Sussex County Delaware

Opinion: Change Needed
in County Government
 
Guest Opinion ...

Coastal Area Needs
Better Representation

The following guest opinion was submitted by Rehoboth Beach area resident Joan Deaver.

Our County is growing and that is good; I welcome each and every new resident. Our family came here only 40 years ago and we are still considered "new people," so I know how you must feel.

However, we have been here long enough to see that our county government needs work. Sussex is booming and it's time to update government so that everyone can be fairly represented and can deal effectively with future growth. This is not a critique of any elected officials; just some suggestions as to how we might improve the way county government operates.

First, although the county council oversees and controls what happens in Sussex, not one of them runs countywide. And they have no term limits. I believe that we should have an elected County Executive who could provide us with voter-approved vision and plans, and give us a sense of checks and balances.

Then, I know of no Sussex County Government Code of Ethics. With all the development we are experiencing and our tendency to elect businessmen to council, there should be a firm Code of Ethics to govern land use lawmaking.

An obvious problem in eastern Sussex is that coastal people are grossly under represented. For Example, From 1990 to 2000, Sussex's population increased by 38.3 percent and most of the growth was on the coast, which grew 75 percent, while western & northern areas grew a mere 7 percent.

Yet we still have only five county council districts -- just as we did 30 years ago. And those districts appear to be gerrymandered. In 2001 county council changed districts, and although the population in each seems similar in number, they have jammed almost the entire coastline into only one district, and that is District 4.

Council then authored a so-called new Comprehensive Land Use Plan because the state demanded it, but hasnšt backed it up with actual ordinances. So in the interim, it looks as if the county is saying, "Come one, come all developers, do whatever you want. We have no Unified Development Code or many other laws to affect your plans to build and run."

And we residents watch helplessly, seeing our beautiful Sussex ruined by tasteless over development. I just read that a council spokesman defended their re-zoning, saying that they are only following the Law (The law that they wrote!) Talk about Catch-22! Now people are labeling council members, except the one who represents the coast, The Big Four, and that's not a compliment.

To Make Land Use Matters Worse, coastal people are not even represented on the Planning and Zoning Commission, another group controlled by county council. For example, not one of the commissioners, in fact, lives on Sussex County's coast; the voters have no say at all in who is nominated to the commission; and there are no stated qualifications for the job.

Finally, if you don't like the work that Sussex County Planning & Zoning and Sussex Council are doing, too bad, because there is no Sussex County Board of Appeals for you. The only remedy for you is to hire an attorney and file suit at your own expense. Talk about elitist government!

So although these aren't the only problems we face in Sussex, they are issues that seem to be on everyone's mind these days.

So I ask, are you willing to get involved to help make our government be the best it can be?

If so, one of the first things you might do is contact our state senators and representatives to discuss SB 117, to add two at-large members to county council. More importantly, your contacting state representatives can open many doors for constructive discussion on how we can proceed to create and activate plans to improve our Sussex county government. Let's work together for our future.

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