Sussex County has long been revered in the Diamond State for scenic landscapes spanning ocean, bays, and beaches, to farmland, forests, and state parks. However, the county is growing rapidly — census figures show a population increase of nearly 40% in the last 10 years — and there is concern that without proper planning, the homes, highways, utilities, and other infrastructure needed to support more residents will harm the natural resources that make the county such an attractive place to live.
On Thursday, May 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the University of Delaware’s Virden Center on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, a seminar will be held to demonstrate ways that communities can meet the demands of a growing population without placing undue pressure on the environment. “Livable Communities: Balancing Growth and Environmental Protection in Sussex County” will feature presentations by land-use planners and environmental educators from national and local programs. The event is being organized by the UD Sea Grant College Program and the Greater Lewes Foundation.
Governor Ruth Ann Minner has been invited to speak about her recently announced “Livable Delaware” Program, which seeks to reduce sprawl and unplanned growth in the state. Other presentations will focus on land-use planning tools and techniques.
“Sussex County has experienced an explosion in growth during the past few decades, and many residents are worried that development is occurring at the expense of the environment,” says Jim Falk, director of the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, and one of the seminar organizers. “If we can make protecting natural resources the cornerstone in land-use decision making in our communities, we believe the county can maintain and enhance its economic health and the quality of life of residents.”
Seminar attendees will learn more about the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) project based at the University of Connecticut, which focuses on the water-quality impacts of land-use decisions. John Rozum, NEMO’s national coordinator, and colleagues Chester Arnold and Jim Gibbons, will show local officials new approaches for protecting the water resources in their communities.
Steve Williams, Whole Basin Coordinator, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and Mike Mahaffie, Planner, Office of State Planning Coordination, will highlight the land-use planning tools they have available to assist local decision makers. Teresa Durkin, Principal, Andropogon Associates, a landscape architectural firm in Philadelphia, will share her company’s vision for ecological site planning.
A special panel will provide their perspectives on resolving land-use issues in the county and then engage in a dialogue with the audience. Speakers will include Representative Shirley Price, Delaware General Assembly; Nicholas DiPasquale, Secretary, DNREC (invited); Nathan Hayward III, Secretary, Department of Transportation; Dave Hugg, Director, Office of State Planning Coordination; Robert Stickels, Sussex County Administrator; Peggy Baunchalk, Mayor of Fenwick Island; and John Ross Harris, President/CEO, Environmental Consultants International Corporation.
Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. The formal program will follow at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:00 p.m. Afterward, a reception will be held to allow attendees to discuss options for conservation planning with local, county, and state public officials.
The seminar costs $25 per person, and advanced registration is required. To register, contact Rita Baty at the UD Sea Grant College Program in Lewes at (302) 645-4346, or e-mail her at email@example.com. UD’s Virden Center is located on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes.