Sussex County Delaware

Coastal Organizations
Not Happy with CLUP
Sussex County Land Use Plan ...

Criticize Concepts in
'Environmental Area'

SC Online Content Editor

The office of State Planning and Coordination has given Sussex County a three-month reprieve on the update of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and speakers at a public hearing before county council on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2002, urged council to use that time to revamp the current revisions proposed to the 1997 plan.

The update to the 1997 plan was to have been completed by Oct. 31, but state planning director Constance Holland has given the county until Dec. 31 to complete it.

That announcement was made at the Oct. 1 public hearing. The new deadline also means two more public hearings will be held on the land use plan, the county's blueprint for development for the next five years.

The hearings on the final draft of the plan will be:

  • Planning and Zoning Commission -- Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m., in council chambers;
  • County Council -- Tuesday, Dec. 3, 1:30 p.m., in council chambers.

A series of council workshops will be held on consecutive Tuesdays on Oct. 8, 15 and 22. The workshops will all be held at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers.

There will be no public comment at the workshops, but there was plenty of that at the Oct. 1 public hearing before the council.

Many in the audience urged the council to adopt a plan that truly addresses the challenges the county will face in the next five years in the midst of an unprecedented building boom.

As they did at the Aug. 29 public hearing before the planning commission, speakers criticized some of the data used to support the plan as outdated or incomplete.

Center for the Inland Bays Executive Director Bruce Richards said that while he was gratified to see 42 references to the Inland Bays in the plan, some language was outdated. Quillens Point resident Steve Callanen called the plan's "environmentally sensitive developing district" an "oxymoron."

"Putting a big bull's eye target on this area ... is an egregious mistake," Callanen said

Likewise, Mike Tyler, president of the the Citizens Coalition, a coastal watchdog group, called the designation, given to an area around the Inland Bays, "a misnomer."

While Tyler urged the council to remove the word "development" from the classification, he also asked that the area east of Route 1 in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach be included in the environmentally sensitive area. In addition, Tyler asked that no on-site sewer systems be allowed in an environmentally sensitive zone.

Callanen and others also asked the council to consider designating the Nanticoke River watershed as an environmentally sensitive area.

Mable Granke of Rehoboth Beach urged the council to produce its own transportation plan rather than treating the state's plan as a "sacred cow" by more or less reproducing it in the county's proposed land use plan. Granke also said the plan's reliance on data that is several years old is an "absolute affront' to those who live along the Route 1 corridor.

Rich Collins, representing the Positive Growth Alliance, a group made up largely of those in the real estate business, cautioned that "maybe now is not the time for some panic application of the brake pedal," referring to the county's proposed efforts to reduce density of new housing in the county.

The proposed plan includes a reduction in the size of the area targeted for development countywide. Collins said the county is "being held hostage" by the state Department of Transportation's inability to keep up with the growth in Sussex County.

Delaware Homebuilders Association president Rick Woodin listed several concerns with the proposed plan, including the potential for buffers of up to 100 feet adjacent to wetlands. He suggested buffers only be required on tracts of 10 acres or more, and then only as an average throughout the tract.

Woodin said the idea of the "environmentally sensitive development district" is a "win-win situation. The two can co-exist," Woodin said. "The technology is there."

Fenwick Island Vice Mayor Harry Haon presented a statement from the Association of Coastal Towns, an organization of eight mayors of coastal Sussex Towns. On the subject of density, ACT's position is that the county should stick to the concept of two units per acre in the environmentally sensitive district proposed during a series of countywide meetings on the land use plan and in the first draft of the update in July.

The county planning and zoning commission had recommended the two units per acre density for the ESDA as late as a Sept. 11 meeting, but removed that language during a meeting on Sept. 19.

Haon said the current draft "almost totally abandons" this concept. Instead, it calls for an upzoning of overall density to four units per net residential acre as in (medium residential) zoning, as well as densities as high as 12 units per acre for condominiums.

"These densities are no different from any other development district in the county, in which case the designation Environmentally Sensitive might as well be dropped," the ACT statement said.

On the subject of whether golf courses should be included in density calculations, ACT proposed a compromise: excluding half the acreage of a golf course from density and open space calculations.

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