Annexation request fails for second time

By Lynn R. Parks

For the second time in less than two years, voters in the city of Seaford have turned down the annexation of property near Hearns Pond. Citizens voted 167 to 140 against the annexation of 193 acres at the intersection of Bridgeville Highway and Hearns Pond Road, owned by Ray Mears and Sons. They voted 169 to 140 against the annexation of 46 acres just south of the Mears property, at the intersection of Bridgeville Highway and Garden Lane, owned by Morris Properties LLC. Both properties were among six parcels that were overwhelmingly rejected for annexation in a public vote in September 2006. The vote then was 324 to 96 against the annexation of the Mears property and 325 to 89 against the Morris annexation. At that time, the property owners were requesting zoning to permit high-density residential development as well as commercial development. This time, they asked for zoning for single-family houses and commercial development. "Personally, this is a disappointment," said Rex Mears, a partner in Ray Mears and Sons. "I will be weighing our options for the future of that property."All the members of the Seaford City Council, as well as Mayor Ed Butler and city manager Dolores Slatcher, spoke in favor of the annexation. It was also supported by the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce. But the annexation was opposed by a citizens group, made up largely of residents of the Hearns Pond area.

Members of HAPPEN, the HearnsPond Association for its Protection, Preservation, Enhancement and Naturalization, distributed flyers cautioning that the annexation would mean higher taxes, more traffic and increased flooding. Members said that, instead of increasing its borders, the city should concentrate its efforts on improving its downtown area. In a statement following the annexation vote, HAPPEN said that in light of the second annexation rejection, the city should "respond to the needs of the people" and direct its efforts toward addressing citizens' concerns. "HAPPEN pledges to do its part," the statement said. But Butler, who said that he was "very disappointed" in the rejection of the annexation, said Monday that the city will continue to work for annexation of the two properties. "I don't think it's over," he said. "I think we as a city think that it is important to annex that land." And the vote will send a negative message to businesses interested in locating in Seaford, he cautioned. "We have been talking with some businesses about coming to Seaford, and they won't like what this vote says," he said. Mears agreed that the vote signals a troublesome trend in Seaford. "I think there is a bigger issue with the message that was sent with this vote," he said. "I think most of the Seaford residents are not interested in expanding the city of Seaford borders. To me, this could be a problem for the city of Seaford for the future." Butler rejected the notion of directing new businesses to the downtown area, something that members of HAPPEN have suggested. "Downtown is not where the growth is," he said. "I think we have a good downtown. But the growth of any city is on the outside."

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.