Wood announces mayoral candidacy

In response to numerous questions from friends and neighbors regarding the election for Mayor of Ocean View this April, I have an answer — I will run. I will run an active and vigorous campaign.

Why? As I tried to teach my sons, there is an obligation to pay back those teachers, friends, neighbors, associates and others who have made it possible to experience, learn, contribute and accomplish. I have a huge debt. This is another important opportunity to contribute to our town — make another payment in return. I will run.

I ran for election to the Ocean View Town Council last April and lost by fewer votes than there were friends on Daisey Avenue who wanted to vote but were not registered. Questions about districts precluded an earlier start. The Town Council has fixed both problems.

The experience gained through a long engineering, management, legal and banking career, as well as service and leadership on numerous civic association and other boards and councils can serve Ocean View. This experience, which includes two busy and productive terms as a commissioner of Bethany Beach a number of years ago, has, I believe, uniquely prepared me to serve the town of Ocean View. I look forward to the opportunity to serve.

If you don’t get the money right, nothing goes right. The town of Ocean View faces crucial review and decisions regarding funding and expenditures. This is always a continuing problem for towns, but for Ocean View it is an immediate and real problem requiring effective development of priorities. These are hugely important decisions requiring a competent council which works together. The three returning capable incumbents, a new councilman to be elected in April and I, as mayor, can foster an attitude of cooperative deliberation on the issues our town faces. We will be successful.

Members of a council don’t have to agree on all aspects of decision making, but members must work together when there are competing views. There should always be effective and constructive advocates for their positions and proposals. Members can disagree — agreeably. We will all work for what is best for Ocean View and decision making will involve fact-based evaluations, comity between members and constructive deliberations to develop the right answers. What we accomplish and not how it is done will be the focus of newspaper articles about us.

Ocean View is fortunate in having reasonable tax rates, capable employees and a strong public safety department, but we can do better. In my view, our capabilities must be retained and collected taxes must be effectively utilized. As I said last year, I will not ever vote to raise taxes unless fully convinced there are no acceptable alternatives.

I will favor a strong, well-trained and equipped police force capable of meeting town needs, as determined by the council.

I support the concept of a capable, experienced and hard-working town manager. The complexity of detail of most issues requires and experience manager working for the council.

I absolutely love living in the town of Ocean View, probably even more than I did a long time ago when I completed junior high school and high school at the Lord Baltimore School. Ocean View was a great place then and, however different, it is a great place now. Your town council will work for you to make sure it always is.

I will ask for your vote in April and I will show I deserve it by being an effective mayor and leader on the council and worker for you.

Gordon E. Wood Sr.
Ocean View

Another missed chance for Delaware

How often does a $1.5 billion construction project come to Delaware? Particularly one that will improve the air quality and provide hundreds of new jobs at a time when the Chrysler plant in Newark is facing shutdown, and the housing industry is in a slump.

Bluewater Wind has offered to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States along the coast of Sussex County, but our state legislature has thrown a roadblock in the way — in spite of the recommendation of the Public Service Commission and more than a year of studies and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Some legislators say this plan is too expensive for residential customers. Yet according to the independent consultant hired by the Public Service Commission, we will pay an average of only $6.50 per month more over the 25-year life of the contract. Compared to Delmarva’s last rate hike of $54 per month by their own calculation, this sounds like a great opportunity for Delaware — if we can only convince our legislators.

David Jaeger

County shows disregard for environment

On Dec. 10, 2007, I attended a meeting of the Livable Delaware Advisory Council that is chaired by Lt. Gov. John C. Carney. After intently listening to Sussex County officials’ presentation of the draft Sussex County Comprehensive Plan Update and the ensuing discussion regarding the adequacy of the plan, I came away with an overwhelming sense of frustration.

I am particularly concerned about what is taking place in my native county with respect to land development and protection of the environment, as well as the continuing disregard for future consequences of sensible and protective land use planning.

