Sussex County Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

Council Approves Land
Acquisition Program

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council unanimously approved the county's participation with the Sussex County Land Foundation in a land acquisition program that will cost the county more than $1 million.

In a 5-0 vote at its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 23, 2002, council approved the partnership with the non-profit foundation to purchase land for such purposes as open space and farmland preservation.

The program requires that two members of the foundation's 11-member board of trustees be appointed by the council president -- one from the Republican Party and one from the Democratic Party -- and that council approve by a 4/5 majority all land acquisitions made with county money.

That money -- starting with $1 million in Fiscal Year 2003 and continuing each year thereafter in the amount of 10 percent of the net increase in the county's general fund balance -- can only be used for buying land and not for administration expenses incurred by the foundation.

During a public hearing, Greenwood resident Dan Kramer expressed concerns about the program. He said the county should not vote to pledge county money to the program until the foundation received its 501-C3 designation for a charitable organization and questioned what criteria would be used to determine which lands would be purchased.

Craig Hudson, the chairman of the Sussex County Land Foundation, told council that although the organization has not received its 501-C3 designation, it can still accept contributions through a sister organization, the Mid-Shore Foundation, and engage in fund-raising activities until it does receive its 501-C3 approval.

Kramer also asked why council was partnering with the Sussex County Land Foundation as opposed to other conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club.

"One of the reasons I suggested forming the partnership is because this is a Sussex County organization, and it will be Sussex County funding going to Sussex County property," said County Administrator Robert L. Stickels. "The state has spent $67 million on farmland preservation. We have more agricultural land than the other two counties combined, but we have received less than 40 percent of the funding from the state."

County Solicitor Euqene Bayard read into the record two letters of support for the program, one from Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and one from Lewes resident Mable Granke.

While supporting the concept, Granke urged council to specify what criteria would be used to determine what parcels would be worthy of conservation.

Hudson said the foundation will use a different set of criteria for each parcel it considers. The criteria will be culled from sources such as the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, other agricultural preservation groups, and the National Alliance that the foundation is a member of.

Council then voted on the ordinance with an amendment from Councilman George Cole that approvals by council for land acquisitions require a 4/5 vote rather than a simple majority.

"Once again, Sussex County is leading the way by stepping up to the plate and preserving the quality of life for Sussex Countians," said Councilman Vance Phillips in voting yes.

Current members of the board of trustees are President Wendy Baker, Preston Schell, Dennis Forney, Thomas Draper, James Fuqua, Linda Messick, Michael Rawl, and R.C. Willin Jr. Council President Finley B. Jones still needs to appoint to members.

Road Name Changes Prohibited ...

In a move requested by former Readdressing Supervisor Dennis Norwood before his resignation, council, at the request of acting supervisor Matt Laick, approved a moratorium on road name changes in Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the county until re-addressing there is complete.

Norwood cited the continual renaming of roads as one of the obstacles to the troubled readdressing project's completion and as one of the main reasons for his resignation.

While resigning in February, Norwood said, "Road name changes interfere with the efforts to continue to address Sussex County. Every time a road name changes, county personnel have to make changes to the address databases. These changes then have to be sent to other agencies that are responsible for keeping the 911 data up to date and accurate. Those agencies must then rework the data they have already spent many man-hours on."

Laick said he was coming to council with this request because agencies such as Verizon and the state's 911 coordinator had asked that all road name changes be stopped in those sections.

"This wll allow us to move forward instead of changing and re-changing," said Laick.

"This is essential for us to finish this," said County Administrator Robert L. Stickels. "We can't continue to have changes. Verizon is adamant about that. It's like painting a house and you keep changing the color of one of the walls."

After receiving assurances from Laick that the renaming process would resume in those sections after readdressing had been completed there, council approved the measure unanimously.

Road name changes would still be permitted in Section 4.

Laick estimated that readdressing in Sections 1, 2 and 3 would be completed during calendar year 2003. After they are completed, county staff would then turn its attention to readdressing Section 4 in the coastal zone of Sussex County.

Laick said the department would "easily" meet a May 1 deadline for providing Verizon with all updates for the Ellendale area and that "a lot of progress" had been made in the Bridgeville, Seaford, Georgetown and Millsboro areas.

The readdressing program has been beset by problems since its inception, including council's firing of the outside consultant hired to implement the program and protests by business and citizens groups upset by the prospect of changing their mailing addresses.

Huge Development Proposed ...

Council heard a proposed ordinance for a 1,400-home residential planned community on the 788-acre Bay Farm property along Indian River Bay on Bay Farm Road off Route 24 near Oak Orchard.

The development, proposed by Ribera-Odyssey Venture LLC, of McLean, Va., would upzone the property from AR-1 to MR-RPC.

Known as The Peninsula, the project would include 463 age-restricted homes and 941 single-family, condominium and townhouse sites. It would also contain an 18-hole golf course, 10 indoor tennis courts, a 250-room inn and conference center, and a small retail area.

The 788-acre site was listed in author Lorraine Fleming's 1978 book, "Delaware's Outstanding Natural Areas and Their Preservation," as one of the state's most significant natural areas.

The site was once approved for an 1,100-home development proposed by Townsend's Inc. in 1988. Townsend's withdrew the project in 1994 due to the economic downturn then.

The land, currently used for corn and soybean fields, was sold for $6 million to Bay Farm LLC in 1999.

In Other Business ...
  • Council approved the withdrawal of and re-introduction of ordinances involving the issuance of general obligation bonds for the Ellendale Sanitary Sewer District and the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility. County Finance Director requested the moves because the titles of the approved ordinances didn't include the amounts that could be borrowed. Council will now be required to pass the new ordinances, which will include the issuance of $1 million from the 21st Century Fund at 0 percent interest for 20 years for the Ellendale project and up to $13 million at 3.2 percent interest for a state SRF loan for the South Coastal facility.

  • The Delaware Department of Transportation and the Town of Georgetown will solicit public comment on proposed bike and pedestrian paths in the town at an informational booth set up at the Georgetown Little League park on the league's opening day on Saturday, April 27, 2002. DelDOT and the town will make information available on the proposed bike and pedestrian paths and cross-walk and sidewalk improvements.

  • Council approved the Route 26 extension of the Ocean View Expansion of the Bethany Beach Sanitary Sewer District by a unanimous vote. Council also deferred a decision on the Woodcrest extension of the North Millville sewer area until next week.

  • County Administrator Robert L. Stickels informed council that the U.S. Rural Development Agency will present a check to the county for $2.4 million for the Miller Creek Sanitary Sewer District at an Earth Day ceremony on Friday, April 26, The total cost of the Miller Creek project will be more than $10 million.

  • Council unanimously authorized a payment of $7,154 to the Delaware Department of Transportation for a paving project to pave the parking lot at the Indian River Fire Company station on Long Neck Road.
  • Council unanimously proclaimed April 24, 2002, as RSVP Day in honor of volunteers in Sussex County and April 21-27, 2002, as Delaware Volunteer and Service Week in the county.

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