Sussex County Delaware

Rezoning Moratorium
Needed Along Coast

Sussex Beat, April 2, 2001

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.


Eric Magill, Sussex County Online

SC Online

Rezoning Moratorium ...

Sussex County Council should heed the advice of coastal mayors who know their areas best when it considers a request to place a rezoning moratorium on unincorporated areas around the coastal towns at its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 3, 2001.

The moratorium would still allow developers to develop their properties at current zoning densities.

At the same time, it would give coastal towns a "breather" and allow them, along with the county and state, to develop solutions to the explosive growth and accompanying growing pains they are experiencing.

Since the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan designated the entire coastal zone as a development district in 1997, developers have been requesting higher density rezonings all over the unincorporated portions of an already overcrowded coastal zone.

The results have been nerve-rattling for coastal towns trying to deal with overcrowded conditions on their roads, their beaches, and their waterways.

Ocean View, for instance, has implemented a policy in its Comprehensive Land Use Plan of annexing properties on its border out of fear that county council will rezone to densities twice as high as currently permitted.

That caused the town to hold a divisive referendum to annex and rezone the Bear Trap development by Freeman Associates. The referendum, born out of the fear the county would rezone Bear Trap for 1,400 homes, passed by 8 votes to give Freeman 700 homes -- more than the rest of the town has in it now.

Fearing that such a large development could determine the outcomes of town elections by themselves, the town designated election districts. But with an at-large election system, Bear Trap residents, if they band together as one group, could still determine the outcomes in other districts.

That fact, along with the expectation of even more traffic on Route 26 in town, has some long-time residents openly talking about selling their properties and "getting out".

Similar growing pains are being experienced in other coastal towns, as well.

Again, this issue comes down to who should be reponsible for localized land use decisions.

With our present land use decision process, the five county council members are ultimately responsible for those decisions.

Trouble is, four of those five council members don't live in the coastal zone and only two represent districts in the coastal zone. Worse, the county's district election system doesn't provide for at-large voting, so the three western county council members don't have to be accountable to coastal residents.

It is time for Council President Dale Dukes and Councilmen Vance Phillips and Finley B. Jones, all of whom live nearly an hour away from the coast, to heed the advice of coastal officials who know better than they do what is best for the coastal zone.

The request for a rezoning moratorium should be honored.

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