I was born in Lewes and raised in Laurel. I have a graduate degree in environmental engineering sciences and am a Certified Environmental Scientist Emeritus. From 1974 to 2004, I was the program manager of the Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section for Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

My office was involved with the processing of permit applications for conducting activity in wetlands and in lakes, streams and rivers. During my tenure I attended many national conferences that addressed the environmental impacts of uncontrolled development and the cost to society to restore damaged environmental ecosystems. I served on several Governors’ Task Forces, advisory groups and committees that were charged with examining the deteriorating water quality and natural habitats of Delaware’s Inland Bays — Rehoboth Bay, Indian River Bay and Little Assawoman Bay. I believe that I am more than qualified to speak out on the subject matter that I am presenting and the opinions that I am giving.

Let me first quote from an “Environmental Study of the Rehoboth, Indian River and Assawoman Bays” that was presented to then-Gov. Russell W. Peterson in 1969 by the State Game and Fish Commission, State Park Commission, State Planning Office, Water and Air Resources Commission, Delaware Geological Survey and Marine Laboratories of the University of Delaware. Keep in mind that report was presented in 1969: “The inland bays of Sussex County, while still prime recreational areas, are in danger of being despoiled through increasing and uncontrolled development.”

The report discusses the threats posed and then makes a series of recommendations, one of which is that the land surrounding the Inland Bays be restricted to low-density residential development. In July, 1981, I chaired the initial meeting of DNREC’s Inland Bays Study Group which was convened by concerned DNREC managers and scientists. After two years of study, a “Summary Report” was submitted to the newly formed Governor’s Task Force on the Inland Bays.

Issues pertinent to this article were: the lack of proper land use planning in spite of rapid population growth; lack of comprehensive evaluation of the overall impact of large development projects by DNREC; lack of local ordinances for the protection of wetlands; saltwater contamination of wells due to increased withdrawal of drinking water; and Sussex County Council’s failure to adhere to the recommendations of the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission.

It was the oft-repeated goal of the Study Group to preserve the Inland Bays so that they would be a viable resource for use by our grandchildren. Well, many who were members of the group are now grandparents and it appears that, although much has been done, there has not been enough stewardship to protect the Inland Bays from the types of stress that are described further on in this article.

It happens over and over again around this country. We find a “jewel” of nature and then we lose sight of what initially attracted us to the location. Eventually the jewel becomes tarnished and we begin to look elsewhere for other pristine areas to live and recreate.

There is one project that I have been following which exemplifies very well the points that I am trying to make. On March 31, 2005, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing for a request for a zoning change from MR to MR-RPC for a proposed development on Walter’s Bluff Road in Sussex County. Access to the property required the construction of a 1,256-foot bridge through wetlands in order to access the land proposed for development. On May 12, 2005, the Commission voted unanimously (5-0) to recommend to Sussex County Council that the zoning request be denied.

The Commission stated that the proposed project was not in compliance with the Subdivision Ordinance because it did not have minimal impact on floodplains and wetlands, did not adequately preserve natural and historic features, did not have county-approved sewerage service, provided only one means of ingress and egress to the property, and was in an environmentally sensitive overlay zone.

Sussex County Council conducted a public hearing on April 19, 2005 and on April 25, 2006, voted 4-1 to overrule the Planning Commission’s recommendations and approve the zoning. The approval also mandated that the bridge over wetlands be replaced with a filled roadway. Recently, after a private party filed a lawsuit, Chancery Court invalidated the zoning. The decision has been appealed by the developer. It should be noted that the developer went through the state’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) process.

On June 21, 2004, the State Planning Office sent a nine-page letter to the developer listing the state’s myriad concerns with the proposal and again expressed concern in a March 28, 2005, letter to Sussex County Planning about, “the potential impacts to the environment if this project moves forward.”

