Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth lauded for input on county comp plan

LEWES – An organization committed to preserving the environment through responsible growth and development is being honored by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays Foundation.

The Inland Bays Foundation will present its 2019 Environmental Advocacy Award to the Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth-SARG at its annual ‘Love Our Bays’ dinner set for Wednesday, Oct. 23.

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Irish Eyes Restaurant in Lewes.
The dinner celebrates the importance of the bays, and those who work to restore them to swimmable and fishable condition.

The Inland Bays Foundation award recognizes SARG for its leadership in providing citizen input in the extensive 2018 Sussex County Comprehensive Plan process, and for its continued work to see the plan’s objectives and strategies incorporated in the county’s decision-making.

“We think we had an influence. We were there. We were watching,” said SARG spokesman Jeff Stone. “We criticized the previous plan at every opportunity for being so weak and so wishy-washy.”

“We did congratulate the council on the new plan,” said Mr. Stone. “It’s not everything we would have wanted but then again you never do get everything you want. They did a pretty good job.”

In a monitoring role, the alliance had at least one member at every planning and zoning commission meeting and every county council meeting that concerned the comprehensive plan.

During the formulative process, SARG offer input from its many stakeholders, including homeowners’ associations.
“We provided testimony on a lot of different subjects — land use, transportation, some of the environmental issues – that we knew because we had done some polling that were critical to and very important to the SARG people,” said Mr. Stone.

SARG and the Inland Bays Foundation have a shared vision and have worked in collaborative ways to protect and enhance southern Delaware’s precious natural resources.

SARG worked with District 3 county councilman Irwin G. Burton III, who has introduced ordinances concerning buffers aimed at protecting the inland waters – the tidal and nontidal wetlands, Mr. Stone said.

Last December, Sussex County Council adopted the 2018 comprehensive plan, a 10-year update borne from scores of public meetings, workshops, and outreach that attracted hundreds of comments, suggestions, and ideas from residents, business owners, government officials and others.

Officially certified by Gov. John Carney, the comp plan marked the official end to a two-plus-year process to review and rewrite the county’s blueprint for the next generation.

Major strategies included in the adopted comprehensive plan include:
• Ways to preserve, promote and strengthen agriculture’s presence in the county, including through a possible agribusiness district that would add certain permitted ag-related support uses to low-density areas;
• Several initiatives to review and potentially overhaul the county’s land-use code, specifically measures that would focus on wetland protection, forestry preservation and water quality.

“Once the comprehensive plan came out, and there was a strong environmental component to it, we worked with both the Inland Bays Foundation and the Center for the Inland Bays, (CIB executive director) Chris Bason and his group, to get some of this implemented and to move it along as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Stone.

“Now, our issues are the follow-up to that. We’ve been working hard with the council on issues such as the wetlands issues, increasing the size of buffers. One of members, Rich Barasso, sits on county committee looking at the wetlands buffer (issue).”

“That is really our biggest issue, making sure that the components of the comp plan aren’t ignored,” said Mr. Stone.

“It’s a 10-year plan. Not everything is going to be done in the first year, the second year or third year. But we’ve looked at it as there’s a couple priorities for the environment, open space and transportation and changing the way land use is determined.

“So far, the county has been working pretty diligently on most of those things and at the same doing their everyday business.”

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