Sussex County Delaware

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State Preservation Program
Seeks Partnership with County

SC Online Content Editor

GEORGETOWN -- A statewide agriculture preservation program is seeking to partner with Sussex County to help retain land for farming.

The state's Agricultural Lands Preservation Program, formed in 1991 through the adoption of House Bill 200, allows landowners to place their farms in agricultural preservation districts, agreeing not to develop the land for at least 10 years.

In return, owners receive tax benefits, right-to-farm protection, and a chance to sell a preservation easement to the state. Such easements permanently keep the land from development.

Michael Parkowski, attorney for the state program, appeared before the Sussex County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002, to ask the county to become a partner in the program.

Parkowski said thus far the state has spent nearly $68 million to permanently preserve 65,000 acres since 1991. Of 169 landowners in the program, 79 are in Sussex County.

The state is offering $1 million to each county, with another $2 million to be divided statewide. The newly formed Sussex Land Trust has said it will contribute $500,000 if the county kicks in the same amount.

Sussex Land Trust board member Dennis Forney said the county "should jump on this as quickly as we can.

"It's a matter of finite resources," Forney said. He added that preserving farmland is "going to do nothing but increase property values" on surrounding land.

Council member Vance Phillips initially expressed concerns over the way the program has been handled in the years following its creation. "Several years ago, there were changes in how the money was allocated," he said. "You guys changed the rules and that was wrong," Phillips said.

But Phillips said the fact that the agriculture community continues to support the efforts to preserve farmland even though the compensation is less is a testimony to its commitment to preservation. He also said the agricultural preservation program "fits well into the mission statement" of the Sussex Land Trust.

Council member Dale Dukes urged the council to take two weeks to think about the county's participation. Council member George Cole, meanwhile, said he believed "farmland preservation should be low on the priorities of the Land Trust."

The issue will be placed on the agenda of the Oct. 8 council meeting.

County OKs DMV Plans ...

Sussex County's Department of Motor Vehicles offices may be a step closer to getting a new home.

County Council voted to approve a conditional use for a new building at South Bedford Street and Route 113 in Georgetown.

The vote followed the county Planning and Zoning Commission's July 27 recommendation of approval.

But the council expressed displeasure that the project isn't adequate to meet the county's needs and that funds are currently not allotted for it.

Currently, county residents get driver's licenses in a trailer and waits for DMV services can be several hours.

"We've been in need of a new facility for 20 years. Now is a good time to get it done," said council member George Cole.

Council members Dale Dukes and Lynn Rogers said they would like to see another DMV facility closer to the beach area.

Council president Finley Jones said he doesn't feel the state is adequately addressing the county's needs. "Motor Vehicle is ... saying to Sussex County, 'you guys don't count'," Jones said.

In Other Business ...
  • Council approved the following grant requests:
    • Delaware Nature Society -- $500 for Abbott's Mill Nature Center;
    • Boys and Girls Club of Georgetown -- $200;
    • Alzheimer's Association -- $650 for Memory Walk;
    • Sussex County Pageant -- $100 for sponsorship for Courtney Russum, proceeds to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation;
    • Boy Scout Troop One -- $250 for scholarship program;
    • Cape Sharks Pop Warner Football and Spirit Leading -- $450 for operating expenses; and
    • Broadkiln Ladies Auxiliary -- $500 for purchase of a stove.

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