The cat is out of the bag

February 17, 2023

Trees are being cut in required buffers because Sussex County’s ordinance does not specify how this should be handled. This was clearly demonstrated by a resident of Lewes during her appearance at Sussex County Council Feb. 7. In her presentation, which included a video, she showed the active removal of 15 feet of mature trees within such a required 30-foot buffer in the Brentwood development off Robinsonville Road.

According to the planning & zoning commission, “existing trees may be removed from a development site prior to final site-plan approval. However, such a change would be at the developer’s own risk,” and continues, “that any deficit will then need to be addressed by the applicant through the submittal of additional planting plans prior to any potential approval of a final subdivision plan.”

Trees, which are so important to the environment, may be removed within a buffer zone, regardless of what length of buffer has been initially approved, and if need be, may be replaced by saplings that may or may not survive. An example of this can be seen at the Ocean Meadows development on Beaver Dam Road.

What good is the Sussex County comprehensive plan and county code if the developers do what they wish? The comp plan and codes are like a block of Swiss cheese with so many holes. I call on county council to immediately create a memorandum of understanding and close such holes in the plan and codes by creating non-negotiable language that has no gray area, and imposing penalties on developers who violate the terms of approval. Otherwise, developers will continue such practices to the detriment of the environment.

Will we have a repeat of the Brentwood/Coral Lakes saga with the proposed Twin Masts development on Round Pole Bridge Road in Milton? Stay tuned. The developer paid more than $6 million for 132 acres to develop a 245-home cluster development. This parcel contains mature woods, wetlands and part of this parcel is located in the 100-year floodplain. It is also in State Level 4 Investment area, which means the state does not recommend any development in this area.  

Councilman Doug Hudson proposed Feb. 7 that any developer who violates any condition of approval (including cutting the buffer) would have an immediate suspension of five years imposed on that development, and would be required to submit a new application. This would be a great place to start reformatting the comp plan. 

A revised comprehensive plan, and amended and stricter codes are the responsibility of Sussex County Council to protect our environment. Such revisions should also give power back to the P&Z commissioners to be able to deny a development or cluster subdivision that is supposed to be a “superior design” on the facts presented and in the PLUS report without the commissioners being warned by a county representative that they would be sued by the developer!

Janet Le Digabel
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