Comprehensive plan should restrict upzoning

May 15, 2018

Two years and close to $500,000 into the development of Sussex County's next comprensive plan, county council is tackling head-on the complex issue of managing growth.

Councilman I.G. Burton has proposed restricting upzoning in a proposed designated coastal area.

This is a critical first step in protecting our fragile Inland Bays by directing growth to other areas. Council should consider extending this new designation to include land along Route 1 north to Prime Hook Road.

Still, refusing to upzone land for more intense development is not enough. Council should also clearly state that density must be calculated on the basis of buildable acreage. A builder with a 20-acre tract with 10 acres of wetlands should be allowed two units per acre for the tract's buildable acres, or 20 units total, not 40.

Burton has also proposed 100-foot buffers along county waterways, a concept that is a decade overdue. Our waterways are polluted. Runoff as a result of development and increased impervious surfaces deteriorates our waters when we should be cleaning them up. Burton also suggested 50-foot buffers along the borders of new developments, replacing the current 20-foot buffer requirement. Fifty-foot buffers – particularly lining two developments side by side, creating a 100-foot buffer – would preserve corridors for recreation and for wildlife, both critical for preserving the quality of life we cherish.

Burton suggested trading wider buffers for bonus density. Yet consultants say that at two units per acre throughout much of Sussex, enough acreage is available to house the expected increase in population with no upzoning. Trimming acres by protecting waterways and requiring wider buffers is a fair and relatively painless way to reduce density while respecting property rights.

The comprehensive plan states it strives to set a foundation for decision-making to the year 2045.

This is the time for bold vision to direct future growth in Sussex County. No more upzoning should be the rule in the proposed coastal zone and perhaps throughout Sussex County.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.