Sussex County Council received both passing and failing grades during the annual Sunshine Day report presented by the League of Women Voters of Sussex County.
In an annual effort to promote open government, the league offers suggestions and comments from its volunteer observer corps, which attends county council, planning and zoning and board of adjustment meetings, said Carole Somers, coordinator of the corps.
“The need for a certified county planner is urgent,” Somers said during council's March 19 meeting. “This position has been vacant for more than three years.”
She said the league opposed council's' move to grant time extensions through 2015 to developers with projects not yet under way. “We are concerned that decisions are made without consideration of the huge number of developments that have already been approved and the infrastructure demands they will create,” she said.
Regarding a recent fair-housing lawsuit, she said new housing guidelines have been implemented and a fair-housing compliance officer has been named. “We applaud the actions that have been taken and trust that other requirements of the voluntary settlement will be implemented,” Somers said.
Somers said drainage problems continue to plague areas of the county. She said residents brought their concerns to council, and there were discussions about where responsibility lies for addressing drainage issues.
Options included new ordinances, disclosure statements and incorporating the Sussex Conservation District into the certificate of completion process. “To date, there has been no apparent clarification of responsibility or actions taken to prevent or ameliorate these conditions,” she said.
The league gave county officials high marks for making more information available to residents and those attending meetings. An information packet for council members and the media has now been placed on the county's website. But the praise came with the recommendation that such information also be available for planning and zoning commission and board of adjustment meetings. “Especially since the information on their agendas is scanty,” Somers said.
She said the league also suggests biographical information – which is available for county council members – should be placed on the website for those serving on boards and commissions. She said while biographical information is now required for new appointees to boards and commissions, such information is not available for incumbent appointees. “Nor is there any specific requirement to reveal employment and other financial interests of incumbents or new appointees,” Somers said.