Planners are compelled to follow the plans

Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commissioners Bob Wheatley and Rodney Smith met with members of the Shore Democrats organization last week, and Wheatley made a particularly compelling remark during the discussion.

“Everything we do is governed by the planning and zoning ordinance,” said Wheatley. “We often have to act on things that we may not like, but it’s our job as planning and zoning commissioners to measure the application against the ordinance. Whatever the ordinance says, goes.”

Why is this such an important statement? Well, it’s really twofold. The first point is that many people in the community complain that P&Z approves too many projects, for too many homes, and the very fabric of our community is changing because of those decisions. The second is that builders who are looking at projects in Sussex County look at the ordinance closely before deciding to apply or not, and it’s important that they have all the facts before taking that big next step.

In a fair system, the ordinance would indeed be followed to the letter, and would be originally crafted with enough foresight to allow for responsible growth without changing the face of the community. And if a builder wishes to invest a significant amount of money into purchasing a piece of land, he or she should know what is or isn’t allowed to happen with said piece of land.

So, what can the people of this area do to affect that process?

Attend meetings. Be aware of the laws, and get involved via public comments when the land-use plan revision process starts. Complaining about decisions by the planners after the fact is akin to closing the barn door after the horse is gone.

Get involved. Stay involved. Make your voices heard.

But respect that the commissioners have a job to do.