Perimeter buffers are first to be addressed

Sussex council and P&Z prioritize subdivision development design standards
November 12, 2023

Sussex County officials have ranked the development design sections they want to address first. And the winners are open space and perimeter buffers, which tied with the highest rankings by members of county council and the planning & zoning commission.

Based on a staff recommendation, council agreed to focus on perimeter buffers first, which contain some open space components.

The council and commission had identified six areas of most concern following a Sept. 21 joint workshop. Through a series of meetings, input from staff and public comments, officials agreed that some amendments may be required in key areas of the county’s subdivision ordinances.

Rankings were perimeter buffers and open space tied for first, forest preservation and interconnectivity next, followed by superior design and miscellaneous code items.

Each member of council and the planning & zoning commission ranked the six categories on a scale of 1 (highest priority) to 6 (lowest priority.)

How they ranked

Council ranked the following: perimeter buffers and open space, both with 14 points; miscellaneous county code, 18 points; interconnectivity, 19 points; forest preservation, 21 points; and superior design elements, 22 points.

Planning & zoning ranked the following: open space, 14 points; forest preservation, 16 points; perimeter buffers, 17 points; superior design elements, 17 points; interconnectivity, 18 points; and miscellaneous code, 23 points.

Adding the points, the following were the rankings: 1. perimeter buffers, 28 points; 1. open space, 28 points; 3. interconnectivity, 37 points; 3. forest preservation, 37 points; 5. superior design elements, 39 points; and 6. miscellaneous county code, 41 points.

All priorities will be addressed

County Administrator Todd Lawson said all of the priorities will eventually be discussed.

He said the buffers are not necessarily what is most important in the county, but a place to start that staff can work on.

Lawson said there are 12 possible action items related to perimeter buffers, including a list of required plantings, retention of existing vegetation and trees, making all buffers the same size, enforcement issues and access for maintenance. The width – 30 feet in cluster subdivisions – is also an issue to be discussed.

Lawson said county staff has other important ordinances they are working on, including the master planned zoning district. “We can’t lose sight of the workload. We can juggle a couple balls in the air, but not all of them,” he said.

He said workforce housing and solar array regulations are other areas being worked on by staff.

“We are looking at tightening up bonding on solar arrays. There have been more than 40 applications processed. It’s something we are all concerned about,” Lawson said.

He said they plan to have some ordinances introduced in the first quarter of 2024. New or amended ordinances will require planning & zoning commission and county council public hearings.

“I think we have an idea of what you want to see. We will come back to you as soon as possible,” Lawson said.


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