, the Coral Lakes application was denied. The Coral Lakes development comprises at least 30 acres of wetlands. The developer is proposing to only protect 5 acres. The basis for their proposal is based on using the NWPR, which was no longer in effect when the application was submitted for approval – four months after the ruling was vacated. The developer is appealing the P&Z denial, as they state P&Z did not follow state rules regarding response times. However, the developer is failing to follow the federal ruling, which supersedes the state and county. All 30 acres of identified wetlands should be treated as jurisdictional wetlands, as they have been for previously proposed development, and should be protected by 100-foot vegetated buffers.   

Water flows through this parcel, the Atkins-Novosel property and Conley’s Chapel development from north to south through Sarah Run, a tidal stream. Sussex County engineering's office has a photo of the light detection and ranging map, which clearly shows the water flow from north of Wil King Road south/southeast toward Robinsonville Road. The area surrounding Sarah Run remains flooded for weeks after rainfall. These are the same wetlands the developer is proposing to build houses on. These parcels are not ideal for a housing development.  

Developing on protected wetlands does not benefit the community. People want to live in Lewes, but bringing more people in at the cost of clean and safe water, human health, agriculture, watersheds, flood management, local economies and industry will cost more for all who live here. Each of us works to protect our community, including developers. What is proposed is counteractive to the time, money and energy spent to make Lewes a beautiful, safe and healthy place to live. As a concerned citizen of Sussex County, I request council uphold denial of the Coral Lakes application. This parcel is not an ideal property to build houses on due to the wetlands.  

Janet Le Digabel 


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