Mature tree buffers should remain

July 28, 2023

Anyone driving around Sussex County will likely come across a once-wooded parcel that’s been cleared to make way for a residential community. With available farmland beginning to dwindle, many developers have sought forested areas. And while it is their right to clear-cut the land, Sussex County officials should consider stronger regulations to preserve as many mature trees as possible.

A good place to start is with the perimeter buffer. Currently, developers can clear-cut all the way to the property line and then plant a minimum 20-foot buffer. Why cut mature trees only to plant much-younger and much-smaller trees? 

County officials should remedy this by prohibiting the felling of trees within 20 feet of the property line. Exceptions could be made for invasive species, and for roads and utilities. It might also be a good idea to widen the buffer to 30 or 40 feet. 

In areas along a roadway where no trees previously existed, officials should consider beefing up the required landscape buffer for screening. Under existing regulations, developers can plant what are essentially saplings. It will take years before many of these species of trees will function as they're designed. By requiring more-mature trees, county officials can not only create a natural buffer between the back of new homes and passersby, but also create a more natural and scenic view along the roadway. 

Sussex officials, including members of county council and the planning & zoning commission, will have an opportunity to discuss these matters during an upcoming workshop. The public is expected to be included, too. 

While trees remain one of the more talked-about issues, officials are also planning to discuss open space, cluster subdivisions, and superior design standards for developments. Each issue is important to the future of Sussex County. It is our hope that Sussex officials give each item the time it deserves, and provide members of the public with opportunities to voice their opinions. 

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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