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Sussex needs workforce housing without upzoning

November 6, 2018

As Sussex County prepares to submit its comprehensive plan to the state for approval, at least one thing is clear.

If the process for developing the plan is cumbersome, the plan for state approval is flat-out broken.

The state is pushing back against the proposed plan because, state housing officials say, Sussex County zoning laws make it too hard to build affordable housing, so the county doesn’t have enough, especially in the coastal area.

What the state apparently has not considered is that at two units per acre on literally thousands of acres of land, Sussex County already has the least restrictive zoning in Delaware and on the entire Delmarva Peninsula.

Sussex County also contains some of the lowest-lying land in the entire state, making it highly susceptible to flooding and storm surge.

On top of that, state transportation officials are only now discovering that the lack of investment in Sussex County over the past decade has produced dangerous and failing intersections and frequent gridlock on many local roads.

The Cape Gazette and many residents of the Cape Region support affordable housing in Sussex, but the last thing the county needs is upzoning. Existing zoning will already bring too many housing units over the next decades.

We say no more upzoning. Period – with the possible exception of a plan for the transfer of development rights, allowing higher density in some areas in exchange for lower density in others.

We already suggested allowing taller buildings surrounded by open space and built on higher ground, away from frequently flooding areas. Taller structures would allow developers to preserve open space and would not increase units per acre anywhere. 

Sussex officials – and state housing officials – need to get a simple message from the people who live in Sussex County.

We need workforce housing, but we want workforce housing that does not increase the total number of units that are already coming to Sussex County.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, 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.