Candidate Schaeffer speaks out on buffers

August 20, 2020

Running as the true Republican candidate for the 3rd District Sussex County Council and as a lifelong Delawarean, I want to offer my concerns about an ordinance for adoption that would place severe restrictions on personal property rights of our fellow citizens and which are protected by the United States Constitution Article IV.

The intent of the ordinance being championed and pushed by my opponent I.G. Burton is poor land-use practice as proposed. The ordinance will place severe buffers on virtually all drainage ditches, streams and wetlands, even if these ditches do not have any water in them. This proposed ordinance is a one-size-fits-all plan impacting every property owner in Sussex County.

There is no question our wetlands, estuaries, streams, rivers and bays are important, and need protection and conservation. With the implementation of good-quality land-planning practices, they can and should be protected. Our soil types are different in areas of Sussex County, and the land topography with high and low areas fluctuating across the county cannot be managed with a cookie-cutter ordinance. Farmers and property owners will be hit with a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in the value of their land if the I.G. Burton ordinance is put in place. It is a flawed concept. It is also unconstitutional to deprive a private owner of real property or of the use and enjoyment of that property without just compensation, and I.G. Burton has actually stated he will not support our Constitution, and reimbursement for land that will be taken by the Burton ordinance. Even the Delaware Department of Transportation reimburses property owners when it takes their land for DelDOT use.

My opponent has no vision on how to properly manage our growth. His response is to react. He does not lead when that is exactly what is needed. When he was asked by the stakeholders for a chance to talk about these critical issues, he would not meet with them. His proposed buffer ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction to try and gain a few votes while penalizing every property owner in the entire county.

I authored the first Comprehensive Land Use Plan in the state when I was mayor. I have a 40-year successful career in land use. I would implement proper land use planning practices at the county which would protect our sensitive wetlands and would not take property without a comprehensive review or consideration of the land we are protecting. My concept is not new and, in fact, is done across the country. Again, Burton’s proposal takes peoples’ rights and seems to have been originally designed in an offhand manner with little to no thought of incorporating proper land-use practice. This is a reactionary solution, not a visionary solution. While the idea may have merit and be necessary, the concept is severely flawed. We need proper and aggressive planning to solve the problems created by our rapid growth.

Farmers and residential property owners alike need to be heard by our leaders in order that their ideas and concerns can be considered and incorporated into any land-use ordinance proposed and implemented by the Sussex County Council. Burton’s effort in seeking to pass an ordinance that denies farmers and other property owners their rights is bad for Sussex County and is his way of trying to garner the votes of a select few.

I look forward to solving these issues in my first few months of service and will work tirelessly to achieve and find solutions to our land-use issues. I believe in being proactive and not reactive. Please contact me at if you have any questions. I ask for your vote Sept. 15.

Mark G. Schaeffer
3rd District Sussex County Council
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