Rural design efforts continue in Fenwick

Do you like where Sussex County’s headed, or fear something’s maybe getting lost along the way? And is yours a majority — or a minority — view regarding what a plan for the county’s future should include?

There’s been some discussion along these lines recently, starting with a three-day “Your Town: Citizens’ Institute for Rural Design” seminar in Lewes, and then, early this week, a workshop in Milton. More locally, the town of Fenwick Island will host its own on Your Town follow-up seminar on Friday, Nov. 4.

Fenwick Town Council Member R. Chris Clark attended the original seminar.

“By the end of the workshop, we had a rough map of what the county should look like in about 100 years,” he said.

“Everybody has their own agenda. Some people want half the (Sussex) County Council members voted out,” Clark said. “And that’s all fine — but even if we do have new people, they’re going to get in there and run into the same problems.

“We need to reevaluate, essentially, how the county operates,” he continued. “Sussex County is growing so fast, we stand to liquidate its entire net worth in one generation, by developing all its property all at once.”

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (with cooperation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation), the Your Town program “assists rural Americans in identifying, protecting, and enhancing their main streets, built heritage, cultural landscapes, and open spaces (from the National Endowment for the Arts Web site).”

Among the objectives, Your Town seeks to “build the capacity of local organizations to pro-actively deal with issues of community development and design quality.”

Clark said they’d started building from there, establishing a steering committee and sketching some rough strokes into “Sussex 2007 Plan: Choosing Our Community’s Future, Together.”

The county will be initiating another Comprehensive Plan update soon — and committee members are hoping their plan will lend some guidance.

“The instruction manual (county council members) are following right now seems to be a little out of whack,” Clark said.

Preliminarily, the committee has outlined a list of 10 principles:

1) Make development decisions open and fair to all, cost-effective and predictable.

2) Create safe, inviting neighborhoods for walking to shops, schools and parks, for children to play and for a neighborly sense of community.

3) Create a range of housing opportunities and choices.

4) Provide a variety of transportation options.

5) Strengthen existing communities and direct development in their direction.

6) Preserve scenic beauty, the environment, farmland and the quality of life.

7) Create complete neighborhoods where daily needs are close at hand.

8) Foster distinctive communities with surrounding greenbelts and farmland.

9) Make efficient use of public investment in infrastructure, open space and services.

10) (Encourage) good jobs, protection of property values, a stable business and investment climate.

For the time being, Clark said, the committee was focused simply on sharing information covered at the Your Town seminar, but throughout would be looking for ways to bring all factions together, as well.

“Right now, we’re looking at the eastern part of the county, but we plan to go west of Route 113 sometime in spring of 2006,” he said. “We get a lot of opinion from people in the eastern county, but that’s only half the plan.”

Citizens would have to establish east/west consensus, if they ever wanted to hand a new road map to Sussex County Council, he pointed out.

For more information, attend the steering committee’s Your Town follow-up workshop on Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m., at Fenwick Town Hall.