Sussex County Delaware

Protest Addresses
Readdressing Crisis

 
Sussex County Council ...

Protestors March Against Readdressing

Photos: Above, protestors against Sussex County's 911 readdressing procedure file into the county administration building on Tuesday, May 8, 2001. Below, Jerry Lamb headed the Route 1 Coalition's march while Lindy DeMao started the petition drive.

Route 1 Coalition Seeks
Readdressing Moratorium

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

GEORGETOWN -- While not committing to specific measures to deal with Sussex County's 911 readdressing procedures, county council and the Route 1 Coalition did commiserate over the many headaches caused by the project on Tuesday, May 8, 2001.

Jerry Lamb of the Route 1 CoalitionBefore and during council's regular meeting, Route 1 Coalition representatives presented a petition with more than 600 signatures requesting that council declare a moratorium on any new address changes and set up a commission to evaluate readdressing measures other than the 5-digit system that has been used to date.

In a rally outside the county courthouse before the council meeting, and during the Additional Business segment of the council meeting, Jerry Lamb of the Route 1 Coalition requested that council:

  1. Declare a moratorium on any new address changes;
  2. Establish a 911 Enhancement Commission to develop alternatives to the current system;
  3. Conduct studies to determine the impact of the alternatives developed by the commission;
  4. Hold an evening public hearing to present the commission's findings to the public.

During the council meeting, County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said he would begin overseeing the project's remaining 30,000 addresses and that he and county staff would "make every effort to use addresses already in place."

He said the June 30 deadline for changing addresses has been postponed and offered the following instructions for the county's residents:

  • If you live in a rural area with an R.R. or R.D. address with no physical street address AND have received a new address from the county, you can begin the process of changing your address if you haven't yet done so;
  • If you live in a subdivision or in a developed area on Route 1, U.S. 113 or U.S. 13 AND have received a new address from the county, you should contact the 911 addressing office at 855-7898 for more information before making any changes;
  • If you have not yet received a new address from the county, you should continue using your existing address until the county notifies you otherwise.

Lyndee DeMeo of the Route 1 CoalitionBusiness owners in unincorporated areas along Route 1 around Lewes and Rehoboth say they were unaware that the readdressing measures would affect them until they began receiving notices of the pending address changes a few weeks ago.

They said that up until that point, they thought the readdressing plan only affected those residents and businesses with R.R. or R.D. mailing addresses who had not been given a physical street address. They further said that addresses in the unincorporated areas on Route 1, New Road and Savannah Road are already sequential and should be suitable for a 911 system.

The changes, they say, would be expensive for businesses that would be forced to change their address on all of their advertising, Internet sites, stationery and mailings, plus time-consuming to inform customers, vendors and government agencies of the changes.

Lyndee DeMeo, the founder of the Route 1 Coalition and owner of Garage Sale Antiques, said an address change would likely cost her $1,300 plus lost business from customers trying to find her store using her old address.

Lamb said some alternatives his group has learned about in recent weeks include the use of Global Positioning Systems, posting 911 numbers on houses without changing the mailing addresses, and installing blinking house lights to alert emergency personnel when they reach the street of an emergency call.

"We're not saying we have the answers," said Lamb. "All we're saying is we have the questions, and asking council to explore the questions. And then the answers will come forth."

Others speaking against the proposed changes for the Lewes-Rehoboth area included Ed O'Connor of O'Connor's Temp Service, Bill Baker of Bill's Sport Shop, Al Derrickson of the New Road Coalition, and Jim Short of the Savannah Road Coalition.

Lamb, DeMeo and Short also spoke during the meeting, while Georgetown Mayor Bob Ricker urged council and residents to work together toward a "win-win" solution.

Much of the discussion revolved around both groups' concerns about the headaches created by the readdressing procedure, which resulted from a state mandate to enhance 911 systems to make it easier for emergency personnel to locate callers.

Council President Dale Dukes, in response to the Route 1 Coalition's call for a public hearing on the matter, said the county had already held 21 public hearings in each fire district in the county.

He said that he will need to contact more than 1,000 customers, 500 vendors, and various government agencies about the new addresses for his lumber businesses at a cost of around $3,000.

Still, he said, "The county is not blameless. We selected a consultant (3Di, whose contract was terminated last week) that was local and we felt would represent the county's interests. We probably should have stopped him months ago. We've done everything possible to make this as easy as possible, but this is one of the worst things I've been through in 13 years on council."

