Sussex County Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

Council Approves Plan
for More State Police

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

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GEORGETOWN -- In its ongoing battle with the Sheriff's Department, Sussex County Council teamed up with the Delaware State Police at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26, 2002, to hire more state police to provide more police protection in the county.

Without taking public comment, council unanimously approved a plan to spend more than $300,000 a year for 20 new state troopers in the county, with the county paying for 69 percent of the $3.8 million program and the state paying 31 percent.

County Administrator Robert L. Stickels, who helped develop the plan at the urging of council members and Sen. George H. Bunting Jr., said the 20 troopers will be in addition to the 12 state troopers the county already pays for in a cost-sharing arrangement with the state.

Stickels said money for the program will come out of the county's real estate transfer tax. Public safety is one of the items the transfer tax can be used for.

Stickels added that the additional troopers would increase the number of state police officers in Sussex County to 170 by 2008.

Stickels said the county would pay the entire cost of $363,450 for four additional troopers in Fiscal Year 2003, with more officers added each year until 20 new officers have been added within six years.

The plan was similar to a proposal made by Sen. Bunting on Jan. 30. 2001, when the senator and Sussex Sheriff Robert Reed presented competing plans for providing more police protection in the county.

In the ongoing battle between Sheriff Reed, county council and the state, Sen. Bunting also co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment regarding the Sheriff that was handily defeated by the General Assembly.

That proposed amendment, introduced on June 28, 2001, would have made the Sheriff an appointed position rather than an elected office and would have put the Sheriff under the appointing body, meaning county officials could have determined the Sheriff's duties.

Sheriff Reed has filed suit against Attorney General M. Jane Brady and James Ford, the state Secretary of Public Safety, alleging that they have interfered with his attempts to engage in the policing duties he believes is required of his department by the Delaware Constitution.

In support of his proposal, Sheriff Reed has long maintained that the county has no control over how the state police implement the extra officers in the county and that they have, from time to time, taken officers paid for by the county and used them in operations outside of the county.

Stickles has admitted that the plan approved by council on Tuesday, March 26, would not require that the additional troopers remain in the county but he said there would be controls in place that would require quarterly manpower accountability reports for the officers paid for by the county.

Sec. Ford, who attended Tuesday's council meeting, concurred with Stickels regarding accountability. He added that Sussex County has been established as the top priority by the leadership of the state police.

Stickels said two of the major benefits of the program are that the additional troopers will help municipal police officers who are often called outside their towns' boundaries to answer calls the state police can't respond to in reasonable time, and that the hiring of younger troopers will free up more experienced officers for intensive operations such as drug investigations.

Tax Info on Internet ...

Sussex County has now made tax and assessment information available on the Internet on the county web site.

Site visitors can access the information for all property in the county at on the county web site.

Properties can be searched by property owner name. After accepting the Disclaimer, all properties matching the property owner's name will be displayed.

You then click on the District Map Parcel Number to retrieve a variety of tax data on the property, including the annual property tax, the assessed value of the property, and a breakdown of how much money goes to each taxing entity.

Watson Subdivision Appeal ...

In a contentious debate that turned the usual council land use decisions on their head, council decided to defer a decision on an appeal of a denied subdivision application.

In hearing an appeal by Gary Watson on the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission's denial of his application for a 37-lot subdivision on 41.86 acres in an AR-1 District in Broad Creek Hundred, council deferred its decision until April 9.

Council had the option of accepting P&Z's denial, rejecting the denial, remanding the denial back to P&Z for more information, or deferring a decision.

Councilman Vance Phillips motioned to defer the issue after a motion by Councilman George Cole to reject P&Z's denial died for lack of a second.

Phillips, Councilman Lynn Rogers and Council President Finley B. Jones then voted to defer the decision, while Cole abstained over what he called the western Sussex legislators' "hypocrisy" in dealing with land use issues in the coastal zone versus inland territories. Councilman Dale Dukes also abstained from voting due to a business relationship with the applicant.

Watson's proposal was originally approved by Planning and Zoning in 1999, but due to a paperwork error involving a request for an extension on the application, had to be resubmitted in 2001.

After a hearing on May 24, 2001, Planning and Zoning then rejected the second application, which contained only minor changes from the original application, due to three concerns over the property located north of Road 465 some 2,340 feet west of Road 479:

  • The subdivision does not meet the purpose of the county subdivision ordinance for orderly growth because the current site is used for a poultry business and is adjacent to other poultry and agricultural uses, which are given priorities due to noise, odor and the use of certain hazardous chemicals.

  • The plan does not encourage the preservation of farmland because land use in the vicinity of the proposed subdivision is primarily agriculture, the proposed subdivision would remove 46 acres of farmland, and approval could encourage further development of farmland in the vicinity.

