Delaware City Council approved, but not unanimously, a plan for an RV campground to be placed near the banks of the C&D Canal and Fort DuPont State Park.
Blue Water Development Group owns six campgrounds, including Cape Charles and Chincoteague on Delmarva, and 11 hotels, including the recently-completed Bethany Beach Ocean Suites and soon-to-be finished Aloft Rehoboth Beach.
Their proposed Fort DuPont Campground Resort would take over the Grass Dale Center west of Route 9, bordering both the C&D and Delaware City canals.
They plan 422 spaces, split between RV and cottage sites along with a bathhouse, playgrounds, and pools, and sports areas.
Not everyone is pleased with the plans however, including Delaware City resident Erica Lindsey, who started a campaign to try to shut down the campground plan.
"For the townsfolks in Delaware City, this is going to cause traffic nightmares, congestion nightmares. We're going to have transient visitors and tourists, and I don't mind tourism to a certain degree, but this is 422 RVs on fragile wetlands with loud music and pollutions in our town."
Lindsey said giving up wetlands would hurt the local ecosystem.
"There's deer over there; I've seen raccoons and possums, they're going to be pushed out of their habitat. We even had wild turkeys that were prevalent years and years ago and they all but disappeared, but it took a concerted effort to bring them back, and I see their tracks over at Grass Dale."
While she has short-term concerns about the property's use, Lindsey said she's also thinking long-term.
"This is not a state park, this is going to be a privately-owned campground/resort. Let's say it runs its course, whether it's successful or unsuccessful, it will be privately owned, so it can be privately sold, and then what happens? Do we get high-rise condos, strip-malls, just about anything can happen over there. There is protected land, it should remain protected land."
She said Delaware City residents didn't get enough chances for input until it was too late.
"We feel like we've been lied to; we feel like our rights have been violated, our opinions have been circumvented, and we are the ones who live here. We are the ones who have history here, who have to live with the decisions that are made."
When asked where she places the blame, she looks back to a law that created the Fort DuPont Redevelopment Corporation [FDRC] in 2014. It allowed Delaware City to annex the land, placing it under Delaware City's laws, which are less strict when it comes to wetlands protection, lacking a 100-foot buffer from wetlands that state law mandates.
"I place the blame on [former] Governor Jack Markell who signed this H.B. 310 in 2014 granting these lands and empowering this FDRC in the way that he did. That law was sponsored by [Sen.] Nicole Poore and [Rep.] Valerie Longhurst. They are trying to work with the community and try to put the protections back on the land, but you can't retroactively make those protections now applicable to things like this RV Park. Even if they try to fix what's broke, it won't fix the RV Park."
The RV park plan was approved by DelDOT, but DNREC voted against the plan during a board vote, and have not taken action, since.
Interim City Solicitor Bill Rhodunda told council members before a 3-1 vote with one abstaining vote, that they had no choice in the matter.
"Here we have a by-right situation. If it meets the code, you're obligated to approve the plan, that's the nature of the process."
Some terms were placed on the approval, including a March 15 to November 15 season for being open, and that RVs would not be permitted to stay on the property for more than 180 days, or being on the flood plain.
Lindsey said they're not ready to give up the fight over Blue Water's move and also a proposed Marina Village on the east side of Route 9 south of the Delaware City Canal near the Delaware River, which is independent of the Blue Water fight.
"That was a state park, not a Delaware City Park. Everyone in the state of Delaware should be up in arms about the disposal about the removal of one of their 17 state parks without their knowledge or consent."
"In my mind what needs to happen next is a class action law suit on behalf of of the citizens of Delaware versus the state of Delaware, DNREC, and FDRC, I think that's the only way to stop that, an injunction to stop Blue Water's development."
Blue Water had originally planned to have the RV campground ready for the 2020 season; it is unclear how quickly they would be able to get the site prepared upon final approval.
CORRECTION: DNREC reached out to WDEL and said they have have voted against the RV Park.