Posts Tagged ‘Sussex County’

Public hearings better than reality TV

September 11, 2009

The much bally-hooed hearing on Lingo Townsend Associates’ Village Centre proposal started at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 and finished about 12:15 a.m. Friday morning.  Sussex Planning and Zoning Director Lawrence Lank said it may be the longest continuous public hearing on record.  Here are some observations:

• Chairman Bob Wheatley, with one exception, ran a good meeting.  When people were out of line with applause or snickering, he nipped them in the bud.  The result was a civil evening with moments of laughter to relieve the thickness of the testimony. Wheatley kept people on the subject at hand but gave everyone plenty of latitude to say their piece.  The only time he slipped was when he allowed P&Z member Marty Ross to tee off on Sen. Gary Simpson, making him a scapegoat for what Ross considers DelDOT’s failed improvement policies in Sussex.  Simpson told P&Z members that he knows of no plans to dualize Kings Highway and knows of no funds available in the next few years for improvement projects in the area.  He came in a week or so after Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf appeared before the commissioners and told them people in eastern Sussex were losing confidence in the county government.  Ross and Wheatley appeared to take vindictive pleasure in railing at Simpson as if he were representative of all that’s wrong with state government.  Wheatley should have reined Ross in long before P&Z Attorney Vince Roberston saw Ross on thin ice with one foot already in cold water.  Ross said DelDOT’s highway improvement policy in Sussex amounts to allowing developers to fix our roads as part of development proposals.  “That’s why we have to recommend approval for projects like this one,” said Ross about the Village Center proposal which includes $3.5 million worth of highway construction improvements and $5 million in rights-of-way for improvements.  Robertson listened while Wheatley sat back in his chair and Ross railed on. On that note, however, Robertson leaned forward and cautioned Ross against making satements indicating he has already made his mind up before hearing all testimony.  That brought sanity back. Afterwards, standing by the front door of the county administration building with its glass splattered by heavy rain in the night’s quiet hours, Wheatley said he hoped the planners could make the right decision.

• Watching hearings like this one is far better than reality TV.  They’re real, with plenty of emotion, including anger and humor.  There’s also instant voting by those in attendance.  At the Village Centre hearing, Wheatley took a count of those in attendance for and against the proposed rezoning.  The county showed 17 for and 114 against.

• Opposition attorney John Sergovic told planning members that the comprehensive land use plan, as mentioned by the proponents,  provides for the possibility of large commercial complexes along major arterial roads.  He noted that the proponents said one of those major arterials runs along their site. Business Route 9 from Route 1 to the southwestern boundary of Lewes is a designated major arterial.  But, said Sergovic, Busines Route 9 is Savannah Road, not Kings Highway which is simply designated Route 9.  The photo below proves Sergovic right about what is Route 9 and what is Business Route 9 .  Now, what exactly the comp plan means is subject to question.0909sign

Back to normal with rain and ‘shrooms

June 22, 2009


Following the weekend rains, we’re almost back to normal rainfall for the year. At this point on the calendar we usually have 21 inches of rainfall in Sussex County. As of last week we were up to 18.5 inches. A couple of more block parties and garden tours ought to get us there. In the mean time, mushrooms and other fungi are loving the weather.

There’s no wonder why people think of mushrooms as having magical qualities. They appear suddenly, as if all of their growth is in another dimension. Then, when people aren’t looking, they become visible. Such is the case with the mushroom shown here that sprouted last week in the mulch ring around a sycamore tree at Nassau Valley Vineyards. It is without a doubt the largest mushroom I’ve ever seen and that counts mushrooms that I encounter deep in the woods where dead trees host thick growths of wet moss begging for mushroom conventions.

I carried a Mountain Dew can with me to photograph with the mushroom to show scale. Lying on my belly, I shot from gnome height and the mushroom took on majestic proportions, looking almost palatial with its color of white marble. The giant popped up overnight. Maybe it was a controlled natural explosion. They obviously don’t call nuclear blasts mushroom clouds for nothing.

