Sussex County Delaware

Greetings from ...
Brighton, Delaware?
Sussex Snapshots -- June 10, 2003

SC Online Editor

NOTE: Kerin Magill is Content Editor of Sussex County Online. Her column, "Sussex Snapshots", appears each Thursday on this site.

Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

I have a friend from Washington, D.C. who won't come to Rehoboth Beach anymore. She said when the Ruby Tuesday's went in on Route 1, that was the last straw. Too much like the city, she claims.

Now, she goes to Assateague when she needs a beach fix.

Anyone who's driven Route 1 and surrounding roads around Lewes and Rehoboth Beach on a summer weekend -- or any rainy weekend -- knows how she feels. It is like a city.

Frederick Schranck, who lives in The Landing, off OId Landing Road south of Midway, lives right in the boom zone, between Route 24 and Route 1. Schranck recognizes that when he moved here from Wilmington in 1988, he was part of the growth explosion that hit that area like a hurricane and continued through the 1990s and into the new century.

But Schranck has done more than sit in traffic and curse.

An attorney who represents the state Department of Transportation, he has made a proposal he thinks will help bring some cohesion and some order to the area, where the lack of connector roads off Route 1 is a major headache.

In addition, there's no sense of community among the developments popping up like beach umbrellas on a July afternoon. Likewise, there's no public transportation to speak of, no public recreational facilities.

He proposes creating a whole new city, to encompass a 21-square-mile chunk of currently unincorporated communities. The new city would be home to about 10,000 people -- making it by far the largest town in Sussex County.

Schranck is proposing the name "Brighton" for the new city -- after another resort on the other side of the Big Pond, this one located in East Sussex, England and, coincidentally, near another seaside town called Lewes.

Somewhat surprisingly, most of the comments Schranck has gotten about the proposal seem to be about the name. "People have said 'I moved here because I wanted a Rehoboth address. I don't want a new name,'" Schranck said.

He, however, has more important things on his mind. "I personally don't have a big issue with whatever it's called," Schranck said. "I just wanted to call it something."

Here's a snapshot of Schranck's vision for Brighton -- or whatever it would be called:

  • Focusing development and preserving open space through a system of transferring development rights to less congested areas;

  • Providing a "real" city transportation network of streets and parkways;

  • Creating a new "downtown' district, where commercial uses would be mixed with affordable residential communities (read apartments and townhouses); and

  • Creating a city park system, with places for residents to enjoy the area without having to fight beach traffic.

Schranck has laid out his thoughts in detail on a Web site, He's been featured in a newspaper article or two and had a brief appearance on a local television station. Still, so far, the reaction to his plans "hasn't been exactly a groundswell by any means," he said. Maybe they're all still stuck in traffic.

Granted, it may seem like a far-fetched idea. But it's not unheard of. While most Sussex towns and cities have been around "forever" -- Schranck's word -- a few have cropped up in recent years. Just about 20 years ago, Dewey Beach became more than A Way of Life -- it became an incorporated town. In the latter half of the 20th century, towns like Arden and Bellefonte in New Castle County and Henlopen Acres in Sussex came into their own.

Schranck, who said he has talked with County Council President Lynn Rogers about his idea, blames the current problems in the area on lack of vision by both state and county officials.

"I'm not at all certain the state or the county fully appreciated the boom that would occur when the area went to (public) sewer," he said. Add to that a "boomer" population reaching retirement age -- or "moving to retirement" age as the developers love to call it -- and you've got life in southeastern Sussex County.

Efforts by groups like the Citizens Coalition have helped bring some sanity to the growth in the area in Schrank's proposed city. But it continues to be an amorphous, identity-challenged suburbia without an urbia. It has no plan of its own and until it does, Schranck's probably right -- nothing much will change there.

Kinda makes me think of one of my dad's favorite isms: "Plan your work and work your plan." In would-be-Brighton, there ain't no plan and it ain't workin'.

Schranck, being an attorney for DelDOT -- that bureaucratic behemoth -- doesn't seem to be flustered by the challenge of starting a city from scratch. "There's potentially less to this than some people are thinking," he said.

First, he said, the residents would need to establish what type of government they want. All of that, of course, would have to go to the state legislature for approval. Then the residents could start the business of deciding their own future -- which would mean first establishing their own land use plan and then putting the controls in place to give the plan some teeth.

In case you're not sure if you live within the borders of Schranck's would-be city, here are the propoosed boundaries (keeping in mind that they're just proposed -- Schranck said he merely followed natural boundaries and major roadways that seemed to be logical:

The "area of influence" would be bordered on the south by the Rehoboth Bay. The east boundary runs north along the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal to Holland Glade. Then it runs west along the Glade to the old railroad right-of-way between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. It continues north along that line to Pot Hook Creek, where it shifts west along the creek to the eastern edge of the properties that front Route 1. The line then runs north to Kings Highway (Route 90), then east of the Five Points area to the state-owned rail line running from Lewes to Georgetown. The northern boundary runs west along the railroad to Sussex Road 261, then southerly along 261, then Sussex Road 285, the Sussex Road 277, crossing Love Creek. The boundary continues down the center of Love Creek to the Rehoboth Bay.

If you're more of a visual learner, check out the map on Schranck's web site.

Then let's hear from you Brightonites (Brightonians?) What do you think? Next time you're sitting in traffic, give Schranck's proposal some thought. And let him (and us here at SCO) know what you think.

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