Letter to the Editor: Sussex land-use agreement is a start, but more needed

The Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth (SARG) is pleased that the County Council has approved and signed the revised Sussex County/Delaware Department of Transportation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on land use coordination. SARG was instrumental in bringing the original, outdated 1988 MOU to the public’s attention, resulting in this new version.

The newly adopted version should improve planning for and the management and mitigation of the increased traffic that accompanies new development. It supplies more transparency in the coordination process between the county and DelDOT; provides for a greater emphasis on the establishment and enforcement of level of service (LOS) standards; and establishes the ability for DelDOT to recommend phasing new development to allow for infrastructure improvements to match growth.

SARG commends the county for its efforts to revise this document, but it is our opinion that the latest county revision does not go far enough to improve the clarity and effectiveness of the MOU now and in the future. Some issues are easily corrected, while others are more complex. Some notable examples:

• Throughout this draft, there are many generic references to “Sussex County” making decisions but never clarifying who makes those decisions — staff, Planning Commission or County Council.

• The new MOU still tends to consider property owners’ rights as a higher priority than the rights of the public.

• In several sections, the county is tasked with making critical decisions regarding levels of service and other conditions impacting the public, but no objective standards, criteria or a clear public process for determining an outcome is provided.

With the adoption of this MOU, Sussex County can no longer claim to have no responsibility for remediation of traffic congestion. The revised MOU clearly gives the county the authority — and the responsibility — to be more proactive in cooperating with DelDOT to better predict and resolve traffic mitigation issues, as well as providing more transparency to the public.

SARG will continue to monitor the implementation of the new MOU and hopefully have the opportunity to work with the county and all stakeholders to fully implement the provisions of the new MOU.

Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth