May Get Sussex Start
SC Online Content Editor
GEORGETOWN -- A state program that would help low to moderate income residents buy houses near their jobs got a lukewarm reception from the Sussex County Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 13, 2003.
The "Live Near Your Work" program, as proposed by the Delaware Housing Authority, would provide help with closing costs and downpayments with interest-free loans from the state, the employer, the county and a municipality if the home is located in a town.
Fernando Guajardo, community policy advier for the DHA, explained that the program would be initiated in five communities in each county -- starting with Sussex. After the program has been established, it will spread throughout the counties, Guajardo said.
Three employers -- Eastern Shore Poultry Co., DeCrain Engineering and Perdue Farms -- have agreed to sign on as partners in the program. Two other companies, Wal Mart and Harrison House in Georgetown, are in the process of agreeing to be partners.
The employers would contribute $1,000 toward the employee's closing costs, as would the DHA. The employee would be required to "bring $1,000 to the table" as well, Guajardo said.
Employers could use their participation in the program as a recruitment and retention tool, the state could use it to attract employers, and for workers, it represents an opportunity they might not otherwise have, he said.
In addition, Guarjardo said, the program could help congestion on county roads by lessening the distance residents have to travel to their jobs.
Under the proposed program, the employees would have to find homes either within the same town as their workplace, or within the town's surrounding area, called its "development district" in the county's Land Use Plan.
County Administrator Robert Stickels said he sees it as a "win-win opportunity for the county," bringing tax dollars to the county from residents who move from renting to home ownership. He also said more owner-occupied housing would result in improvements in the surrounding area.
"There's pride in ownership," he said. "It only takes one or two houses on a street" to help encourage improvements on the entire street, Stickels said.
Employees in the program, under the current proposal, would be required to repay one-third of the amount of the loans per year.
The plan is for the county to agree to contribute $50,000 to the program initially. The money would come from the county's contingency fund. Georgetown has been identified as the first town to be targeted in Sussex for participation in the program.
Meanwhile, the council's two Republican members, Vance Phillips and George Cole, expressed serious reservations. Phillips said he wants to see public input on the program, adding it sounds to him like "social engineering."
He said he fears employers would feel as if they were "locked in" to a job after their employer helps them buy a house. "Are we putting shackles on them for three to five years?", Phillips asked.
Cole objected to "targeting" specific communities for the program.
"I like to see things spread out evenly across the county," he said.
Cole also said the idea that the program would reduce traffic is "awful far-fetched." He questioned the timing of the program -- when interest rates are already lower than in recent years -- and said he feels the large companies that are signing on as partners are capable of sponsoring similar programs without the help of state, county and municipal governments.
"Sometimes it's the little guys that need more help." Cole said
The council agreed that County Attorney James Griffin should draft an agreement for the county's participation in the program. "These gentlemen want to see the lease before they get the car," said council president Lynn Rogers of his fellow council members.Condos Near Holts Landing Proposed
Fifty-six single-family detached condominiums have been proposed next to Holts Landing State Park, and Sussex County Council has deferred a rezoning vote on the project until more information is received from the Delaware Department of Transportation.
The Ellis Point condo community would be located northeast of Sussex Road 346 (Holts Landing Road) at the end of Sussex Road 346B, which is now a gravel road that reaches almost to the Indian River Bay.
Although the site includes more than 70 acres, only about 28 acres are buildable. Much of the site is covered with wetlands, which would not be disturbed, according to attorney James Fuqua, who represented the developer, Caldera - Indian River II, L.L.C. at a public hearing on May 13.
The rezoning would retain the current Agricultural-Residential designation of the property, but would allow it to be developed as a residential planned community, which lets the developer cluster the homes.
Guy Rickards and his mother Ruth Rickards, whose family has owned land next to the site for 63 years, expressed concerns about the impact of the project on a borrow pit on their property. The pit was dug by the state in the 1960s, and the Rickards family was forced to purchase it back from the state in the 1970s.
Guy Rickards said the family already has a problem with people fishing and dumping trash in the borrow pit, and fears the new development would bring even more such activity.
He worries about the family's liability in the event someone is injured a the borrow pit. In the spring, he said, the water in the pit is "well over your head. We pay liability (insurance) on the pit every year to keep ourselves out of hot water," he said.
He asked that the developer be required to fence at least the portion of the borrow pit that is adjacent to the road, which the developer plans to improve. The developer has already agreed to erect a fence between Ellis Point and the state park.
Ruth Rickards said she is concerned that the developers could cut off her family's access to the pit, necessary for them to maintain it. She also asked the council to ensure that the Ellis Point development would not cause drainage problems on her land.Millville Sewer Meeting June 2
The Sussex County Engineering Department will hold a meeting Monday, June 2, at 7 p.m. on the proposed Millville/Holts Landing sewer project. The meeting will be held at the Millville Volunteer Fire Co. on Route 26.
The meeting will update residents on progress on the project, set for 2008 at this point. Assistant County Engineer Russell Archut said users will pay an annual fee of $1,210 if the current project cost -- estimated at $28 million -- and funding are maintained.
The project would serve customers in the town of Millville as well as the north Millville and Holts Landing areas.In Other Business ...
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