Public servants must remember who they serve

February 25, 2014

Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission is considering a proposal to rezone a 38-acre parcel along Route 24 from agricultural-residential to medium-density residential planned commu­nity. That means instead of two units per acre, if the zoning change is approved, the devel­oper could build 3.3 units per acre.

That was not good news for a man who lives in the area and is aware of traffic prob­lems on Route 24. In carefully proposed testi­mony during a recent hearing on the proposed zone change, he put the issue succinctly: “I’m not against development in the area, but I’m against a change of zoning that allows for more units, compounding traffic problems on Route 24,” he said. He also called for a broader infrastructure plan to support future development in the area.

The citizen’s remarks are reasonable – and right in line with the thinking of many Cape Region residents. But his testimony drew only sarcasm, with one planner blaming the region’s traffic problems on state transporta­tion officials.

It’s time for county planners to realize that ploy just doesn’t work anymore.

Planning officials and county council, not DelDOT, are responsible for land-use decisions. It is quite simply irrational for county officials to expect DelDOT to build roads anywhere council decides to allow development.

As our region becomes ever more con­gested, county planners and council have two choices: say no to further development, or like other jurisdictions nationwide, say yes to development but require developers to fund the necessary road and traffic improvements as a condition of approving the projects.

Sussex County’s two-unit-per-acre zoning is already the least restrictive zoning in any county on the Delmarva Peninsula. Changing zoning to allow even more units – without proper infrastructure – is misguided.

Even more misguided is questioning the insight of citizens who take part in the land­use planning process. Council is elected and planners are appointed to serve and listen to the people of Sussex County, not to quiz them on the nuances of state and local government.

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