Listen to 9/21/23 Joint Sussex County Council and Planning & Zoning Meeting Here
This was a joint Sussex County Council and Zoning and Planning meeting. Watch Doug Hudson, Cindy Green, Mark Schaeffer, and John Rieley in action! The joint meeting discussed many of the design and land-use issues of concern to many of us. Watch the joint meeting here.
There was a large public turnout - too many to fit into the main room and even too many for the spill over room. Unfortunately, the audio in the spill-over room didn't work well, so even those in the room couldn't easily follow the proceedings. If you wish to listen to the workshop here is the link:https://mediasite.sussexcountyde.gov/mediasite/Play/8e0c336c470b42afbd6084a2faacf23c1d?catalog=8d90f956ca1b42b580980bfa8ad1ffa021.
WHAT WAS DISCUSSED:
There is a requirement for developers to plans around their subdivisions with landscaping plans that creates a screen. Some issues are currently problematic:
Existing woods are cut or destroyed for development site work. Rules are not always followed. We do not necessarily use native species.
There seems to be little or no enforcement of perimeter buffer plantings regarding size and height. Builders are now placing bushes instead of larger trees. Developers are neglecting to put in landscaping and a tree line as a perimeter buffer. Builders take advantage of neighboring plantings and neglect to plant required perimeter buffer.
Many homeowners take the initiative to install their own perimeter buffer, though on HOA land, not their own. The County Council will allow these plantings.
Mark Schaeffer made a comment to enforce proper timing of installation of perimeter buffers. Jamie Whitehouse replied that language could be tightened up. There is currently NO guidance on what trees are planted, sometimes shrubbery and grasses are planted, and no guidance toward survivability or best practices of planting of trees. It makes a big difference when developers leave the existing forested trees.
A 30 feet buffer around housing developments is required but is currently not inspected or enforced. It was recommended that the County consider one standard for all perimeter buffers but with design flexibility for high quality trees and appropriate trees. It was stated that the County needs to do a better job at regulating and monitoring perimeter buffers. This would apply to major subdivisions, not single-family homes, just 10 lots and up. The County could consider violation standards and fines. Pretty high fines was proposed by Doug Hudson since trees that are cut down don't grow back. Or another options would be to stop issuing permits!
Did not discuss wetland buffers. The concern is that developers will cut the underbrush close to wetlands to improve the view, prior to going for permit approval.
There are limited rules in Sussex, as to preservation and less as to restoration. Chris Miller from forest management stated that forest management is really light management, as all trees are competing for light.
Mark Schaeffer recommended giving developers a density bonus to cluster subdivisions to save trees. Could also recommend high density housing with 7500 square foot lots. The desire for high density housing will be market driven for multi-family units.
Mark Schaeffer reported that he often gets calls from home owners asking who is going to cut the dead trees at perimeter buffers. The council answered, "they are."
Doug Hudson recommended than an option could be that if developers clear cut a property, they would have to wait 5 - 10 years before they could develop it, although trees can be cleared for agricultural purposes. What about private homeowners? Home owners will only be able to clear cut 20 acres.
Cluster developments require 30% open space. Mark Schaeffer recommended keeping open spaces in one shared area. County Council recommended that developers ensure that they make public access to the open spaces, such as a pond or trails, to avoid walking through someone's property.
Accessory dwelling units, "Mini Me Houses" must be detached from the main dwelling. Planning and Zoning would like to enable these units though they may be prohibited by HOA rules.
Single Wides and Double Wides
Subdivisions that tie into major roadways may become short cuts. Sussex County has become a spider web of short cuts. Maybe communities may benefit from having gates.
If you would to hear this Joint meeting for yourself, click here to listen to the full meeting. Have questions? Come to our 38th District Republican Club meeting and ask County Councilman Doug Hudson yourself!
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