LEWES, Del.- A controversial development in Lewes may move forward with plans as is, due to a Thursday decision by the mayor and city council.
After nearly two hours of public comment and discussion, the council decided that developer Joe Setting's proposed townhome development on New Road will not have to abide by any new zoning or density regulations the city may introduce. Setting is proposing to build 90 townhomes on the "Brittingham Property" on New Road and Canary Creek Drive.
Mayor Ted Becker, Dennis Reardon and Fred Beaufait sided in favor with Setting, where Rob Morgan voted no. Councilwoman Bonnie Osler was not present.
Developer attorney Jim Fuqua said changing the rules now would be unfair and call into question the council's integrity.
"We are not an enemy," Fuqua said. "We are here doing what's permitted in the code to be done."
Deputy Mayor Beaufait said there were 26 meetings about the property and its related annexation open to the public, but many neighbors said the meetings were not properly publicized. Many in the area believe 90 townhomes will cause traffic and even more flooding due to the proximity to Canary Creek.
"We still have concerns and I hope they will do the right thing," Marta Nammack told WRDE after the meeting. "Because people will be buying those houses and it would be nice if those people would not be duped into buying houses that are going to be too close to the creek and be flooded themselves or cause undue hardship to all of its neighbors."
The meeting was full of tense moments, including Morgan questioning Beaufait's contact with the developer (of which Beaufait explained and said there was nothing improper). Neighbor Terry Poirey stormed out of the meeting as councilmen read prepared statements explaining their decisions.
"They added insult to injury by telling us 'You see, I've already prepared my statement before I came. I didn't listen to you. I am basically telling you now what I have decided yesterday or the day before,'" he says. "That is outrageous to treat the community like this. It's as if we didn't exist."
Mayor Ted Becker told the packed city hall that by having the Brittingham Property annexed into city limits, it would be better regulated than if it was a county property.
"We have an obligation to be respectful of everyone in this room, but also to ensure that we are working if we are going to have any hope of attracting future annexation and have any integrity with any developer or any other parcel to come in to the city," he says. "I think we need to be respectful [...] of the zoning ordinance that were on the books at the time of the annexation and the time of request."
The Brittingham Property--also called named Lewes Waterfront Preserve--is currently in the planning commission stage in the process, where it will have a public hearing. The mayor and city council will also host a public hearing once the development plans are finalized.