Let’s agree on what superior design is not

March 28, 2023

At the March 7 Sussex County Council meeting there was interest from council looking for input from staff on possibly revising the cluster design option in the zoning code. After the Coral Lakes (now Brentwood) debacle and the most current Twin Masts cluster plan pretending to be superior, this is very welcome and hopeful news.

As a retired registered landscape architect and land planner for 42 years, I just want to focus on what we can all agree is not superior design:

1. To permit a much smaller and narrower lot, 7,500 square feet and as narrow as 60 feet, let's all agree that this is such a bonus to developers that the proposed density should not just be based on a simple math calculation of dividing the gross acreage by 21,780 square feet. A real plan using 1/2-acre lots should be prepared for everyone to see.

2. It is not superior design to clear-cut acres and acres of forest. Coral Lakes clear-cut almost 100 acres of beautiful forest, some dating back to the 1930s. Twin Masts proposes to destroy 60% of its forest.

3. The ordinance states, "All lots shall be configured to be contained completely outside of all wetlands." Let's all agree not to read more words into this than are written. It doesn't say only Army Corps-regulated wetlands; it says all wetlands. It states shall, not may.

4. It is not prudent to site any lots or streets in a 100-year floodplain. Twin Masts commits that land planning sin as well.

5. It is not superior design to completely line all subdivision streets with narrow, 60-foot-wide lots. Design some single-loaded streets with views across the open side of the road toward a beautiful park or neighborhood green.

6. It is not superior design to create hundreds of lots backing up to stormwater management ponds. Without agricultural wells, they will draw down in future droughts, exposing muddy banks, or be spoiled by algae or waterfowl.

7. Open space layout needs to be more contiguous, not fractured in small remnants.

8. Let's all agree that we, the public, need to see award-winning land plan examples from around the country that are truly superior in design. How about a workshop where slides of these projects can be shared with everyone?

Jeff Seemans

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