Dukes went on to say the council was open to other ideas. "If there is a better mouse trap, we'll consider it," he said. "That's why we set up the appeals process."

All of the councilmen related stories about phone calls they've received from constituents trying to straighten the readdressing procedure out.

Councilman Vance Phillips said one of his constituents had changed his address but was now getting his mail back as undeliverable. Councilman Lynn Rogers said he has received numerous calls from residents concerned about making the June 30 deadline that has been postponed.

"Everyone will have to give us some time to resolve this," said Stickels. "There's no one fix to all of this."


Sea Chase II Density Cut ...

Council approved a proposed conditional use with Councilman Lynn Rogers abstaining to allow Robino Seachase LLC to build a maximum of 45 multi-family units on 10.9 acres at the intersections of Roads 274 and 275 in the Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred.

The applicant originally requested 76 units but council cut the density from nearly 8 units per acre to approximately 4 units per acre.

Other conditions include that the development be served by Sussex County central sewer, central water by Tidewater Utilities Inc., that entrance, intersection and road improvements be completed by the developer, that the clubhouse and pool be completed by the time 24 units have been built, and that the development be subject to a final site plan review.

During the discussion, Councilman Vance Phillips suggested that a notification system be set up to let people know that they are buying a property in a development district and that "the cornfield across the road could be developed."

Councilman George Cole, whose district Sea Chase is in, said that he didn't believe that was necessary even though in this case, owners in Sea Chase I objected to the addition of Sea Chase II.

Council President Dale Dukes said he understood Phillips' concerns that buyers don't "check the chicken houses next door and the first time they open the window complain about the smell. But I feel it's buyer beware. I think people are getting more conscious of that now. Sometimes we get into overkill."

County Solicitor Eugene Bayard said he had a "couple of thoughts and ways to address the concerns" of Councilman Phillips and County Administrator Robert L. Stickels said the concerns were "very valid."

Rehoboth Rezoning Denied ...

By a 3-2 vote, council denied a rezoning from a General Residential to a B1 district for property owned by Patricia McDaniel in the Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred.

McDaniel sought the rezoning to move a storage business onto the 19,410-square foot parcel.

Councilman George Cole led the opposition, saying that while the area in question was "unique", it was still mostly residential in character.

"It's an area that has provided affordable rent for summer workers," said Cole. "The rezoning would impact the residential character of an older neighborhood. B1 would also permit many other uses, from restaurants and gas stations to 7-11s. It could set a bad precedent by making it easy to expand the B1 district using this as a precedent for the next request."

Cole said he didn't find much support for the rezoning among neighbors. He also said he believed the proposed use was more appropriate for a C1 district than a B1 district.

Cole and Councilmen Finley B. Jones and Lynn Rogers voted against the rezoning. Council President Dale Dukes and Councilman Vance Phillips voted for it.

Rehoboth RPC Approved ...

Council unanimously approved a rezoning from AR1 to MR-RPC to allow Rehoboth Home Builders Inc. to build 50 single-family homes on 24.45 acres east of Road 274 (Old Landing Road).

The developer requested 64 lots in a subdivision that was originally recorded to have 33 lots.

Among the conditions are that the development be served by central Sussex County sewer and water from Tidewater Utilities Inc., that conditions recommended by the Delaware Department of Transporation be completed by the developer, that deed restrictions on age be in compliance with the federal Fair Housing Act, that street lights and sidewalks be installed by the developer, and that the development be subject to a final site plan and review.

Although all five councilmen voted for the rezoning, Councilman George Cole and Councilman Lynn Rogers expressed reservations about it.

Cole called the developer's plans "a little weak" as far as RPCs go and expressed concern that the county would be obligated to enforce the age restrictions.

Rogers said he had "serious" concerns about the development occuring on and near Old Landing Road and that the county needs to address the issue with DelDOT Secretary Nathan Hayward.

"It's a bear of a road," said Rogers. "Some minor improvements would make it much better. Our concerns seem to be falling on deaf ears."

In Other Business ...
  • County Administrator Robert L. Stickels told council that the county's Emergency Services department was named Delaware's Outstanding Telecommunications Unit of the Year by the Mid-Eastern Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International. The honor stemmed from the EMS team's performance during the controlled burn that ended up killing Greenwood firefighter Arnold Blankenship last year. The EMS team was cited for manning not only its center but also the Greenwood Fire Department's call center while the fire company coped with Blankenship's death.

