Bill aims to protect Cape Henlopen State Park

Warner Grant conservation would be continued
May 12, 2023

A bill aiming to continue conservation and preservation at Cape Henlopen State Park was introduced May 10.

Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes, and Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, would require the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to protect the park for public use and preserve its “scenic, historic, scientific, prehistoric and wildlife values.”

Controversy erupted last year over a proposal to build a restaurant near the David McBride Bathhouse. After significant public opposition, the Division of Parks and Recreation and the selected restaurant group mutually agreed to halt plans.

The proposed bill clarifies land use of Warner Grant Trust Lands, under which Cape Henlopen’s 3,000 acres of coastal land falls. As trustee of Warner Grant Trust Lands, DNREC must make sure the lands remain available to the public through conservation, nature education and public recreation. Any private, for-profit or public-private partnership must be in the public’s best interest, according to the bill.

“As Sussex County’s population and economy continue to boom, it is critical that we take steps to maintain our precious open spaces,” Huxtable said in a press release. “Cape Henlopen is an incredibly peaceful place. Its beaches and trails provide a quiet sanctuary for residents and tourists alike to enjoy nature’s wonders just a few short blocks away from our thriving business corridor all along the Coastal Highway.”

In the event of disputes, the bill directs them to be heard in the Court of Chancery and provides that the state attorney general represent the trust. However, if the attorney general declines, the bill states “any resident of Sussex County may sue to enforce the trust, and the Court of Chancery must award attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs who prevail in enforcing the trust.”

“Last year’s issues surrounding the proposed restaurant made it apparent that we need to establish clear guardrails for how one of Sussex County’s most cherished natural resources is used and preserved,” Schwartzkopf said in a press release. “Specifying that ‘conservation and preservation’ of the trust is DNREC’s top goal will provide very clear direction and should give all of us peace of mind that Cape Henlopen will remain a treasure for residents and visitors for generations to come. As state legislators, that is one of our most important duties, and I’m proud to lead this effort with my friend Sen. Huxtable.”

SB 6 has been assigned to the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee.

Construction entrance bill approved

A bill allowing construction companies to get a temporary construction site entrance approved quicker moved through the General Assembly and now awaits Gov. John Carney’s signature to become law.

Under the bill, which unanimously passed the Senate May 9 and passed the House April 6 with 35 votes and six absent, an applicant who has submitted an accepted entrance plan for review, and obtained an erosion and sediment control permit may request a temporary entrance permit to perform on-site permitted construction activities for any commercial or economic development project. The bill requires the permit be granted within 10 days.

Construction consultant bill awaits action

A bill that allows the Delaware Department of Transportation or the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to approve a consultant for construction plans awaits action in a House committee.

The bill directs DelDOT and DNREC to develop a program to allow for the expedited review of entrance plans and stormwater and sediment plans associated with new development. Under this process, the bill states, a consultant pre-approved by DelDOT and/or DNREC would conduct the review and the costs would be paid directly by the developer. The state agencies are charged with developing policies and procedures to protect against potential conflicts of interest in the use of private consultants.

The bill awaits action in the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee.


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