Editorial: Council’s proposed map change offers critical protection
As Sussex County Council moves toward finalizing the comprehensive land-use plan, members are expected to vote on a proposed change to critical maps in the plan. These maps carry the force of law once the plan is certified.
In question is a long stretch of land lying east of Route 1 from Cave Neck Road north to the Route 30 overpass near the new Bayhealth Hospital Sussex Campus. The land is currently zoned environmentally sensitive developing district.
While many people might have thought the emphasis in this district would be on environmentally sensitive, it turns out the key word is developing. Developing districts allow for higher-density projects and for commercial development.
It was on land with this designation that developers sought to build the largest shopping center ever proposed in Sussex County. That plan required upzoning for commercial purposes, but had upzoning been approved, the project could have paved over or put under roof nearly 90 acres of farmland close to the Great Marsh.
Councilmen George Cole and I.G. Burton, who represent coastal Sussex, have proposed restricting development east of Route 1, calling for a newly designated coastal zone. They are also seeking wider buffers along wetlands, which would further help protect the Great Marsh.
Development will seek to take over every developable inch of land in Sussex, and land along the Great Marsh is no exception. Redesignating this land to AR-1 allows residential development by right, while at the same time giving council more authority over rezonings, which are not by right.
If hurricanes and major storms have taught us anything, it’s that marshland is critical to defending our coastlines from storm surge and flooding.
The land east of Route 1 must be protected from high-density residential and commercial development.
Council should also consider ways to promote environmentally sensitive farming and preserve open space along this stretch to minimize runoff and promote a healthy, thriving marsh.