The developer now has permit applications pending before DNREC and the Corps of Engineers. In spite of the number of permits required for this project, neither DNREC nor the Corps has a requirement that a routine environmental assessment of all of the cumulative impacts of the project must be prepared.

Delaware’s Inland Bays are part of the National Estuary Program. The Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) oversees the implementation of this program. I have been a member of the CIB’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) for many years. Over the years, at our meetings, the members have listened to presentations from DNREC scientists, researchers from the University of Delaware’s College of Marine and Earth Studies, research scientists studying other national estuary sites, such as the Chesaspeake Bay, and from scientists with national expertise in water quality issues.

It is my concern that most people, including Delaware’s elected officials, are not aware of the ongoing and, in some cases, the worsening conditions of our inland bays. Topics that have been addressed are continuing fish kills due to low dissolved oxygen, continued closure of shellfish areas due to poor water quality, presence of large quantities of sea lettuce due to high levels of nutrients, the presence of toxic algae, the presence of toxic dinoflagellates, the lack of submerged aquatic vegetation, and most recently the unexplained dying of large areas of tidal wetlands surrounding the bays.

At the Dec. 10, 2007 Livable Delaware Advisory Council meeting, several of Delaware’s elected officials cautioned those in attendance regarding over-regulation and “taking” property without proper compensation. They felt that Sussex County is doing an admiral job at controlling growth.

I guess that I don’t get it. Isn’t it the taxpayers that have to pay for the services to support uncontrolled growth — more schools, more roads, sewer services, water supply, fire houses, libraries, emergency assistance, etc.? Would they argue that when the inevitable decline in property value occurs from overbuilding and the lack of environmental protection the property owners should be compensated for the loss in the value of their property?

So, what can be done? I would offer the following as suggestion for serious consideration:

• The ability of Sussex County Council to simply overrule the recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Commission must be examined. The system is broken when elected officials have the final say without resorting to expensive and timely litigation. Even decisions of our president can be overridden and reviewed again. DNREC has a separate, governor-appointed, citizen’s Environmental Appeals Board that can hear appeals of any decision made by the Secretary of DNREC. There should be a similar system in place in Sussex County.

• The Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination should have the authority to invalidate zoning changes if the change violates the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Why all the haggling over assuring that Sussex County adopts a “sufficient” plan just to have it ignored, as is the case in the project which I have described. The present Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Sussex County was approved subject to the implementation of several new ordinances needed to assure proper land use decisions. Some of them still have not been adopted. If the state cannot review egregious deviations from their approved plan, it begs that question of the need for a plan to begin with.

• The Center for the Inland Bays needs to reach out to a larger audience in order to “get the message out” regarding the condition of the Inland Bays. In particular, I would suggest a presentation to our elected state officials that would summarize existing conditions that have been presented to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee.

• DNREC needs to support legislation or enact regulations that would require that applicants for permits prepare an environmental impact statement that would address the cumulative impacts on the environment that would result from the issuance of permits by DNREC. This is a requirement in other states. If it is determined that a project does not meet a certain threshold or does not achieve a certain ”score,” then the application is denied subject to an appeal.

At the Dec. 10, 2007 Livable Delaware meeting, Lt. Gov. Carney asked questions regarding the condition of the Inland Bays and how they were to be protected with the Comprehensive Plan Update. No one had an answer. I am hopeful that answers will be forthcoming and that we will start to make meaningful progress to restore Delaware’s Inland Bays.

William F. Moyer

Reader offers thanks for support of local arts

Before the new year gets under way, I would like to thank Darin McCann and the staff of the Coastal Point for their dedicated support to the artists and art community of Southern Delaware, especially the Rehoboth Art League, Coastal Concerts, SEDAST, Millsboro Art League, Milton Arts Guild, Bethany Beach Watercolor Society, Art in the Afternoon, Poetry At The Beach, Milton Poetry Festival, Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild, Possum Point Players, Henlopen Theatre Project, Rehoboth Beach Film Festival, and the new Creative Writing Center of Delaware.

