With chants of “Enough is Enough” and “Slow Growth,” more than 150 protesters waving signs gathered Sept. 21 in front of the Sussex County administration office on The Circle in downtown Georgetown.
The residents are concerned with what they call uncontrolled growth in the county, and infrastructure not keeping pace with new housing and commercial projects. Several protesters said a moratorium on housing development is required to allow time to plan for future growth.
The protest was organized by the grassroots watchdog group Sussex2030. Eul Lee, group chair, said county officials are overlooking the cumulative, detrimental impact of uncontrolled growth and development without long-term and adequate infrastructure on homeowners’ value, traffic congestion and the environment.
She said the protesters are asking Sussex County Council to set a long-term vision for the county’s future, and create and amend ordinances that will steer the county toward that vision. “We can work together, and we would like to have regular meetings with council,” Lee said. “I believe they want to work with us for the best outcome for the county. They are responsible for the future of the county, and I think they really care.”
The Sussex2030 website below contains information on approved subdivisions, with more than 8,000 lots in the Cape Region.
“We are protesting the extreme pace of approving development without infrastructure to support it,” said Keith Steck, a member of Sussex 2030 and vice president of Delaware Coalition for Open Government. “People are angry. There are not enough roads to handle development, our wetlands are being decimated, and our forests are being clear-cut to put in houses.”
County council changed its Sept. 21 meeting time from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to accommodate the protest. A presentation by County Administrator Todd Lawson and a discussion on buffers, wetlands and drainage was on the meeting agenda. Lee said residents want wider buffers to protect the county’s valuable natural resources. Some of the protesters attended the council meeting and spoke about their concerns during the time set aside for public participation.
Rieley: We welcome input
Several residents met with District 5 Councilman John Rieley and District 4 Councilman Doug Hudson in council chambers during the protest to express their concerns. Rieley then ventured outside the county administration building to view the protest and answer questions from the media.
“The people are exercising their First Amendment rights, and we welcome input from the public,” said Rieley as he looked over the protesters. “We get it. We see what they see. We are attempting to balance the rights of property owners and people who want to do what they will with their land and are cognizant of the body of law that supports that with the needs of the community and the rapid growth we’ve seen.”
Addressing some of the concerns, Rieley said the county’s 2018 comprehensive plan is a long-range vision of the county over the next 10 years. “It was written with a lot of input from citizens during many meetings,” he said.
He said state transportation officials also have a long-range plan for the county with several key Sussex projects in the six-year capital transportation program. Rieley said council is constantly reviewing ordinances, including the buffer ordinance. “We’ll take a look at it and see if any changes are needed,” he said.
The Sussex 2030 website is sites.google.com/view/sussex2030/home.