Sussex P&Z prohibits hunting on Burton's Pond

Homeowners and county officials differ on use and access of the waterway
March 28, 2023

Who can use and hunt on Burton's Pond has become an issue.

While the pond is privately owned by the Walden subdivision homeowners association, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission has imposed conditions prohibiting hunting and allowing public access to the pond.

Burton’s Pond LLC, developer of the subdivision on Route 24 and Hollymount Road near Long Neck, is requesting those conditions, as well as two others, be amended to allow hunting with one annual lease and to prohibit public access through the community to use the pond.

During its March 23 meeting, the commission granted two of the four requests.

Use of Burton's Pond

The commission deferred a decision on a condition amendment outlining who can access Burton's Pond. The original condition stated the pond will be made available to the public and adjacent property owners who can use a parking lot within the Walden community for access.

Under the requested change, use of the pond would be available to the public and adjacent property owners provided they can access the pond through their own property, public lands or through property where they have been granted permission to access the pond.

“This condition shall not prohibit or limit access and use of Burton's Pond by adjacent property owners who may otherwise have a legal or prescriptive right to use Burton's Pond with or without watercraft,” developer attorney Jon Horner wrote.

The attorney said Walden homeowners have concerns with members of the public driving through their community and utilizing the parking area to access the pond, which would be the only option for launching watercraft.

“Ultimately, the pond is private property and a condition opening the pond to the public is arguably a taking, as you are requiring private land to be used for public purpose,” Horner wrote.

In addition, he said, homeowners are concerned about liability issues.

The commission agreed it needs more information on this proposed change.

“We need to understand how this came about,” said Commission Chair Bob Wheatley.

Hunting on the pond

The original condition imposed by the commission prohibited hunting on Burton's Pond.

The homeowners are requesting a change to allow issuance of one hunting lease per year to be used a maximum of three times per year. Horner said homeowners would prefer the pond be hunted by a single party that would observe all laws and regulations to help control the resident goose population.

He said the chosen hunter would be responsible for monitoring the pond to ensure no other parties are hunting it and would also be responsible for the maintenance, repair or removal of the existing dilapidated blinds.

The commission agreed that hunting on the pond would be in close proximity to several housing developments. Wheatley said there has to be other alternatives other than hunting and shooting to control the goose population.

“The pond is owned by the development, but it's a big pond with a large shoreline,” said assistant county attorney Vince Robertson.

On the recommendation of Commissioner Kim Hoey Stevenson, the commission voted 3-0 to deny the request.

Approval of two changes

With a 3-0 vote, the commission approved an amendment in the deadline for amenities to be completed on or before the 180th building permit is issued. So far, 137 permits have been issued as construction continues on the 265-single-family lot subdivision.

The original condition stated that amenities must be completed within two years of the issuance of the first building permit, which occurred in March 2021. “There have been various delays in the construction of amenities, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Horner wrote. “We believe an extension to construction is consistent with the commission's more recent approval paradigm where the timing of amenities is set based on building permits.”

Walden residents have access to the pool in the Villas at Walden across Route 24, he said.

An error in a condition where homes could not be built on the southwest side of Hollymount Road was corrected so that homes can be built on both sides of Hollymount Road.


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