  • The proposed development would increase traffic and could cause safety problems for children in the area, would adversely affect property values in the area, and there is no need for additional residential development in the area.

Cole strenously objected to the reasons cited by Planning and Zoning, saying the commission needed to show some consistency in its decisions.

Watson's attorney, David Wright, said the application calls for 3/4-acre lots -- the minimum size for an AR-1 District -- and that the subdivision's restrictive covenants include requirements for agricultural preservation and restrictions against manufactured or mobile homes.

Cole, who has opposed many rezoning applications in the past only to be voted down by fellow council members citing the land use plan as justification for approvals, turned the tables on his fellow council members this time by using the land use plan to justify Watson's application.

"I'm concerned that we've got a Development District (as determined by the Comprehensive Land Use Plan) and the applicant is doing everything he's supposed to be doing," said Cole, "and now we're saying for a couple of technical issues we're going to deny it."

Phillips and Rogers defended their decisions to defer the issue, saying they were only interested in obtaining more information to make their decision.

Cole didn't relent, however, saying, "They're (P&Z commissioners) always rezoning farmland in my district. I'm shocked that they rejected this application. Here is a gentleman that we've put an unfair burden on, a taxpayer and a property owner, who has followed the land use plan, as I've heard so many times from my fellow councilmen.

"From my understanding, there were no negative comments from any state agency to support any of the negative comments from the neighbors. I can understand Planning and Zoning turning something down that was trying to increase density, but here's a gentleman who's in compliance. We're seening no consistency from Planning and Zoning. I see no basis for this denial."

After his motion died for lack of a second, Cole took aim at his fellow councilmen:

"It's a shame because you guys approve applications week after week on the eastern side and you get over here on the western side, and you play these games. This land use plan you fought so hard for, with all of these big yellow development districts, the hyprocisy is just unbelievable. It's just a game being played here."

In Other Business ...
  • County offices will be closed on March 29 in observance of Good Friday. There will be no council meeting on April 2. The next council meeting will be on Tuesday, April 9, at 10 a.m.

  • Council approved a lease on the conference room in the new Sussex County Airport Terminal Building with Jimmy's Flying Grille, the lessee of the adjacent restaurant. The council approved the lease for the terminal building restaurant two weeks ago with Jimmy Tenefloss, owner of Jimmy's Flying Grille and the Jimmy's Grille restaurant in Bridgeville. But council decided that the adjacent conference room should be leased separately so that Tenefloss couldn't use the conference room for overflow seating without paying for it. The lease agreement calls for Jimmy's Flying Grille to lease the conference room for $5,544 annually with monthly payments of $462. Council president Finley B. Jones and council member Dale Dukes voted no, again citing their objection to the planned application for a liquor license for the restaurant.

  • Council approved the purchase of kitchen equipment for the new airport terminal building leased by Jimmy's Flying Grille in the amount of $68,950. That low bid came from T&T Inc. of Bridgeville. Jimmy's Flying Grille will pay the county $8,950, with the county, in turn, paying the $68,950 to T&T Inc. Council approved the vote unanimously, but in voting yes, Councilman George Cole reiterated his general objection to the county's purchase of kitchen equipment for a private company.

  • Council heard a report from the Delaware Electric Cooperative on its past, current and future strategies for meeting electric demand in the rapidly growing unincorporated areas of Sussex County. Bill Andrew, of the Cooperative's engineering department, told council that the company has added 4,300 new customers in the past three years, including 2,131 lots last year in 51 developments. Andrew said the Cooperative is well-prepared for that growth, however, as it has 240 megawatts of base capacity with 400 megawatts of available capacity in the county. Andrew said the Cooperative anticipates a peak summer demand of 200 megawatts in 2003. Andrew added that the company has improved its reliability figures in the past four years, going from 3.5 hours per year of outage time in 1998 to 1 hour, 14 minutes in 2001.

  • Council unanimously approved three bids for vehicles for the Engineering Department. A bid of $71,826 was accepted from Winn-Kelley Chevrolet in Maryland for a 4x4 half-ton pickup truck. Another bid of $15,687.73 per vehicle was accepted from I.G. Burton of Milford for two half-ton pickup trucks. Those trucks are two-wheel drive. Finally, council approved the purchase of three half-ton pickups with extended cabs from Winn-Kelley for $21,108 apiece.

  • Council unanimously approved the extension of the Dagsboro-Frankford Sanitary Sewer District to include the George Oliver property.

  • Greenwood resident Dan Kramer took council to task for overspending its Councilmanic Funds budget, citing the audit that showed the council spent $19,000 more this year than was budgeted on the funds given to charitable organizations. He was told by Councilman Dale Dukes that unspent funds could be carried over from one year to the next and that accounted for what appears to be overspending this year.

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