Our apologies if we’ve left anyone out, but without newspapers like the Coastal Point, our quality of life would be greatly diminished. The art community, after all, is the third most important economic driver in our area; taxes come first, then the beach itself, and then the art community — it’s the reason people move here, rather than some other beach community.

Thank you again, Coastal Point.

Anne and Gary Hanna

County’s comp plan inconsistent with law

When considered in concert with recent media coverage regarding the actions of some County Council members, county representatives, and assorted individuals acting in support of Sussex County’s governing body, the Dept. of State Planning’s recently released PLUS report, a 71-page critique of Sussex County’s proposed Comprehensive Plan updates [http://stateplanning.Delaware.gov/plus/comments/2007-11-11_response.pdf], raises concerns and questions.

• The PLUS report cites twelve specific categories where the proposed Plan is either inconsistent with or fails to adequately address the statutory requisites elaborated in the Delaware Code. However, considering the County’s inability to comprehend that clear cutting a wooded area to construct a storm water management pond is not synonymous with maintaining a “forested” buffer, it should not be surprising that (1) the County doesn’t understand State Law or (2) that the County’s draft plan is inconsistent with State Law.

• And, we read in the proposed Comp Plan that the proposed Transfer of Development Rights program, supposed to be for the agricultural community’s benefit, will have to compete with the County’s Density bonus programs which sells density at a fixed, legislatively deflated, level [not market value].

• If the foregoing isn’t bad enough, we next listen to appointed committee representatives telling residents of municipalities that their concerns regarding wellhead protection for municipal water supplies do not matter. They disregard the fact that population statistics establish that 30-plus percent of all Sussex County residents live in municipalities.

• Neither should it be surprising that some Sussex County representatives have stated that a suggestion regarding a density reduction in the AR-1 zoning district [large lot zoning] constitutes “fighting words” and would “require” compensation [alluding to a takings]. The defensive posture pertaining to “property rights,” a justly sensitive topic, has also become an arena for patriotic pontifications. But, when one embraces the garb of patriotism and quotes our founding fathers one must accept the totality of that garb, not just one sleeve that fits a purpose. Many a wise man has made a remark that can be applied out of context. And, so it is with quoting our founding fathers and applying their words to an issue more than 200 years later.

• However, it must also be remembered that our nation’s founders created the U.S. Supreme Court and charged same to interpret the law. The Court’s findings spanning from the 1920s to date are consistent on takings. In William C. Haas & Co. V. City and County of San Francisco (1979), a California federal court approved a local regulation that reduced the allowable height for a future residential high-rise building on the plaintiff’s property from 300 to 40 feet, despite a reduction in the speculative value of the property from $2 million to $100,000. In so ruling the court cited the substantial public benefit of reducing congestion in the neighborhood, preserving light and air available to neighbors, and serving aesthetic values to the city as a whole.

• One would think that the county government, in its alleged zeal to protect rights, would be aware of this and other aspects of the takings issue which are discussed by the Institute of Local Governments [http://www.cacities.org/index.jsp?zone=ilsg&previewStory=20212] where the following may be found on their Web site, there is “No Guarantee to Speculative Uses of Land. The Takings Clause is often misconstrued as a prohibition against any regulation that either decreases property value or prohibits individuals from doing what they want with their land. The Takings Clause, however, provides no such guarantees.” The organization’s paper further states that the takings clause, “… merely provides that a public agency must compensate landowners when a regulation has the same effect as a permanent governmental occupation, such as a total wipe out of value.” And, it also establishes that, “… one of the earliest tenets of property ownership provides that landowners may not engage in activities that interfere with the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties.”

And, the cumulative impact of all of the foregoing...? Well, it probably will make many realize the true depth of the County government’s indifference toward the residents of Sussex County.

Richard H. Anthony, Chairman
Sierra Club — Southern Delaware Group