Editor:

I read with some interest Susan Canfora’s article about an upcoming protest in Georgetown focused on the pace of development, particularly in the coastal region of Sussex County.

As an active part of Evans Farm Watch and sympathetic to the intent, I believe those organizing this are ignoring the root cause and treating a result, rather than a cause. I certainly support their protest, but by itself it will not be enough.

There will be no changes in how zoning issues are addressed by the council till there is a more equitable alignment of the councilmanic districts. The time to address this is now, as before the next elections, by law and a long-established Supreme Court precedent, the districts must be revised based on census data.

Currently, there is a single district where the majority of voters live in the coastal area, the region designated for development. Two other districts include part of the region, but in both cases the majority of the voters in those districts do not live here.

In one case, Councilman Rieley’s district, less than 10 percent of the voters are coastal residents; in the other, Mr. Schaeffer’s district, it is a bit less lopsided but still heavily weighted toward voters less engaged with the issues that impact the shore. This is not a criticism of either councilman, but a recognition, to serve the majority of their districts’ voters well they will be focused on needs elsewhere.

Reapportionment of districts is not something that should be done in the dark, as seems to be the case in the county. While the classic problem of partisan gerrymandering to favor one party or another isn’t much of an issue in a county as red as Sussex County is, gerrymandering can still occur.

I would call particular attention to the current District 5, which is somewhat shaped like an inverted T, and covers South Bethany, parts of Millville, and Fenwick, but also Laurel and Delmar and other areas with little in common with the beach community. District 5 could be an example of gerrymandering to shift power away from the beach and favor the interests of the western County. I say may be, as it’s not clear that was the intent, but it clearly is the impact.

While districts need to have roughly the same number of citizens, as set forth in a Supreme Court ruling on “one man one vote.” That same ruling also indicates districts should be based on common interests of the citizens. The interests of a resident of Delmar and one of Fenwick will be very different.

Both sides of the county need adequate representation, but currently it is skewed toward the west. One problem the beach communities face is the large number of part-time owners, but again the fact that there is only one district with a majority of owners only compounds that problem.

Rather than Balkanizing the beach by having small pieces in two districts, an effort should be made to consolidate the beach into only two districts, including some of the towns and communities along Route 113 who share some of the issues, such as traffic congestion in the summer months, the failure of the County to provide funds for green space in what is becoming a sea of houses, and the lack of recreational facilities that are year-round, such as indoor swimming. It is shocking that a county the size of Sussex has no parks and recreation department.

Currently, our communities at the beach generate a large part of the county’s budgetary surplus, but we have limited say in how that is used and also lack the voice on issues such as further growth. I am not suggesting that development stop, but the County’s failure to make use of its power to seek more rapid traffic improvement in the area along Route 26 must change.

In a recent list of projects using the accelerated funding process where the County advances money to DelDOT to move work up, no projects were funded in the Millville and Ocean View area. This despite several proposals put forward.

There has been very little coverage of this important process and virtually no attempt to get any public input on how the County will handle redistricting. The process is so hidden [that] several County employees [who were] asked about where to address concerns about this thought the process was handled by the State Legislature and directed me there. In conversation with Delegate Schwartzkopf’s office, I learned this matter is handled by the County and, in fact, by the County’s legal counsel.

I urge you to write Todd Lawson, the Sussex County administrator, to express concern over the situation and also to ask the county [to] create a process for public input into this critical function. Our nation fought a war over the issue of taxation without representation in 1776. While we have some representation in Georgetown, it is not proportionate to the amount of the county budget dependent on us — we need more say.

Martin S. Lampner, President

White’s Creek Manor Property Owners Association