Two free houses, for anyone who is interested!
Desperately in need of some new parking spaces, Sussex County bought two houses on Pine Street in Georgetown, across from St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church, with the intent of tearing them down and building a parking lot there. They actually obtained a demolition permit for one but stopped short of tearing either of the homes down after members of the public came forward and expressed an interest in preserving the structures.
“We tried to work with them and save the homes somehow and couldn’t come to an agreement,” said Sussex County Deputy Administrator Hal Godwin. “We offered them for sale but still couldn’t come to an agreement, so we are not doing anything, at least temporarily.”
The county has another location suitable for parking about a block away and now has plans to start that $190,000 project in the fall. It will add about 40 parking spaces, 12 of which will be reserved for visitors who are in Georgetown to conduct business with the county.
“We need parking spaces desperately,” said Godwin. “The whole ambition is to have parking for the public within a block of the administration building. Hundreds of people are in and out of town every day. It is a busy hub. And parking is at a premium. We are trying to make it more user-friendly.”
As for the interest in preserving the two houses, Godwin said he understands the intent.
“It wasn’t the town government,” he emphasized of the effort. “It was a couple of people who live here. And I can appreciate their ambition to maintain the historical character of the town. I completely agree with that.” But he offered that both homes have been reviewed by the University of Delaware for possible historical value, and there isn’t much there.
“One has no significant value at all, and the other one wasn’t the governor’s house or anything, it is just an old structure, dated from 1790 to 1830.”
He said that, many times, constituents have valid ambitions that everyone might not completely agree on and offered that they wanted to honor that. So, they decided they would move the parking lot for now and sit on their original idea, acknowledging that history is an important part of the character of Georgetown.
“There’s the ambition to make everyone happy all the time,” Godwin acknowledged with a chuckle. “And I have an extreme interest in history. I always have. I have been involved in the historical societies in Newark and Milton. I do appreciate and have a reverence for the past. It’s not as though I am some hotshot developer trying to tear something down.”
He added that a parking problem is a good problem for a town to have in these lean times, as it is a sign that the future is bright. He maintains that the county is simply trying to alleviate some parking issues, and, for now at least, appeasing a few that are interested in somehow preserving the past, as well.
The structures are located at 1115 East Pine Street and 111 East Pine Street and are available for interested parties willing to relocate them at their own cost.
“Come and get ’em!” said Godwin.
The county has recently begun considering a historic preservation ordinance, in accordance with guidelines set forth in the 2007 update of the Sussex County Comprehensive Plan. The ordinance would require a waiting period on demolition of any structure 80 years or older, to allow for time to examine the structure for its historical value, document it and pursue possible alternatives to demolition.
The council discussed the ordinance at their July 28 council meeting and said it would be aimed to aid in efforts to “preserve and document the heritage of the historic architecture of Sussex County.”
While no ordinance has been formally written or introduced, there is a draft ordinance outlined online at http://www.sussexcountyde.gov/docs//publicnotices/2009/07/historic.ord.o....
For additional information on the ordinance, contact Sussex County Historic Preservation Planner C. Daniel Parsons at (302) 856-6138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.