Votes Down Night Meetings
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GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council reorganized with Finley B. Jones replacing Dale Dukes as president in its first meeting of the New Year on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2002.
In other housekeeping measures, council voted 3-2 against a proposal from Councilman Vance Phillips to change council's meeting times to 4 p.m. for the regular meetings and 7 p.m. for public hearings.
The issue has come up several times in the past few years and has always been voted down by the council's Democratic Party members.
Phillips sought the change from council's current meeting schedule of 10 a.m. for the regular meeting and 1:30 p.m. for public hearings to give those who have jobs an opportunity to run for county council.
In the last council election in 2000, council members Dukes and Jones -- both Democrats -- ran unopposed in their districts.
"I appreciate that we're providing meetings over the Internet," said Phillips, "but we're still not able to provide the public and potential candidates a convenient forum. Most people have to work in the daytime. We could increase the pool of candidates who could run for elective office if we met at night."
Phillips and fellow Republican council member George Cole voted for the proposal, while Dukes, Jones and council member Lynn Rogers -- all Democrats -- voted against it.
None of the Democratic council members addressed Phillips' concerns about increasing the pool of candidates who could meet at night but not during the daytime.
All stated that they felt the daytime meetings combined with night meetings for the Planning and Zoning Commission provided adequate opportunity for public input.
"It depends on the issue," said Dukes. "If people want to be here, they'll show up, whether it's day or night."
Rogers further suggested that council could continue to hold night meetings for controversial issues such as the request from the Association of Coastal Towns to impose a rezoning moratorium in the coastal zone.
Council Opposes State-Mandated TDRs ...
Council voted unanimously to send a letter to a state sub-committee investigating a Transferred Development Rights program throughout the state in opposition to any state mandate for the county to create such a program.
At the urging of Councilman George Cole, council voted to tell the sub-committee that while the county does not necessarily oppose a TDR program, it does oppose a state mandate to create one.
"I don't want to see Dover mandating to Sussex County TDRs that could be helpful or could be real negative," said Cole. "I think we ought to figure this out here in Georgetown."
Councilman Vance Phillips said he supports the concept of the TDR program but expressed concern over the direction the state is headed in with its program.
"The TDR philosophy tries to create a balance in the loss of equity that inherently occurs when the planning process creates growth zones and non-growth zones," said Phillips. "You create an area on a map that all of a sudden is wide open for high density development and take that equity away from the outlying areas. It's a huge transfer of development rights.
"Unfortunately I understand there will be some up-front regulations on outlying properties without any guarantee of a market for those development rights. Although I support the concept of balancing the equity with transferrable development rights, I agree the current direction is not fair."
County Administrator Robert L. Stickels cautioned council against taking too strong of a stand against the state due to veiled threats last year to take the county's transfer tax capabilities away or reduce the 1.5 percent the county currently receives on all transferred properties.
Cole, however, said the county would deal with that issue if it arises and that it should not be held hostage to suggestions from other parties.
Council also discussed two other land use issues.
First, Cole questioned why the county continued to allow zoning violators to apply for zoning changes after the fact and suggested that council consider an ordinance requiring that zoning violators bring their properties into compliance with current zoning on their properties before being allowed to apply for the zoning change.
Cole also asked council to consider strengthening the county's subdivision ordinance to specify what would make a piece of land valuable as farmland. Farmland preservation has been cited by the county's Planning and Zoning Commission in a couple of denials recently.
Subdivision Appeal Hearing Scheduled ...
The second hearing of an appeal of the Planning and Zoning Commission's denial of a subdivision request for the proposed Country Meadows development on Road 297 has been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m.
Council remanded the commission's decision late last fall to request more specific reasoning based on the 17 stipulations in the county's subdivision ordinance.
Planning and Zoning denied the subdivision request due to concerns that the development was not in a development district as defined in the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, that the proposed development doesn't encourage the preservation of farmland since it is in the vicinity of prime farmland, that there is no similar residential activity in the area, and that the removal of soil for the development would increase pollution in the area with no sufficient plans provided by the developer for reducing that risk.
In Other Business ...
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