County council members spar over development/property rights

GEORGETOWN — Since winning election in 2008, Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver has brought to the council table constituent concerns regarding growth and development in her 3rd District that encompasses the greater Lewes area.

Sussex County Council for 2015: from left, seated, Samuel Wilson, R-Georgetown, and Michael Vincent, R-Seaford; standing, Robert Arlett, R-Frankford; Joan Deaver, D-Lewes; and George Cole, R-Ocean View. At the Jan. 6 meeting, Mr. Vincent was re-elected council president and Mr. Wilson was re-elected vice president. (Special to the Sussex County Post)

JOAN DEAVER

“I’ve got a lot of unhappy people in my district and it’s very busy there,” said Ms. Deaver, D-Lewes. “I would appreciate your ideas and your advice on this.”
That statement, and others, was voiced during closing council member commentary at the Jan. 26 council meeting that reignited a simmering feud of sorts with council colleague Samuel Wilson, R-Georgetown, on development co-existing with property rights.
“I get calls from folks that are just so unhappy with the way things develop around us. I know that we could look at a map and sort of predict what could happen, what might happen, what changes might come about,” said Ms. Deaver. “But how would the community know? What happens is, it all goes through so fast. And believe me it still is fast with inadequate noticing. It’s very sad to me, what is being done in my area – about Five Points area – what has been approved there and additional housing over and above AR-1 (agricultural/residential). It is a difficult situation and I don’t like being in the middle of it.”
‘I’d like to know, is there a way to tell people what might happen around them and what the zoning map means? I sure would like to know how to do that, because they don’t know. They think it is AR-1 and they think it is farm. And they think it is going to stay farm. That is the first misunderstanding, in fact I had it myself when I got here. It is very stressful to be in this position,” said Ms. Deaver. “I don’t want to down-zone somebody’s land, but every piece of land is not appropriate for everything that the people want to do on it.”

Sussex County Council for 2015: from left, seated, Samuel Wilson, R-Georgetown, and Michael Vincent, R-Seaford; standing, Robert Arlett, R-Frankford; Joan Deaver, D-Lewes; and George Cole, R-Ocean View. At the Jan. 6 meeting, Mr. Vincent was re-elected council president and Mr. Wilson was re-elected vice president. (Special to the Sussex County Post)

SAM WILSON

“My thought Ms. Deaver is this: I own farmland around other property, and if people want to come in there and tell people how to handle that farmland, then they should buy it,” Mr. Wilson said. “That’s how to control it. Tell them to go ahead and buy the land.”
“I want to work with them. Let them know how it is zoned, that’s all,” Ms. Deaver said.
“If they don’t like the way people develop the land, tell them to go buy it. Then they can do what they want to do with it,” Mr. Wilson said.
County councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, interceded, noting that in regard to disclosure and allowing residents to get a better feel for the land and how it is approved and not approved, the county has invested “a whole lot of tax dollars to do such a thing, correct, with our online system?”
County Administrator Todd Lawson elaborated.
“We have enhanced our website and our electronic interface and we I think in the last few years have improved our mechanisms to keep our data that is available to the public via the website up to date and current and also pushing out more and more data as we go,” Mr. Lawson said. “If they are able to access the internet and see that information and navigate the website there is clearly better and more accessible information than there were in years past.”
“Well how would they know that right next to them all of a sudden folks might apply a shopping center, and it could be approved? It’s nice to know things in advance, I think, not to be shocked and surprised when it comes up,” said Ms. Deaver. “That is my concern.”
Mr. Wilson stood steadfast on his ground for property rights.
“If they don’t like it, tell them to go buy the piece of property,” he said.
Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, offered an olive branch of sorts.
“Let me just chime in here. Maybe there needs to be an explanation on our website explaining how things work, because people move here from all over the country and they come from counties that do things differently,” said Mr. Cole. “Maybe a short explanation on how zoning works, how change of zones work … even though property is zoned in such a fashion (there is) nothing that prevents people from coming in and asking to modify that zoning by either increasing the density … or rezoning it commercial. We don’t have any mechanism that prevents that, and actually that is the way the system works; so maybe a brief explanation … there could be on our website some clarification.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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