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March 7, 1997     Cape Gazette
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March 7, 1997
 

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12- (Alig GAZE'iq, Friday, March 7- March 13, 1997 Judge hears testimony on Silver Lake path dispute By Jen Ellingsworth The issue of whether or not to close a Sil- ver Lake right-of-way was introduced for a second time in Superior Court in George- town on Thursday, March 6. Owners of four Silver Lake homes have joined forces with the Delaware Depart- ment of Transportation (DelDOT) and have petitioned that the 50-foot greenway bor- dering the lake be banned from public use. The homeowners reached an agreement to buy back the land from DelDOT in ex- change for $50,000. The money would be put into DelDOT's Transportation Trust Fund, and the home- owners would be responsible for maintain- ing the greenway as a "conservational ease- ment." If their efforts are successful, the 50-foot wide path will be banned from the public's use, but the homeowners will not be permit- ted to alter the existing area with construc- tion or expand their properties onto the area. The lengthy hearing included the testimo- ny of DelDOT officials, independent sur- veyors, and Silver Lake homeowners, as well as input from attorneys on all sides of the issue. As of presstime, it looked as though a continuation of the hearing would be set for today, Friday, March 7. At the preliminary hearing on Friday, Dec. 20, Judge Henley Graves deemed that a full hearing was necessary due to the amount of opposition the proposed closure has generated. Along with DelDOT, the petitioners in- clude homeowners Peter and Rochelle Berman, Victor and Sue Ann Houlon, James L. Goodwill HI, Leslie Berger, Ju- dith Mandell, Elson Mandell and Richard Mandell. At Thursday's .hearing, Frederick Schranek, a deputy attorney general who works with DelDOT, introduced a series of aerial and ground shots depicting Silver Lake and the surrounding area from 1938 to the present. The photos show changes in the shoreline of the freshwater lake, and were authenti- cated by Schrank's witnesses, including DelDOT transportation planner Vincent Rucinski and DelDOT graphic artists spe- cialist Timothy O'Brien. The photos were submitted as evidence to the court, as was a video tape and commen- tary from William Dailey, Jr., an engineer representing Vandemark & Lynch, Inc. En- gineers, Planners and Surveyors. The tape included 1992 footage of Silver Lake spliced with current footage, and was intended to show the evolution of the prop- erty and the damage done to the area by the subsequent installation of a utility ease- ment. Dailey, whose firm performs hydro- graphic surveys, testified that he surveyed the land in question this past December. He said he found that the elevated screened porch belonging to petitioner Victor Goodwill said he has seen two instances Houlon was located approximately two and where a man and a woman have left the a half feet away from where the right-of- way is geographically located. Wilmington attorney William Manning, counsel for the homeowners, said that since : the time during which the right-of-way has been used that animal -and plant life has "dramatically reduced." He sod the home- owners want a chance to restore the area to its previous state. "My clients are suggesting that they will give back a conservational easement that will benefit everyone. We'd like to walk out of here as stewards of the ecology of Silver Lake boundaries." Manning also noted that the existence of a manhole and a ditch with standing water at the south entrance of the path are "un- safe" and "pose a threat to pedestrian and vehicle." He said the homeowners were aware that a public greenway - part of the original street system plotted out in 1876 - existed when they bought their property, but were told it was underwater. 'Fhey were told that there was a right-of- way, but, by the way, it was a hundred feet into the lake," said Manning. "The right- of-way was forgotten about and not used for 120 years." Homeowners Victor Houlon and James Goodwill, III, testified at the hearing as well, explaining their grievances with the public path. right-way and trespassed onto his property. Houlon also cited incidents, including one where he broke up an alleged sexual as- sault. In addition, Houlon said be's the one whose taken the responsibility of the path's upkeep. "I get up at the crack of dawn and I clean the right-of-way every day," said Houlon. "I've become the janitor." Also present at the hearing was Dewey Beach Town Attorney Robert Witsil, who said the town maintains its bid for a com- promise for the situation in the form of a limited, smaller path. Attorney John Sergovic was on hand to represent Rehoboth By the Sea Realty, which owns property bordering the lake. Sergovic said his clients are opposed to the closure of any public path. Dewey Beach resident Martha Tillman has spearheaded opposition to the closure. Tillman presented the court with a petition containing 190 signatures opposing the va- cation of the path, and was present along with a score of other concerned Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach citizens at the hearing. In addition, opposition to the closure has garnered the support of 20th District Sen. George H. Bunting and 38th District Rep. John R. Schroeder, who were also present at Thursday's hearing. Juw still.out on statewide land use summit outcome ByMichaelShort "Cooperation is the key and I Delaware into the 21st Century The long-awaited statewide hope they got across that people and beyond ... The "Choices for land use planning and infrastruc- ture summit kicked off on Wednesday with a packed bouse of movers and shakers. The two-day session was in- tended to develop a list of issues to be hashed out before a second land use summit is'held in May. More than 500 people from all over the state gathered in Newark for the summit, including 99 peo- ple chosen to be on the Delaware Public Policy Institute's Land Use Study Committee. Many of those 99 are from Sus- sex County and it will be their job to take the issues and try to reach some kind of consensus by May on land use. Reactions after the first day of the session were mixed among Sussex Countians. Environmentalist Til Purnell said she was disappointed that more attention wasn't paid to the environment on Wednesday. Rich Collins, local insurance agent, farmer and former political candidate, said he supported the idea behind the session. But he worried that too many people think bureaucracy and govern- ment is the answer to the state's problems. "Government is much poorer at problem solving than the private sector," he said. Senator Bob Voshell (D-Mil- ford) noted that they kept "stress- ing cooperation." Lewes Farmer Lowder Mitchell said he was impressed by both the turnout and the message. "I think i't .J,a4S,gft.rt.tve," he said. are going to have to work togeth- er." Much of the initial day's session was general with a heavy empha- sis on cooperation and bringing everyone to the table. On Thurs- day, despite a pair of power out- ages and problems with the heat at Clayton Hall, the audience broke into groups and tried to devel- op specific land use is- sues. Sharon Huss Roat of the Delaware SIEMON Public Policy Institute, said on Thursday that "there are lots and lots of issues and we are consolidating the is- SUES." Roat wrote about the landmark forum in the March issue of the Delaware State Chamber of Com- merce Business Review. She de- scribed the forum sponsored by the Delaware Public Policy Insti- tute as "the consensus-building process that will bring all ideas to the table, with representation from civic associations, agriculture, business groups, environmental interests, the legislature and all three counties." Governor Tom Carper said "Our challenge remains the same: to work together, bridge our dif- ferences, identify common ground .... "a'nd"cY,iitt" a 9iitti"t6"fake Delaware: The Future of Land Use and Infrastructure" summit is another opportunity for the state, local governments, the General Assembly and major stakeholders to reflect on where we're going and how we're going to get there." Sen. George Bunting (D- Bethany Beach) said he hoped Thursday's session would have more applications to downstate Delaware than Wednesday's opening session, a view shared by Voshell. But Bunting still said "It is a i good learning process" and "food for thought." On Wednesday, consultant Charles Siemon presented some thoughts on land use in Delaware after surveying some of the state's residents. Here are a few initial thoughts from Siemon, a partner in the prestigious planning and planning law consulting firm Siemon, Larsen and Marsh. He said 80 percent of the peo- ple who engage his f'mn come to him too late. He said Delaware is not too late. Despite concerns over traffic gridlock, the average commute time in Delaware is still below the national average. Delaware's av- erage commute takes 19.96 min- utes, well under the average of 22.38 minutes. "During our interviews, the general consensus of the people we talked to was that there has Many Sussex Countians were among those who attended the statewide planning and infrastructure meeting this week. Shown centered in the audience above are a few of them fom 0-r), former county administrator and current realtor Joe Conaway, Bob Betts of Sussex County Planning and Zoning and Lawrence Lank, the director of Sussex County Planning and Zoning. Seated one aisle in front of Conaway, Betts and Lank, is Senator Bob VosheI! (D-Milford) and Wilmington Mayor James Sills. Delaware. Our assessment is that while there is room for improve- ment in the quality of planning in the state--at all levels of govern- ment--there has been a lot of planning in the state, but inconsis- tent or very little implementa- tion." "We were told over and over that the left hand of the state doesn't know what the right hand is doing." Communication is a problem. He said the above criticism of the state often comes down to a fail- ure to communicate well. the process of solving the state's concerns. "Our initial assessment of the existing conditions in Delaware is relatively simple and straightfor- ward. The patient is stable, at least for the time being, but at risk in the future unless remedial steps are taken in the relatively near fu- ture. There are real problems in Delaware--incompatible land us- es, unacceptable traffic conges- tion, threatened resources and un- derutilized assets--but in compar- ison to many other states, Many residents feel a sense of Delaware is still in relatively good ttt I been a failurb, olftplrarliaNg irnltiOff-,ltVft,e/ttR of'-mo'l , bfit+fitd  ffe 18