Sussex Preservation Coalition celebrates first year

Local drone photographer Chris Driscoll receives the group's first Champion Award
December 14, 2023

The Sussex Preservation Coalition celebrated its first year during a party and fundraiser Dec. 10 at the Lewes library.

The coalition was formed by a handful of women who were concerned about fast-paced development in Sussex County, and particularly its impact on the environment and residents' quality of life.

“We started with a small group with one proposition that we are stronger when we work together to get more done,” said President Jane Gruenebaum. The organization started with 12 people and has grown to include 2,000 individual members and 20 organizations.

The mission of the coalition is to increase effectiveness of groups and individuals working in Sussex County to preserve natural habitats for the well-being of all communities, and to promote resiliency, sustainability and climate adaptation by educating, advocating and helping to set policy.

Coalition board members presented their first Champion Award to Chris Driscoll, who has allowed the group to use his drone photos showing development from above. “He shows the best and the worst of Sussex County development with his drone shots,” Gruenebaum said.

They also honored board member Jim Henry, who developed and maintained the coalition's website and also coordinated technology for online meetings. “He's going on another adventure and we are losing him,” Gruenebaum said.

Making a difference

Gruenebaum said the coalition has made a difference over the past year in impacting land-use issues and applications.

Gruenebaum said following a survey with the Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth – with 2,500 respondents – 94% of people responded that tree preservation was extremely important. “This made an impact on county council, and it's why forest preservation is now on their agenda,” she said.

The coalition helped residents who were opposing two applications – Osprey Point marina and restaurant near Rehoboth Beach and Stillwater Harbor near Oak Orchard, both of which were denied.

Gruenebaum said three working groups have been formed to address key issues.

Chairing the groups are: Rich Borrasso, tree preservation; Jeff Seemans, superior design; and Jill Hicks, the pending Master Planned Zoning ordinance.

Gruenebaum said the coalition worked with two other grassroots groups, SARG and Sussex 2030, to review, line by line, the proposed Master Planned Zoning ordinance. The marked-up document was presented to county council, which delayed a vote on the proposal.

In addition, Hicks, the group’s vice president, offers seminars to groups on how county government works.

“We are doing more in 2024,” Gruenebaum said.

“You have amazing accomplishments in just one year,” said guest speaker Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes. “Advocacy leads to better balanced growth because we are all in this together. Showing up matters. What is important to you is important to me.”

The coalition also hosts monthly meetings with speakers involved in county land-use issues.

Groups include SARG, Sussex 2030, The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Interfaith Power & Light, Sustain Sussex with the Teach a Person to Fish Society, Save Our Lakes Alliance 3, Sussex Preservation Group, Sierra Club, Inland Bays Foundation, Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, Delaware Habitat Guardians, Preserve Our Parks, Evans Watch Farm, Native Roots Farm Foundation, Bethany Beach Landowners Association, Southern Sussex County Community Action Group and Plastic Free Delaware.

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