Citizens Coalition board dissolves organizationDeclining membership, personal obligations cited
Lewes — Citizens Coalition Inc., a community watchdog organization that has supported managed growth, sustainable development and responsible land use in Sussex County, is disbanding.
“We’re all sad about it. We’ve been doing it for a generation. We’re not running away, we’re folding our tent,” said Michael Tyler, coalition president in an interview.
The group’s board of directors decided to end years of community activism rising from overdevelopment and disregard of long-range plans that considered residents and stakeholders.
Membership had fallen off from nearly 250 families when the organization started in 2000, to about 125 households, Tyler said
“We regret having to end this way but as was noted in a letter sent earlier this month to members explaining the decision to dissolve: ‘There is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven,’” he said.
Tyler said over the years, the coalition established a voice and became a community organization that influenced outcomes. “We stopped a super Walmart from coming to Route 9,” he said.
Tyler said about a year ago, the board asked members to seek seats on the panel, but no one stepped forward.
The nonprofit organization held off making the decision to dissolve, he said, because it was still involved in litigation against Tidewater Utilities Inc. and Sussex County regarding the Wandendale wastewater treatment plant.
“We believe it poses an environmental threat to the Inland Bays and is in violation of the Coastal Zone Act,” Tyler said.
He said after the lawsuit was dismissed, the coalition board said it was time to begin closing the organization’s books.
The group deeply researched every issue they faced, obtaining much of what they learned using the Freedom of Information Act, Tyler said.
“We sensitized the citizenry and energized people in coastal Sussex County to speak up about things that are important to quality of life,” he said.
The coalition also helped individuals prepare material that would be effective when presented to decision-makers.
“We were not a NIMBY (not in my back yard) voice. We’d tell people they had to have substantive data to provide a denying body,” Tyler said.
The decision to dissolve, Tyler said, was also based on personal concerns and the inability to dedicate time and resolve needed to keep a volunteer, nonprofit organization viable.
“We recognize that this decision was most difficult for community activist board members Hank Glowiak, Mable Granke, Bob Maegerle, Pat Torelli and Gale White, especially in view of our accomplishments.
“Citizens Coalition has been recognized by the Delaware General Assembly and other state and county officials as being a consistent and objective voice on environmental causes and critical land-use and planning issues,” Tyler said.
He said the organization made many inroads in staving off development where it didn’t belong, or at least requiring county government to take appropriate steps toward better decisions.
“We have provided testimony regarding dozens of residential and commercial development applications with the focus to preserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands, determine and evaluate critical traffic issues and provide residents with the wherewithal to speak out when their rights were jeopardized,” Tyler said.
According to state law and coalition by-laws, funds collected from members will be distributed to nonprofit groups who embrace the organization’s values and mission. Tyler said the coalition has identified six organizations that qualify.
Anyone may suggest qualified organizations. Go to www.citizenscoalition.net. Click on any board member’s email address to suggest a recipient.