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April 11, 2014     Cape Gazette
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April 11, 2014
 

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8 FRIDAY, APRIL 11- MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014 VIEWPOINTS Cape Gazette Letters )) Continued from page 7 on Ocean View Boulevard to the post office and to buy my daily newspaper and the Cape Gazette, I enjoyed "Good morning," "Nice day, isn't it?," smiles and waves from other walkers, bicyclists and dog walkers, as well as workers and delivery persons. The mag- nolias, daffodils and other flowers were finally blooming and the birds were singing. What a per- fect way to start the day! It's what I love about living in Lewes. It's such a friendly, walkable town. My experience is reflective of the quality of life as expressed in the Core Values of the City of Lewes. Core Value No. 3: Lewes values its humane town scale and sense of face-to face intimacy that is characteristic of its quality of life. This core value is reflected in the comprehen- sive plan, which gives "highest priority" to "Provide guidance for new developments to ensure through vehicular and pedestrian circulation and linkages with the city by secondary streets with sidewalks as well as main traffic arteries. Sidewalks, bikeways and walking trails should be required components of every new area and development within the city limits." There is a proposal currently under consideration for a 34- home subdivision in the wooded area adjacent to Fourth Street, known as Highland Heights. Because a large part of this parcel of land is unbuildable wetland, there is no through street in the plan, but two cul-de-sacs, instead. This proposed development runs counter to the priorities stated in the comprehensive plan. In addi- tion, the loss of this last natural woodland in the City of Lewes would significantly diminish our Barefootin' Continued from page 7 the Gordons Pond connector trail are hustling to get done so the decking and final surface for the trail can be installed. "That project is about a month behind," said Cooper. "I think they will be done in late May or early June." He said some roads in the Herring Point area of the park will have to be closed for a few days in late May to accom- modate repaving in that area. El Ni6o weather pattern forming We may be in for a cooler- than-usual summer with lower-than-average hurricane activity if an E1 Nifio weather pattern forming in the tropical portion of Pacific Ocean comes to full bloom. E1 Nifio refers to the Christ child, and the name was given more than a century back to a weather occurrence that brought warmer tempera- tures just before Christmas to the western coast of South America. Now it's known that the phenomenon is much larger than just a local event and can ultimately affect our weather along the East Coast. University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment scientist Dr. Matt Oliver said air pressure and sea surface temperature anomalies can signal the onset of an E1 Nifio event. Such events last for several months. "It's about time for one," said Oliver. "The last ones we had were in 1997 and in 1983 before that." He said E1 Nifios come down to big, global-level sloshing events. He said the water in the tropical Pacific basically sloshes, very slowly, between South America and Asia. When a wave of warmer-than-average water begins making its way from west to east, which ap- pears to be happening now, an E1 Nifio can form. When that warm water wave comes up against the South American coast - all very gradually over months - and then reverses itself, heading back toward Asia, it can leave cooler-than- usual water behind, which is called, conversely, an E1 Nifia. In addition to affecting weather on a large scale, Oliver said, such events can also lead to a deepening or a shutdown of ecosystem productivity. The deepening of the ecosystem productivity has played a role in the E1 Nifio label for the event because South American fishermen over decades noticed that their fish harvests went up noticeably in parallel with such large-scale weather patterns. That, for them, was a gift, as was the Christ child. Dr. Jeff Masters, founder of the Wunderground.com weather site, has mentioned the emerging E1 Nifio event a few times in recent blogs. Last week he featured a "very technical" discussion by Dr. Michael Ven- trice, an operational scientist at Weather Services International. At the conclusion of many paragraphs with terms like southern oscillation, oceanic Kelvin waves, downwelling and thermoclines, Ventrice concludes: "The Pacific Ocean continues to show signs of a developing moderate to strong E1 Nifio event. During strong, full-basin E1 Nifios, we often observe cooler-than-average temperatures in summer across the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. and lower-than-average Atlantic hurricane activity." Ventrice also noted that the national Climate Predic- tion Center has issued an E1 Nifio watch. An Accuweather post notes that when E1 Nifios extend into the winter - as in, possibly, next winter - they can result in more and wetter south- em storms that can track up the East Coast. One thing's for sure: we had plenty of practice dealing with them this past winter. quality of life. Let's keep faith with our core values. Carole Somers Lewes Lewes needs a full-time city planner When we moved to Lewes a few years ago, we were suffer- ing from urban exhaustion after many years spent wrestling with both our elected officials and our neighborhood associations in Baltimore, over the best inter- ests of our fair city's taxpaying residents. What we hoped to find here in Lewes - and have since experienced firsthand - was a far more congenial environment, in which civic engagement and deliberative public discourse were enthusiastically cultivated and openly valued in the spirit of good governance. But last week's special planning commission meeting was hardly exemplary of that spirit. Given the meeting agenda - two highly controversial major subdivision proposals - the room was packed with city taxpayers, prepared to voice their concerns as they had always been invited to in the past. We were quickly disabused of that collective expectation, how- ever, when (in what seemed to be a scripted pronouncement) the commission's attorney, presum- ably at the behest of its members, declared that while we were wel- come to "observe" the proceed- ings, we were to save our com- ments for the public hearings. Or to paraphrase an old-fashioned child-rearing notion, we were to be "seen and not heard." And not only did they draw a line in the sand with that opening comment, they managed to turn it into a rather sizeable trench before the meeting was over. Although public bodies do have the right to limit citizen input at open meetings such as this one, the Delaware Department of Justice actually encourages them to allow public participation, and the City of Lewes - to its credit - has always followed that advice. In fact, our city leaders normally provide a rather prominently placed podium - complete with microphone - just for that pur- pose at all of its public meetings. So why was it suddenly and conspicuously missing from the room last week - especially given the many legitimate questions around whether the proposed subdivision applications actually met certain legal and environ- mental requirements? Questions that had been asked and sub- sequently unanswered at other meetings before this one - but should indeed be considered, as these are issues that could have a truly negative impact on property values, public safety, and flood insurance rates in the years to come. Emboldened by this urgency, and unaccustomed to their newly imposed "observation only" status, several well-known citizen advocates in the audience stepped forward to challenge these submissions, providing well-researched evidence to support their contentions. While a few were actually allowed to speak (for some unknown rea- son), their concerns were for the most part either openly derided or dismissed out of hand, by both the attorney and several of the commission's members. Even more curious, others were denied the privilege to speak, including one especially knowledgeable expert - a geologist by training - who asked to read a statement that would have been extremely helpful to the decision-making process. To be fair, one commis- sion member - who is also run- ning for city council - did express a few similar concerns of his own. Still, in the end, both ap- plications were unanimously approved for public hearing, at which time the attorney stated that expert testimony would be heard. Of course, to stop this freight train, we will probably need to bring in outside experts, who are not only expensive to hire, but also require adequate lead time to conduct their inves- tigations. Yet the commission seemed determined to schedule these hearings as soon as was legally possible (within 15 days). And when several of us asked for at least 30 and perhaps even 60 days lead time to elicit and pre- pare proper testimony, we were essentially ignored. On the other hand, commis- sion members eagerly granted a similar request for delay from the Harbor Point developer - which certainly begs the question as to who this commission is actually there to serve - for-profit devel- opment companies or the taxpay- ing citizens who will ultimately bear the cost of their "sprawl." We might also ask ourselves why our city leaders continue to engage the legal advisory services of a law firm (Baird Mandalas Brockstedt) that according to its own website "represents devel- opers before government and administrative bodies to obtain project approvals." Lost in this dustup is the obvious and funda- mental question as to whether either proposed subdivision is consistent with the existing Lewes Comprehensive Plan, which according to the Delaware Code, Title 22, Chapter 7, "has the force of law" - although you would never know that based on the actions of both the planning commission and its attorney. This is precisely why we desperately need a full-time AICP-certified city planner on our municipal payroll, who is both professionally and person- ally invested in the long- term interests of our community and its citizens. Kathleen Harvatt Lewes Lewes: Can't we all just get along? The City of Lewes Planning Commission met April 2, and on the agenda was a discussion of the Highland Heights develop- ment, which is planned for the wooded area between W. Fourth Street and Seagull Drive, and the annexing of Point Farm. All previous meetings on these subjects went rather smoothly, with an exchange of valuable information and a presentation of good ideas from both the plan- ning commission and the citizens of Lewes in attendance. Unfortunately, the tone changed midway through the meeting. As a silent observer I am trying to figure how and why this so suddenly happened. The contentious tone is counterpro- ductive to what we all wish to ac- complish. I believe that the tone of this meeting changed rapidly when one member of the com- mission accused another Lewes resident - without recourse to knowing the facts - of"trespass- ing" on the site; this was uncalled for and inappropriate for an ap- pointed member of a public body. The commission chair might consider advising the outspoken member to address the citizens he serves in a different tone so as to be a more productive member of the commission. Our Lewes City Planning Commission must have the health, safety and welfare of our community as its mission. It is a volunteer group without a profes- sional city planner to service and resource them, struggling with some very difficult, technical and contentious issues. These volun- teers give many hours of valu- able time to their jobs; they love Lewes, live in Lewes, and want the best for it. The decisions they must make in the coming months regarding Highland Heights and Point Farm will impact the City of Lewes for many decades, long after most of us are gone. The importance of these issues, and the irreversible nature of these decisions must be weighing heavily on this commission. They deserve the respect of the com- munity. The citizens of Lewes; opposed to these issues are also very good people who also live in and love Lewes. They too volunteer many hours to these issues. That's what makes Lewes so wonderful. They have a long-range view, wanting Lewes to be just as safe, pros- perous and attractive to future generations as it is to them. They sincerely believe that the issues mentioned above will have long- range negative implications on a town that they love. I have seen no evidence of any hidden agen- das or ulterior motives. These are caring people with a vision of the futur and a dossier of facts sup- porting their position. Moving forward in these dif- ficult times, we must pay special attention to giving respect to those who disagree with us, not take a difference of opinion per- sonally, and not make unfounded accusations, but get the facts out on the table for all to see. Please, let us all move forward bravely, but in peace. Ann Nolan Lewes Nicola's Joan Caggiano thanks community Dear friends, customers and community: I would like to start offby saying that we live in a wonder- ful community, and I would like Continued on page 9