Time for Sussex to get to work

January 12, 2024

Despite the recent economic slowdown nationwide, the building business is booming in Sussex County. The vast majority of the county is zoned agricultural residential, AR-1, which allows 2.07 units per acre. It’s by far the most permissive zoning allowed.

It’s also part of the reason why developers like working in Sussex County. It’s reflected in statistics released by the Office of State Planning Coordination that show 89% of residential development applications in Delaware in 2022 were in Sussex County.

As noted in last week’s editorial, developers are allowed by right to do whatever is permitted within the AR-1 zoning, which is a lot. It’s become clear in recent years that county officials are not keeping pace with development. Despite loud calls from a growing number of citizen groups, county officials drag their feet on making any significant, meaningful changes to code, whether they affect buffers, clear-cutting of forests or implementing a school impact fee on new residential development.

Council needs a champion to take charge and move quickly on consequential changes in the county development code. So far, that champion has not emerged.

The effects of a slow-to-act council are being felt today. In January, a historically quiet time in the Cape Region, the roads are now filled with cars. And Cape Henlopen High School, despite the district building and renovating several new schools over the last decade, is bursting at the seams.

Working with developers and Delaware Department of Transportation to better manage unprecedented growth is essential. Passing a school impact fee to help all Sussex County schools is vital. Listening to residents about environmental concerns and swiftly addressing them is necessary.

Every month county council waits to make any meaningful changes, more applications are filed, and more homes are built under outdated regulations and policies.

It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road on so many important issues and start making decisions one way or the other, so the public can decide if these are the leaders they want to keep running the county.

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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