County DelDOT MOU approval

Sussex County officials sign off on the revision of the County's memorandum-of-understanding with DelDOT over land-use coordination on Sept. 22.

The Sussex County Council, at its Tuesday, Sept. 22, meeting, unanimously approved the revised memorandum-of-understanding (MOU) for land development coordination with the Delaware Department of Transportation, making it effective immediately.

Council President Mike Vincent said that while the agreement is “not a silver bullet,” it provides helpful information. The document was discussed at several earlier county council meetings and at public hearings, and public input was accepted.

In March, Mark Cote, director of planning for DelDOT, and Vince Robinson, assistant county attorney, explained changes to the county council, with Robinson saying the MOU is now easier to understand, but there were not a lot of substantive changes.

The MOU — which is not a code change but an “agreement for process and procedure” — contains a checklist of what is required prior to a hearing on land use, so County agenda items don’t have to be tabled until all information is ready.

Robinson had earlier told the council that it will give county officials transportation information earlier in the land-use application process and county officials will continue to control land use.

The revision was intended to improve the working relationship between the council and DelDOT, as well as communication, Councilman John Rieley told the Coastal Point earlier this year. The MOU was originally written in 1988.

“DelDOT controls the roads. We control land use, and that’s where the disconnect comes in. If you’re not talking to each other, there is no coordination at all. Not that we will be coordinated perfectly now, but better communication will help,” Rieley said at the time.

At this week’s county council meeting, it was clarified that the term “fee in lieu” — meaning a developer pays instead of meeting stormwater control requirements — was changed to “area wide study fee.”

Other definitions were clarified earlier this year and include master planning, clearer explanations of a traffic impact study, traffic operational analysis and area wide study, phasing, intersection level of service requirements and more emphasis on the traffic impact study review letter provided by DelDOT officials.

In July, when the council discussed the revision with representatives from DelDOT, Robinson said the revised MOU provides better and more usable information and states county officials are invited to participate in all conversations for an improved exchange of information.

“We haven‘t always had a seat at that table. It isn’t because of any wrongdoing,” he said.

Rieley said he’s heard it sometimes takes “an inordinate amount of time to get a permit” and asked that the document set a reasonable limit. Agreeing, Robinson said, “We don’t want things to be held up.”

Councilman I.G. Burton said the MOU is not an ordinance, but an understanding of expectations.

“This has always been the chicken-and-the-egg scenario, and it must stop. It’s not OK anymore for DelDOT to say, ‘We’re not going to supply information until after you have made your land-use decision.’ We cannot make good land use decisions without the correct information especially in hot [traffic] areas. I understand DelDOT’s position when it’s a real rural area and they don’t want to do all the traffic counts and there has just been no development out there. I understand that, but I think in hot areas … we have to know,” he said.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.