Dozens Voice Concern Over Gills Neck Village Center at Public He - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Dozens Voice Concern Over Gills Neck Village Center at Public Hearing

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A large crowd came to the public hearing on Tuesday to voice their concerns (Source: Evan Koslof) A large crowd came to the public hearing on Tuesday to voice their concerns (Source: Evan Koslof)

LEWES, Del. - At a public hearing in front of Sussex County Council on Tuesday, dozens of Lewes neighbors gathered to voice their concern with the Gills Neck Village Center. The proposed shopping center, which would be located by the intersection of Gills Neck Road and Kings Highway, has been one of the most hotly debated proposals over the last decade. 

The developers, JG Townsend Jr and Co, has downsized the project quite a bit from their initial proposal in 2008. When it was first introduced, the proposal called for 521,000 square feet, including commercial and residential uses. The project now calls for just over 70,000 square feet, reserved solely for commercial purposes. 

Despite this reduction in size, neighbors have been vocal in their concerns over two main issues: Damage to the Lewes water supply and traffic. Nadine Wick from the Lewes Partnership for Managing Growth said that the proposal was a bad fit for the area. 

"We already have Kings highway as is," she said. "Which has incredible amounts of traffic now. And having a shopping center right on the corner of Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road will create even more traffic."

At the public hearing, Project Manager Nick Hammonds said the shopping center would be a great resource for the approximately 2,000 homeowners along Gills Neck Road. Hammonds said that constructing the shopping center would actually reduce the amount of cars on the road because it stop the Gills Neck homeowners from having to drive to Route One to shop. 

"It would become a neighborhood shopping center," he said. "Intending to provide for the sake of convenience, goods and services to the residents of the Gills Neck Road corridor that I mentioned earlier as well as the greater Lewes area."

Hammonds also said that the center would create approximately 120 permanent jobs, as well as many more in the construction period. 

City Concern

Speaking at the event were various town leaders from Lewes, including Mayor Ted Becker, who said the area was over-developed already. 

"The impact of the development," he said. "Will be seen in increasing response times for our EMS, more difficult access to Beebe, and police, as well as the reduction in swift, orderly evacuation of Lewes and it's beaches in a catastrophic situation."

Becker also spoke about the town's concern with the water supply. The shopping center is proposed for a plot of land, which is directly across from their well-head. Darrin Gordon from the Lewes Board of Public Works urged County Council to deny the application. 

"We have no authority," he said. "We have no way of enforcing anything, so we're asking you to help protect that water. Our water is of priceless value to us. We know we need to have water in any community."

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the plan earlier this summer. County Council deferred on a decision on Tuesday, and has not yet scheduled a vote.

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