Sussex County Delaware
P&Z Alters Wording
on Density Calculations
Sussex Beat, Sept. 25, 2002

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a log of news briefs and commentary by Kerin Magill, editor of Sussex County Online, with contributions from Sussex County Online users.


Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

SC Online

P&Z Makes Land Use Plan Recommendations

In a series of meetings, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission has tweaked the recommendations it is forwarding to County Council for the update of the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Council will hold a public hearing on the plan update on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2002, at 6 p.m. in the CHEER Center in Georgetown. Council must finalize the update of its 1997 CLUP in October.

In recommendations approved unanimously by the P&Z at a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, the commission added a clarification to a paragraph dealing with density calculations in the so-called "environmentally sensitive developing area."

The latest proposal removes wording allowing a maximum density of two units per acre in the ESDA and replaces it with wording that allows density up to the maximum allowable density of the underlying zoning district.

That means developers could still obtain higher densities through upzonings in the ESDA, most of which is currently AR-1 with a maximum density of two units per acre.

The alterations represent significant changes from previous wording approved by the commission in a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11. In that meeting, the commission agreed to a "Guidelines for Density" clause for the ESDA that said, "Accordingly, the maximum allowable density should be two dwelling units per acre based on the net acreage of the tract when a central wastewater system is provided."

That was in line with a request from the Association of Coastal Towns, which in two letters requested that densities in the ESDA be limited to two units per acre to prevent the upzonings that are overcrowding roads, beaches and parking areas in the coastal communities and causing double-digit growth rates.

P&Z Attorney Dennis Schrader said part of the impetus for the change is that some areas in the ESDA are already zoned for more than two units per acre. He also said the county can't prevent a developer from requesting a hearing for a rezoning.

The commission also recommended allowing clustering of lot sizes down to 7,500 square feet as long as the density doesn't exceed the maximum allowable density for the zoning district.

The rest of the section on the environmentally sensitive area deals with the environmental studies that must be conducted before developments are approved.

The commission recommends requiring developers to tell the county how their project will impact the environment, how they will implement stormwater management, how they will address nutrient loading issues, mitigate wetland and woodland disturbance, provide for wastewater and drinking water systems, and other matters affecting the area.

The commission also recommends removing both state and federally regulated wetlands from net acreage calculations. In addition, the commission recommends evaluating an increase in tidal wetland buffers from 50 feet to 100 feet and implementing 25-foot buffers along non-tidal wetlands where none are required now.

One member of the Association of Coastal Towns who has been closely following the process of updating the plan said on Thursday, Sept. 26, it is difficult to know exactly what the group of coastal mayors should say at the Oct. 1 public hearing.

Fenwick Island Vice Mayor and A.C.T. spokesperson Harry Haon said the plan, at this stage, is "like a moving target."

In other issues, the commission recommended the creation of new commercial zoning for "big box" stores with suggested minimum acreages for such projects. Minimum acreage should also be included in any ordinances regarding bio-tech industries and agriculturally related industries, the commission said.

In a 5-0 vote, the commission also recommended that the following ordinances be considered to support the updated land use plan:

  • Requiring review by the Technical Advisory Committee for all residential planned community (RPC) developments;

  • Requiring RPCs to set aside at least 10 percent of the project for recreational use with up to 20 percent for open space;

  • Removing federal wetlands and stormwater management areas from calculations of net development area;

  • Adding a schedule of construction clause to the RPC ordinance.

In addition, the commission recommended that ordinances be added addressing the following topics:

  • The "environmentally sensitive developing area" around the Inland Bays;

  • Overlay zones;

  • Clustering and residential planned communities;

  • Transfer of Development Rights programs and the county's desire to be a "sender" of those development rights rather than a "receiver";

  • Allowing bio-tech businesses to be constructed in agricultural zones;

  • Creation of "agriculture-business" zoning;

  • "C-2" zoning to address "big box" stores;

  • Increasing setbacks alongside wetlands;

  • Creating overlay zones for Route 13 and 113 corridors;

  • Creating an "east-west corridor" overlay.
State Says Fenwick Met FOIA Requirements

The state Attorney General's office has ruled that the Fenwick Island Town Council acted properly to correct earlier Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violations.

The latest opinion from the Attorney General's office comes in response to two new FOIA complaints against the town council by a town police officer.

Major William Manning, the police department's second in command, contended that the council had not properly corrected earlier FOIA violations regarding closed meetings in which a police manpower shortage was discussed.

The Attorney General's office responded to those initial complaints by requiring the council to correct the violations in public session, re-creating the actions they had taken in closed meetings. The council did so at its June 28 regular meeting.

Deputy Attorney General W. Michael Tupman, who wrote the earlier opinion as well as the latest one, issued on Aug. 30, also said the council acted properly June 28 when it declined to allow public discussion on the salaries of Manning and Chief George Dickerson.

"That issue was not on the agenda for that meeting and the town properly decided that it could not discuss those issues without advance notice to the public as required by FOIA," Tupman said in the Aug. 30 response to Manning's complaint.

Tupman did, however, take the opportunity to disagree with Town Attorney Tempe Steen's response in May to the state's findings that the council violated FOIA in several closed meetings in February and March.

"We feel it necessary to comment regarding the characterization by the town's attorney that our opinion dated May 21 cited only 'technical violations of notice requirements and minutes.' We do not aggree," Tupman's letter said.

He added that the state found "the town was meeting to discuss important matters of public business outside the public view in a manner not authorized by law. The severity with which we viewed the infractions was clear from the nature of the remedy required. We would not have directed remediation if we did not believe that those violations affected the substantial rights of citizens."

Hughes Tapped as DNREC Chief

John A. Hughes of Rehoboth Beach has been nominated to fill the vacant Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Hughes has been the director of DNREC's Division of Soil and Water Conservation for 18 years. He was operations manager for the division for 14 years before that.

Upon confirmation, Hughes would replace Nicholas A. DiPasquale, who resigned effective a week ago.

Boys & Girls Club Groundbreaking Set

The new Boys & Girls Club in Oak Orchard will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on its 4,500-square foot building on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2002, at 10 a.m. behind the Nanticoke Indian Museum on Route 24 west of Millsboro.

The Boys & Girls Club of Delaware purchased the one-acre site there and hopes to open the club by May 1, 2003. Construction of the building will begin Nov. 1, 2002.

Plans include a computer center, multi-purpose rooms, fitness facilities, sports activities, tutoring, and a pre- and after-school child care program.

The club currently has 138 members with 40 in the after-school program in the Oak Orchard Community Church with four part-time staff members.

The club has received $240,000 from the state and $68,000 from the community, but needs $50,000 more. Current fund-raising activities include pledges of $1,000 paid over four years or purchasing a brick with the patron's name inscribed on it.

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