Let's keep conservation in conservatism

December 7, 2012

The recent election showed Sussex County continues as the most politically conservative of Delaware's three counties. With its rural roots and heavy influx of retirees, that conservative bent comes as no surprise. The county would benefit tremendously if the power of that conservative base could also be applied to conserving open space, one of the county’s critical components.

We have to be particularly sensitive about conserving open space because Sussex County has the most permissive zoning of any county in the mid-Atlantic region. At last serious estimate, the existing agricultural/residential zoning applied to most of the developable land in Sussex will allow at least another 300,000 homes. Given the low taxes in Delaware and Sussex, our favorable climate, dramatically higher taxes in surrounding states, beaches and parks, it's no stretch to project that those 300,000 homes will be developed in the next 50 years. That will put tremendous pressure on our infrastructure including roads, water, wastewater, schools and, last but not least, open space.

If we want to maintain some semblance of the quality of life that keeps many here and attracts others, we will need to make a concerted - and conservative - effort, to increase protected open space in Sussex.

Delaware's secretary for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Collin O'Mara, said recently he would like to come up with some kind of financial incentive for property owners to conserve buffers along the hundreds of miles of wetlands and waterways in Sussex. That alone would contribute significantly to protecting open space and corridors for open space. That thinking aligns with Sussex County's conservative leadership which has no stomach for zoning away development rights.

Sussex generally subscribes to architect Frank Lloyd Wright's pragmatic statement that if you want the view you have to buy the view.

The conservation effort in Sussex will take serious private and public sector involvement, but the many benefits of open space and the fact that open space requires the least infrastructure investment by government, make that involvement a high priority for all of us and future generations of Sussex Countians.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.