Sussex County Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

Land Trust Ordinance
Introduced to Council

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

GEORGETOWN -- Sussex County Council heard the introduction of a proposed ordinance to establish a land preservation program in the county at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2002.

The proposal would create a partnership between the county and the private Sussex County Land Trust Foundation to purchase land and development rights to preserve open space and natural resources in the county.

A public hearing has been scheduled on the proposed ordinance for Tuesday, April 9, at 11 a.m. in council chambers.

Under the proposal, County Administrator Robert L. Stickels told council that the county would pledge $1 million from its Fiscal Year 2003 budget to the program, and then add 10 percent of the net increase in its general fund each year or another amount to be determined by council each year.

The ordinance cites Delaware Code that requires the preservation of open space through land acquisition and the purchase of development rights and council's belief that it is in the best interests of the county to protect, improve, enhance and preserve the county's natural resources as justifications for the program.

Among the stipulations in the ordinace are:

  • At least two of the Foundation's board members must be appointed by council, with one Republican and one Democrat;
  • Money from the county can only be used for land acquisition, the purchase of development rights, or stewardship of lands purchased with county funds, and not for administrative expenses;
  • The majority of council must vote in an open meeting on all purchases involving county money;
  • That acquired properties may only be used for preserving natural resources and/or open space by deed restriction or other controls approved by the county administrator;
  • The foundation will make its financial records available to the county for review.

The ordinance was introduced by Councilman Lynn Rogers.

The foundation will hold a public meeting in council chambers on Tuesday, March 26, at 8 a.m.

Woods Cove Approved ...

Council approved 185 homes for the Woods Cove development on 30.63 acres on the northeast side of Route 275 (Plantation Road).

Rejecting a recommended denial by the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission, council approved the application of Elmer Fannin to rezone the property from AR-1 to HR-RPC.

The 185 homes represented a reduction from the original proposal of 214 homes and another reduction to 193 homes, but was substantially higher than the four units per acre proposed by Councilman George Cole in a motion that died for lack of a second.

In voting for the application, Councilman Vance Phillips said he felt the objections raised by Planning & Zoning had been addressed in a set of 15 stipulations and 27 findings of fact prepared by county staff.

He and Councilman Dale Dukes disagreed with Cole's contention that the rezoning was out of character for the area of single-family homes on large lots.

Cole cited other developments in the area, none of which, he said, were more than four units to the acre, and questioned the approval of a higher density on the fringes of a development district when the county's 1997 Comprehensive Land Use Plan calls for higher densities nearer the centers of towns.

Cole also expressed strong disagreements with the county staff's findings of fact in the case.

Cole pointed out that the findings of fact included a study of an area 1.5 miles long in determining the character of the area, when the immediate area surrounding Woods Cove is much different as single-family developments than the commercialized Route 1 corridor included in the county staff's study.

He particularly took issue with the staff's citing of a high density development being built across from Mulligan's on Route 1 as justification that higher densities are appropriate in the Woods Cove area 1.5 miles away.

"I'm concerned with the precedent we're setting in terms of historical density," said Cole. "There are a number of mistakes in the findings of fact. I think Planning & Zoning is exactly right."

Dukes, however, said he couldn't justify denying the Woods Cove project based on Planning & Zoning's recommendation when that body had recommended approval of a high density subdivision by Grady Inc. on the same road.

In the end, the rezoning passed 3-1 with Councilman Lynn Rogers abstaining and Cole voting no. Council President Finley B. Jones, Dukes and Phillips all voted yes, saying the development will be appropriate for the area.

Grady Inc. Rezoning Deferred ...

Council discussed an application from Grady Inc. to rezone 17 acres in the Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred from AR-1 to HR-RPC but declined to take action, preferring to put the item on a future agenda.

The county Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the application on Jan. 29. The proposed development is located on the south side of Shady Road (Route 276) some 620 feet southwest of Route 1 behind the new Home Depot store.

With the public record closed on Feb. 12, council discussed several ongoing concerns such as access to an adjacent cemetery. County Solicitor Eugene Bayard said he believed state law required that access to cemeteries be maintained.

Councilman George Cole questioned why the county would allow density of 8.7 units per acre on the fringe of a development district when the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan calls for higher densities in the centers of towns with lower densities as you fan out from those town centers.

"We've consistently been approving four units per acre as an assumption from the sewer study that recommends four units per acre," said Cole.

County Administrator Robert L. Stickels told Cole that the county's engineering department had reviewed the proposal and said that even though the West Rehoboth Expansion of the Dewey Beach Sanitary Sewer District was designed for four units per acre, the system could handle the additional density because the Home Depot will use less sewer capacity than if it had been developed as a residential property.

Cat Overpopulation ...

The Delaware Humane Association presented its new Mobile Spray/Neuter Clinic for cats and dogs in the state.

Jane Pierantozzi, director of the Delaware Humane Association, told council that a van has been purchased for $150,000, including $55,000 from the State of Delaware.

The association, a no-kill animal control organization, needs another $150,000 to $200,000 to operate the van four days a week throughout the state.

Pierantozzi said the van would spay or neuter 15 to 30 animals a day. She said the program would help reduce the cat overpopulation problem in the state, which she said results in "thousands upon thousands" of homeless cats in the state every year.

She said one stray cat can produce four litters or 20 kittens per year.

As for funding from the county, County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said council has traditionally resisted funding programs that are not county-operated and that because animal control is a state function, the DHA should consider other funding sources from the state.

Stickels recommended that the organization seek stickels -- council not support programs in past not under county control. animal control under state control. should license cats and raise fees on dogs and target that money to this program.

In Other Business ...
  • Council approved a lease agreement with the State of Delaware to lease space for the Register of Wills in the Sussex County Courthouse for $8,000 a year. The county now rents space in the courthouse after selling the building to the state in 1996 when it moved into its new offices. The state will be responsible for all utilities except phone service. Stickels said it would be only a one-year lease because he anticipates that the Register of Wills will be relocated to the new Court of Chancery office next year.

  • Two workshops addressing the county's building codes will be held in April. Stickels said the Lower Delaware Builders Association will sponsor classes on April 3-4 addressing International Building Codes for residential and commercial construction. The April 3 class will be for contractors, while the April 4 class will be for officials and attorneys. The classes run from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Georgetown Fire Hall. Cost if $50 and includes lunch.

  • Sussex County Council will also address the county's building codes when it hosts a public workshop on Tuesday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers to compare the current county codes with the International residential and commercial building codes.

  • Stickels announced that the Sussex County Airport Committee would meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3, in the county's West Complex conference room.

  • Council heard the following proposed ordinances:
    1. A conditional use in an AR-1 District in the Northwest Fork Hundred for used car sales on 1.42 acres, the application of Joseph E. Bunting
    2. A conditional use in an AR-1 District in the Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred for medical offices on 2.061 acres, the application of Richard Quill
    3. A conditional use in an AR-1 District for an amendment to an existing conditional use in the Nanticoke Hundred on 6 acres, the application of National Concrete Products
    4. Rezoning 10.36 acres in an AR-1 District in Baltimore Hundred to B-1 by
    5. Rezoning 195.1 acres in Baltimore Hundred to MR-RPC
    6. Rezoning 8.37 acres from an AR-1 to a C-1 District in the Baltimore Hundred
    7. Rezoning 81.93 acres in an AR-1 District in Indian River Hundred to HR-RPC by Preston Dyer
4. ar-1 to b-1 bal. 100, 10.36 acres, childs, seagal and boyle devl. co. 5. ar-1 to mr-rpc in balt. 100, 195.1 acres, gladys swan, childs, seagel and boyle dev. co.
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