Sussex County
Delaware

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Sussex County Council ...

County Tables Ordinance
for Environmentally
Sensitive Developing Area

By KERIN MAGILL
SC Online Content Editor

Photo: Former Millsboro Mayor Thelma Monroe receives the 2003 Public Service Aware from Sussex County Council President Lynn Rogers. Click the link above for details.

Sussex County Council has tabled a measure called inadequate by some and a step in the right direction by others. The proposed ordinance would create a new "environmentally sensitive developing district" zone.

Thelma Monroe and Sussex County Council President Lynn RogersDuring a public hearing in council chambers on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, Ann Marie Townsend of the state planning office acknowleged that the measure "won't solve all the concerns," but said the county "would be better off" with it.

Townsend said the plan "allows better cooperation between the county and the state" when it comes to development in the coastal area. "It will likely lead to better development and more informed decision making," she said. "This is a positive step forward."

But council member George Cole, R-Cedar Neck, called it "a little bit of fluff," that is meaningless until other supporting ordinances are enacted.

Thomas Shafer, land use consultant who has worked with the county on its last two land use plans, said it will be at least six months until ordinances involving open space and community design can be enacted.

Mike Tyler, president of the Citizens Coalition, said he is "dismayed" to hear a state official say "something is better than nothing."

Tyler said the 200-member Citizens Coalition feels the county "has shown initiative" with the proposed ordinance, but "lacks the political will to manage growth" in the coastal area. He said the ordinance "misses the mark."

He urged the council to remove the word "developing" from the zone's name, saying using the word makes it sound as if the county is encouraging growth in the environmentally sensitive area around the Inland Bays.

Tyler also urged the council to include a requirement of a 100-foot buffer zone between any development and the bays. The council has discussed dropping any buffer zone reference from the ordinance -- which now recommends a 50-foot buffer -- because the issue will be addressed in other ordinances. He said he is disturbed that the council seems to be ignoring concerns expressed by the state Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control about the ordinance.

Council member Vance Philllips defended the use of the word "developing" to describe the coastal area. "This council respects the marketplace," Phillips said. He added the council "understands the realities of the resort area."

Mable Granke of Rehoboth Beach urged the council to include the entire Inland Bays watershed in the zone, not just the coastal area. She also asked that the buffer zone reference remain in the ordinance.

Granke said the council "must fulfill the promise that the intent is to protect the Inland Bays watershed. Otherwise the promise is empty."

Rich Collins, president of the pro-growth Positive Growth Alliance called DNREC "a bunch of loose cannons" and said the buffer zone requirement is "irresponsible" and "idiotic."

Harry Haon, town council member in Fenwick Island, asked the council "Where's the beef?" in the ordinance. "The specifics aren't there," Haon said, asking the council to wait until all the supporting ordinances are ready before enacting the environmentally sensitive developing district zone.

The council agreed to defer action on the ordinance until the Sept. 16 council meeting -- which will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers. The county planning staff has been instructed to compile all the suggestions received on the ordinance for a report to the council at that time. The council may or may not vote on the measure at the Sept. 16 meeting.

A Long Road to Rt. 1 Improvements

Locals have learned not to approach Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach during peak traffic times -- summer weekend mornings and afternoons and any rainy day. Visitors are becoming increasingly familiar with gridlock along the stretch of Route 1 that leads to Delaware's beach resorts.

Solutions may be years away, according to state transportation officials who released a two-year study on Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, during the regular Sussex County Council meeting.

The study, a joint effort between Sussex County and the state, proposes a new limited access roadway west of Route 1 to remove some of the local traffic, an overpass at the busy Five Points intersection, and widening part of Route 24 to four lanes, as well as other improvements.

Now, the county must push the state to set aside funding for the projects. County Administrator Robert Stickels intends to do just that on Thursday, Sept. 11, when DelDOT holds its public meeting on project funding from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the DelDOT Administration Building on Route 113 in Georgetown. The meeting will be held in the conference room; the public is invited.

The controlled access road, which would be west of Plantations Road, has only received funding for project development at this point. In addition, funding has been earmarked for right-of-way acquisition for the realignment of the Wescoats Corner Triangle in Lewes, including the intersection with Old Orchard Road.

DelDOT has set aside funding for improving signal coordination, intersection improvements on Plantations Road at Route 24 (turn lane extension) and Route 274 (a traffic signal), and for a study of the entrance to Rehoboth Beach. The study would include a bicycle and pedestrian study of Route 1.

County council members expressed frustration at the pace with which DelDOT has moved to solve the growing traffic problems along that stretch of Route 1 -- where 42,000 cars a day passed through during the busy season in 2000-- twice the number that traveled the road in 1980.

"People just want to see action," council president Lynn Rogers said.

Council member George Cole asked if some measures could be taken now to help alleviate current problems, rather than waiting several years. "It all sounds good on paper, but I've yet to see any of this stuff work,"' Cole said.

Citing the improved traffic flow in Bethany Beach since a third lane was added on Route 26, Cole asked if a similar improvement could be done on Route 24 or on Plantations Road.

Rogers criticized DelDOT's past solutions to traffic problems in Sussex. "You always fall short of doing it the right way," he said.

"We're not in a position right now to talk specifics," DelDOT's chief engineer, Carolann Wicks, said when asked for a timetable on the improvements. But she assured the council members that the project is a priority for DelDOT. "We're going to come at it from both sides," she said.

When study co-chair Bobbie Geier said the limited access road is "a very long-term project," council member Finley Jones grumbled that "nobody's going to live long enough" to see it completed.

Also recommended in the study was the creation of "activity centers" off Route 1 to reduce the number of cars that need to go to Route 1 for basic needs. The county would be encouraged to help create the centers by including them in future land use plans.

The study was the result of the work of a 33-member committee; Rogers said he's spoken to members who felt "shortchanged" by the final recommendations.

Monroe Honored by Council

The Sussex County Council has bestowed its Public Service Award for 2003 to former Millsboro Mayor Thelma Monroe.

County Administrator Robert Stickels said Monroe is more accurately known as the "Queen of Millsboro," which got a laugh from Monroe and her husband.

Reflecting on her years of service to the town, including 15 years as mayor, Monroe said simply, "it was a real honor to have done so. Thank you."

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