  • Stickels announced that the Sussex County Emergency Services Center would hold an Open House on Thursday, May 17, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. in its building at 100 Airport Rd. in Georgetown. Stickels said the public would be able to see what occurs during a 911 call. "This will give the public a better understanding of the stress these people go through," Stickels said. The open house will include bike safety displays, K-9 demonstrations, Vince and Larry the Crash Dummies, Smokey the Bear, and Sgt. Dan.

  • Council approved an amendment to Phase II Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition improvements to allow monitoring of pump station alarms and remote control of pump stations in the South Coastal Planning Area. By a 5-0 vote, council approved an increase of $58,877.54 for the project by Whitman, Requardt & Associates for design and construction oversight of Phase II, which will cover 94 of the county's 226 pump stations. Stickels told council that the total cost for the 5-year project will be $1.6 million for the county's 226 pump stations. In comparison, he said Kent County, which used a private contractor on its system instead of doing the project in-house as Sussex County is, spent $1.4 million on 60 stations.

  • Council unanimously approved more than $2 million in general bonds for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Fund loan for improvements to the South Coastal Regional Wastewater Facility. A loan of $1.563 million will be used to purchase a sand filter to replace an existing micro-strainer that is no longer operational. The sand filter will also provide increased capacity over the micro-strainer. Another $513,500 will be borrowed for a force main at Pump Station 100. The loan will be for 40 years with a maximum interest rate of 4.5 percent, according to County Finance Director David Baker.

  • Council approved by a 5-0 vote a resolution to extend the proposed Sea Country Estates Sanitary Sewer District boundary to include a single-family home adjacent to the development. If the referendum for the proposed district passes, the single-family home will be included.

  • Following a public hearing, council unanimously approved a request to extend the boundary of the West Rehoboth Expansion of the Dewey Beach Sanitary Sewer District to include 3.1 acres on Route 24 west of Route 1 that was the proposed site of a 100-unit Marriott Fairfield Inns and Suites. During the public hearing, however, a representative of Marriott Fairfield informed council that he would most likely be selling the land to a Dr. Robinson since Beebe Medical Center had purchased 40 acres around the site for a hospital. The representative said the downturn in the economy and the increase in lodging units in the Rehoboth area were other factors in his likely decision.

  • Council President Dale Dukes asked council to think about adopting an ordinance to allow the county to cut tall grass on lots owned by absentee property owners. Dukes said he has received a number of calls recently from the constable's office about weed control. Grass is not allowed to be higher than 12 inches in the county but the ordinance doesn't allow the county to cut the grass when it grows higher than that and the owners don't take care of the problem. "A lot of counties have ordinances that let them cut weeds and put that on the owners' tax bills," said Dukes. "I don't want to take away people's rights, but neighbors become wary about fires when tall weeds dry out." Stickels said that while he agreed weed control is a problem every year in the county, council members should be aware that there are trespassing concerns involved in cutting a property owner's grass. He also said that the Town of Georgetown lost a case when it failed to show that a health problem was caused by out-of-control weeds.

  • The Center for the Inland Bays will hold an Open House at the James Farm on Cedar Neck Road north of Ocean View on Saturday, May 12, 2001, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The open house will showcase the activities available at the James Farm, a property on Indian River Bay donated to the county by the Lighthipe family. The open house will include guided tours, demonstrations, and exhibits. For more information, call Jim Alderman at the Center at 302-645-7325.

  • The Delaware Department of Transportation will conduct a public workshop in Sussex County Council chambers on Monday, May 14, 2001, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Members of the Public Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee for the Sussex County Long-Range Transportation Plan Update and the Project Team are sponsoring the workshop. The public will be able to hear what transportation issues have been identified as most critical to the county's long-range transportation future and give their own views on the county's transportation needs. If you are unable to attend, you can voice your concerns on the project's web site at http://www.co.sussex.de.us/transportationplan.

  • Stickels reported that Brian Page, the county's historic planner, has developed a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) display in the lobby of the old post office in the county council chambers. The display includes illustrations from the Historical Society of Delaware, the Delaware State Public Archives, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Library in Washington D.C. The displays feature the buildings the CCC built at the Redden State Forest from 1934 to 1936, illustrates the contributions the organization made to Sussex County, and shows what life was like for the CCC in Delaware during the Great Depression.

  • Councilman Lynn Rogers donated $250 for educational supplies to the Slaughter Neck Educational Center for children. The motion passed 5-0.

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