County reintroduces open space talk

Sussex County Council once again turned to the issue of open space requirements at the April 12 council meeting, continuing work begun last year.

Council adopted two ordinances related to minimum open space requirements in new developments in August (cluster development) and December (minimums required, rather than recommended, in subdivisions) of 2004.

Council Member George Cole voted against clustering, saying it didn’t require developers to dedicate more land than they would have had to anyway.

Council Member Vance Phillips supported it, calling increased pockets of higher density an incentive for developers to set aside the minimum 30 percent total acreage elsewhere on the parcel.

“The state is spending tens of millions of dollars to buy people’s development rights,” Phillips said, referring to the Farmland Preservation Program. “Clustering is a great way for common-sense environmentalist to secure tax-free open space.”

However, Cole said he still had problems with the very definition the county uses for open space, and this round of talks will likely return to that topic.

For one thing, golf courses. “Everything else that’s listed — they’re not commercial activities,” Cole said.

He also questioned the developers’ ability to include 404 wetlands (non-tidal, beyond county or state jurisdiction) in meeting open space requirements. “I think we need to see some uplands set aside,” he said.

Phillips said this year’s efforts in open space legislation would be aimed at supporting the comprehensive land use plan. “At the same time, there are efforts afoot to introduce certain restrictions not indicated in that plan,” he added.

In other business, council unanimously approved Oneida Justice’s conditional use application, for a contractors’ equipment storage building and yard (roughly 2.7 acres, on Parker House Road). Her brother, Paul Justice, runs a sand and gravel business adjacent to that location.

Council also unanimously approved Edward and Darlene Gartside’s application for a change of zone, from agricultural-residential (AR) to commercial, on 1.6 acres next to their restaurant in Roxana. Darlene Gartside noted plans to open a small apparel/gift shop at that location.

The Gartsides hadn’t realized they needed to attend in person, but drove to Georgetown at the 11th hour, in response to a phone call from county staff.

No such prompting was needed for residents interested in the Pierce-Hardy Limited Partnership application (84 Lumber expansion), however. That conditional use application drew a standing room only crowd, and took up the bulk of the meeting. Council deferred for further consideration of the evidence and testimony.