Making our communities nicer

June 9, 2009

dennis20090609As a community, we continue to tolerate too many problems that bring our neighborhoods down. This burned out house in West Rehoboth has marred the streetscape of the area for far too long. In fact, in the past couple of years, the house has burned twice. At this point, the best use of the structure would be for a controlled burn to help train the dedicated volunteers of Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company. West Rehoboth is a community of real people with a variety of widely divergent neighborhoods whose residents deserve better than walking and riding by a burned-out shell every day. The days of Hebron Road being a dead-end haven for drug dealing and other outlaw activities ended when the road was connected to Holland Glade Road and Church Street. Structures such as this one are not only hard on the eyes, but also create danger zones for children. If the property owners wont remove the eyesore themselves, Sussex County should bulldoze the structure and put a lien on the property to cover those costs. The property where the structure sits is a valuable corner lot. Its sale would more than cover the cost of removing the burned out building.

Man pulls and nature pushes: a business fundamental

May 20, 2009


A long white Pontiac Catalina convertible sat in front of Café Azafran in downtown Lewes one recent spring evening. Just about suppertime, its occupants were off in one of the local eateries, leaving their transportation for passersby to ponder. Its shiny red interior sparked imaginative cruises on Sussex County’s winding and lightning bug-lit country roads on hazy summer nights.

General Motors, in an effort to find a business model that will work without billions of more dollars worth of U.S. taxpayers’ life support, recently announced that Pontiac is one of the models it will be eliminating.

There truly is nothing constant but change. That and the inexorable pull of gravity and nature on all things stretched across this planet. The Catalina’s current owners remember when cars like the white convertible drew all the stares when they promenaded up and down Rehoboth Avenue in the thick of the season. This one has been lovingly restored, its metal dashboard and chrome accents shining and bright, surprisingly hard against the hands of young ones more familiar with the safety-conscious padded dashboards of newer models. In field-rimming woods and behind barns in the countryside of Delmarva, more cars like this – but nowhere near as pretty – sit on their rims, windows shattered and tires long ago flattened by time’s insistent forces. Honeysuckle and briars climb through gaps created by rusting metal, occasionally given a head start by some youngster out target shooting with a .22 rifle. But even without the youngster, nature and all her soldiers – rain and sun and corrosive bird droppings – make short work of abandoned vehicles.

Businesses, large like General Motors, and small, like the hundreds we see around us in Sussex, need constant care and attention, cultivation and nurturing, to avoid the sure fate of cars abandoned to nature.

But, adjusting to changing times, with liberal application of brain power, common sense and elbow grease, businesses can thrive for long times and take on the patina and grace of the Catalina convertible, so obviously cared for, so obviously appreciated.

Billboard proliferation detracts from Sussex as a destination

April 18, 2009

Billboard proliferation continues unabated in Sussex County.  It seems like the first thing people do when they buy a piece of commercial property is to erect a billboard.  I understand the economics.  The more income you can get off a piece of property the better.  It helps pay the mortgage.  The problem is that Sussex County’s permissive billboard policies allow us to stack commercial upon commercial.  Not only can you build a commercial enterprise on your commercial land and erect the related signage, you can also put up billboards on the property to advertise other people’s businesses, so long as you have proper spacing between billboards.  In a concentrated commercial area like Route 1 between Nassau Overpass and Rehoboth Beach, the large number of billboards not only distracts from the many businesses trying to attract customers along the highway, they also detract from the natural beauty of our area – the fields and trees and waterways.  It’s one thing to have commercial signage for businesses, but when the clutter of ever-increasing billboards begins to tangle the messages into one large indistinguishable and eye-numbing blur, the commercial advantage begins to decline and with that the attractiveness to our area for tourism.  A computer-modeled build-out scenario showing how many billboards could be constructed in Sussex County under current regulations might open our eyes and allow us to develop new billboard guidelines that will be beneficial to all in Sussex County over the long haul.