Cape Gazette
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Friday Editorial

County process for approving projects needs an overhaul

Aug 15, 2014

Sussex County is growing rapidly, and it appears county leaders are struggling to keep up.

Whether it’s an ordinance to require review of a huge music venue, or regulations governing who can sell vegetables or hot dogs where, county ordinances are inadequate, cumbersome and don’t appear to serve the people who want to offer services or the public who wants to enjoy them.

Council has yet to vote on whether to allow a large-scale musical festival to take place on a Sussex County farm. The planning and zoning commission has already recommended denial of the project, and council appears to agree that the applicant has not provided sufficient detail for a vote of approval.

But exactly what details are required? The answer is not clear.

At the top of the list of concerns for the music venue is traffic that as many as 20,000 people attending the event would bring. Transportation officials outlined numerous difficulties with the proposal during a county council hearing, but apparently, the problems were so striking the secretary of transportation weighed in to clarify that the agency recommends denial of the plan.

Unfortunately, his letter went straight to the trash because the public record on the project was already closed.

Seriously? Is this a reasonable process for approving a major event?

Had this been a large subdivision or a request for a shopping complex, the process would generally have included review by state agencies under the preliminary land use service. Should an event intended to attract 5,000 RVs and 20,000 people over a four-day period receive less scrutiny?

At the other end of the spectrum, county regulations require a vendor who wants to sell hot dogs in a commercial parking lot to submit a site plan for review, which, together with various fees, could cost as much as $1,000.

Sussex County Council needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work. Current ordinances should be overhauled so everyone who proposes an activity knows exactly what is required in order for the project to be approved, and what is required should reflect the complexity of the project, and the way to start is to hire a planner.

 

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