Le Digabel: Development application approved ‘without knowledge of toxic chemicals’


In 2021, the developer for Wil King Station in Lewes went through the Preliminary Land Use Service comments. These comments are state agency comments on the condition of the land. The parcel was found to have contaminated soil, as noted in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control comments in the PLUS report. Eventually, the developer withdrew the application.

The developer of Wil King Station submitted a new application, and a hearing was set for July 27, 2023.

On July 25, a report from the developers’ paid experts, Watershed Eco, was attached to the file, hardly enough time for the Planning & Zoning Commission or the public to review. This report stated the contamination was cleaned up. The contamination that was found on this 29-acre parcel, which had a portion of land owned by three generations of one family, resulted because it was used as a dump site for car parts, household appliances and household goods for decades. The developer knew about the parcel being used as a dump site from the previous PLUS report and had contractors cleaning it with heavy equipment from June through a week before the hearing. At the hearing, a resident asked, during his testimony, for the report and was handed a copy. After the hearing, he reviewed it and contacted me, stating that the levels of lead, arsenic and antimony were higher than the acceptable level.

I immediately contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Stephanie  Gordon, a remediation expert from DNREC, and her superiors reviewed the report and found that the levels of some contaminants were higher than what is acceptable.

The department then reached out to the developer of Wil King Station, as well as Mr. Jamie Whitehouse, director of planning and zoning, and suggested that the developer work with DNREC to remedy the contaminated soil; however, since the department got the information after the hearing closed, their comments were not considered, and the development was approved without knowledge of the toxic chemicals in the soil.

It is important for the public, who are professionals in many different fields and whose testimony is valuable to the commission, to get involved and review these applications and catch things that the commission or planners don’t have a chance to review with a day’s notice. Without catching this on the Wil King Station application, we would have a playground, homes, lawns and walking trails built on a contaminated site.

I have been assured by Planning & Zoning that there are reg flag alerts for Wil King Station when the plot plan is entered for final approval by the commission and when it must pass a final approval by DNREC.

I also asked the County Council president and County Council members to change the application process so that the developer must have all paperwork in 30 days before a hearing. This gives adequate time for the public, and the commission, to review. Also, as a resident, you have a right to ask for the conditions of approval for a development during a Planning & Zoning hearing.

Janet Le Digabel


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