Quality development, not overdevelopment

December 20, 2019

Proponents of wider buffers in new Sussex County developments, to help improve water quality in our streams, rivers and bays, are having a hard time persuading opponents that property value is more important than property rights.

But it comes down to something as simple as this: What good are property rights if irresponsible development degrades the environment and in so doing inevitably begins to erode property values?

Wider buffers don’t have to mean fewer lots to sell. But they can mean more valuable lots to sell. Developers know that lots backing up to forested buffers fetch higher prices from prospective homeowners.

By working regulations to allow slightly smaller lots so that wider buffers don’t result in a net loss of saleable lots, the environment and property owners can both win.

Property values over the long term will be preserved in that scenario. That’s how far-sighted property values are more important than short-sighted property rights.

The goal is not to slow development in Sussex County. Development is good for the economy. When the economy is rolling, good things can happen. Government can keep taxes low while investing in emergency and police services as well as infrastructure projects such as wastewater systems, and open space and farmland preservation, all of which help sustain and improve our quality of life.

A strong economy gives government more money to support the many nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations that address needs without bloating the bureaucracy.

Preserving property values through such a simple measure as widening buffer requirements to improve our deteriorating waterways is an inexpensive insurance policy for maintaining a strong tax base.

Sussex County’s low taxes and permissive zoning are attractive to in-state and out-of-state developers. But that development should not come at the expense of our long-term quality of life. Residents, property owners, contractors and developers should all be urging Sussex Council to adopt common-sense measures such as wider buffers that will allow us to be a model for the kind of responsible development that will protect all of our investments long into the future.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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