The Sussex County Council District 3 Republican primary features incumbent Irwin “I.G.” Burton and Mark Schaeffer, both of Lewes. No Democrats have filed for the seat.
District 3 covers the area of Route 24 northward, including the communities and areas near Broadkill Beach, Ellendale, Lewes, Milford, Milton, Primehook Beach and Slaughter Beach.
Burton, who served 11 years on Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission, has been on county council for four years, winning a four-candidate primary in 2016 and winning in the general election.
Schaeffer, former mayor of Smyrna and Little Creek, ran unsuccessfully for the seat in the 2016 primary.
Burton, a native Sussex Countian who is retired from his family's transportation business, is married to Jullie and has served as a board member of Bayhealth and as a University of Delaware trustee. He is a Milford High School and Washington College graduate. He has also served under two state administrations as a member of the Delaware Department of Transportation's Council on Transportation.
“My interest in running is the same now as it has been – to preserve our quality of life in this growing area. Growth can be good. It has brought great prosperity and many, many jobs here. At the same, we must provide for open space, protect groundwater we drink, and preserve the beaches and waterways we enjoy. I have a record of which I am proud, one you can see for yourself. Since being elected, I have posted my thoughts and all my votes on my Facebook page,” Burton said.
Schaeffer, who lives in Lewes and is a lifelong Delaware resident, is an associate broker at Long and Foster commercial real estate. He also has a background in construction, appraising and auctioneering, and managed a manufactured home community. Schaeffer is a member of St. Peter’s Church in Lewes, and he and his wife, Ruby, are members of Lewes Fire Department. He is also active in the West Rehoboth Land Trust, building homes for low-income residents. He is also a former Delaware River and Bay Authority commissioner, a former member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Mid-Atlantic Fishery Council, and a former board member of Kent General Hospital (Bayhealth). He was mayor of Smyrna and Little Creek for a decade.
What is the No. 1 issue facing Sussex County? If elected, what action would you take to address the issue?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: The No. 1 issue facing all of Sussex County is the lack of internet throughout the county. The virus advanced us 10 years into the future, and high-speed internet is certainly part of the future. Internet is our economic future, our educational future, our medical future and the list goes on. Providing for internet service is not the responsibility of the county. However, the county can play an important role in assisting and facilitating toward a solution.
Mark Schaeffer: There are three No. 1 issues in the Sussex County Council District 3: preserving our lifestyle, limiting government and keeping taxes low. They are one issue because they are interconnected. Our current councilperson has consistently led the charge for higher taxes and senseless government regulation. We need only look at the states that surround us to know that bigger government is a failed policy. Many third district residents watch in disbelief as county council mimics the governments from the very places they came here to escape. I won’t increase your taxes, take away your property rights or leave traffic issues unaddressed. I will provide proactive leadership and deliver results.
Sussex County Council has adopted a new comprehensive land-use plan. In your opinion, what are the top three goals in the plan that must be addressed?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: The comprehensive land-use plan is a document that evokes thinking and planning out to year 2045. We must begin to look and plan for a Sussex that is changing. We have to look toward the future. The steps we take now will make a difference to the future of Sussex County. We have to get better at balancing both the protection of Sussex County while at the same time promoting the county. The comprehensive land-use plan addresses many objectives to assist in this long-range planning. If we do not take steps to protect the environment, expand economic opportunities and provide for workforce housing, Sussex County will experience a lesser quality of life than we all deserve, want and expect.
Mark Schaeffer: The top three goals that need to be addressed are infrastructure, economic growth and environmental protection. Sussex County has the unique ability to properly plan, manage and accommodate growth, create great jobs for locals, and keep our fragile ecosystem pristine.
Changes to the county's wetland buffers ordinance are currently being discussed, including a possible change in the width of some buffers. Do you support any changes to the ordinance? If so, what specifically do you support?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: I fully support a change to the width of the buffers. Buffers improve the health of wetlands, protect water quality, prevent flooding, and protect wildlife habitat. How can anybody not agree these things are important to everyone?
Mark Schaeffer: A one-size-fits-all regulation proposed by my opponent is not the answer or good planning practice. As currently written, the draft ordnance encourages clear-cutting trees before an application is filed on a specific property. This practice has devastating consequences, and I propose to stop it. I think we need to align the interests of the county, the developers and the farmers to obtain a solution that works for all stakeholders. We need to continue the public input process that has been stopped due to COVID-19 so we can work toward the best solution.
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest), how would you rate coordination/cooperation between Sussex County and the Delaware Department of Transportation? What additional measures can be taken to improve road work coordination?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: DelDOT is in a stage of transition with a new secretary, new county engineer, new planning director and explosive growth throughout the state. This can and will result in new ideas and new management philosophy. It is my hope with change comes change, and we will manage and work with the new DelDOT team. Two additional measures that can help with road work coordination are Transportation Improvement Districts and a county-funded supplemental transportation improvement fund.
Mark Schaeffer: I rate it a 3, but it is improving. Sussex County is finally getting the attention it deserves as an economic engine for the state, and DelDOT is finally working with county government. I plan on being a strong advocate to make sure DelDOT understands that the third district generates an enormous amount of revenue for the state, and we demand that our money stays here and fixes our roads.
Most of the county is zoned AR-1, which allows for two building units per acre. Would you support a change to the allowable density in the zoning district? Why or why not?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: Two units to the acre is not something I would support changing. However, including open space, natural preservation of existing resources, maintaining the rural character of land being developed are all things that help maintain and protect the quality of life of Sussex County.
Mark Schaeffer: Changing the AR-1 would catastrophically destroy the wealth of local landowners. Rather than taking from landowners, I think Sussex County can make smarter use of higher density in growth areas to accommodate more housing, lower the cost to develop land, providing housing for more families, and use market forces to allow for sustainable development. We need to force growth into growth areas and stop sprawl.
Should Sussex County create a special fund or tax to provide more financial support to local fire/ambulance companies?
Irwin “I.G.” Burton: The fire and ambulance companies are under pressure. Now, having passed the unified financial statement ordinance, the county will have a better understanding of the challenges facing each company. Sussex County Council's No. 1 objectives are the health, safety and orderly growth of the county. This will not change when I am elected.
Mark Schaeffer: Sussex County collects fees to support local first responders. The county can increase its support for these essential services without increasing the burden on our citizens. Sussex County needs to administer these funds and not have a political body in Dover administer them. Sussex County also needs to create a program that allows local volunteer fire companies to be able to borrow below market interest money to build facilities and purchase much-needed equipment. This is a very simple solution which will help our fire companies tremendously. I will not vote to raise taxes.