Letters - November 17, 2006

Reader: Better buffers needed now

In May 2005 DNREC proposed buffer regulations for new residential developments to help protect and improve the long-term quality of Delaware’s Inland Bays. This proposal was the result of thoughtful investigation by scores of citizen volunteers organized by the Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) and by the professional technical experts at DNREC. These regulations paralleled the 2002 recommendations of Delaware’s Association of Coastal Towns and similar regulations already adopted in the neighboring coastal states of Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.

The parties most affected long-term by such regulations are homeowners throughout the Inland Bays watershed in Sussex County. If massive fish kills, offensive odors from rotting seaweed and “No Swimming” signs continue or increase, homeowner property values and local tourism will unquestionably be negatively impacted. The proposed 2005 buffer regulations were intended to help protect against these pollution-induced conditions.

Over the past year there has been strong resistance to the adoption of these regulations by lobbyists for the development community. They have claimed that the proposed 2005 buffer regulations would put a burden on the profitability and rights of those developers who want to build the absolute maximum allowable number of housing units on a given tract of land. This argument is faulty and misleading on at least two counts:

First, it fails to reveal that under Sussex County zoning regulations, the few houses that are not allowed to be built in buffer zones are, in fact, allowed in almost every instance to be added to the housing units built on land outside the buffer zones. Recently the County enhanced this provision by allowing smaller minimum lot sizes. The County also allows buffer zones to be included as a credit to a developer in meeting open-space requirements.

Secondly, this argument is a disservice to those conscientious developers who appreciate that environmentally protected development adds market value and appeal for an increasing number of today’s homebuyers. They want assurance that the developer has looked out for, not resisted, improvements in the quality of the environment surrounding their new home.

In August 2006, following 20 private meetings with various development representatives, the 2005 proposed buffer regulations were revised. Buffer widths were halved from 100 feet to 50 feet, many waterways were exempted from having any buffer protection and specific vegetation requirements were dropped. The resulting buffer regulations make very little contribution to cleaning up the bays. By any standards the revised buffer regulations are not satisfactory and should be withdrawn.

Delaware is very late in adopting meaningful buffer regulations as a tool to help improve the quality of its bays and waterways. But it’s not too late and the citizens want this to happen. The next step should be to allow the professional experts at DNREC and the CIB to collaborate to refine the proposed 2005 buffer regulations into effective, enforceable standards. This effort should begin right now.

Harry Haon
Fenwick Island

Alumni choir a hit, thanks to help

I would like to thank each and every one of the members of the alumni “Chancel Choir” of St. George’s United Methodist Church in Clarksville that participated in the program of our 190th celebration on Oct. 22.

How thrilled I was to see so many and so many I had not seen for several years. Thanks for your participation, enthusiasm and the fond memories. I will always cherish them. A special thank you to Joan Justice, Gloria McCabe and others for your choir help. There would not have been a Chancel Choir without them by my side.

I love you and may God continue to bless you and your families.

Love in Christ,
Joan Morin
St. George’s

Voter happy with election process

It’s nice to see that our system is working. I had voted absentee ballot and returned just prior to the election to find, at the poles, that I had been recorded as having voted. I’d like to commend all at District 41 and our Board of Elections for a “Job Well Done.”

Ronald F. Atherton