To: Sussex County Planning and Zoning
From: Phoebe Cottingham, 23793 Samuel Adams Circle, Millsboro DE 19966, 302-945-2227,
Re: Comments on the 2018 Sussex Comp Plan. (Sent via SARG for inclusion at the March
29, 2017 meeting)
Date: March 28, 2017
The 2018 Comp Plan for Sussex County should take as ‘the’ number one priority the support of
existing and future economic opportunities possible throughout the county. These opportunities
do differ by the natural resources and existing economic differences across the County, as shown
by the investments already made by individual land owners, companies, and the county-state
government agencies. Those differences need to be respected and allowed to evolve.
The County should not attempt to control or road-map economic possibilities by applying rules
or standards that the State may want for other counties, or that planners from other localities
promote. I have many professional associations with planners. Thus I have a friendly, but
healthy skepticism of the viability of the ‘big plan’ or ‘smart plan’ ideologies of the past.
Nor should the County take a particular group’s interests as ‘the key issue’. Rather the economic
history and data analysis presented clearly show that Sussex has had two main economic drivers
— the agriculture and tourism. Eastern Sussex is currently experiencing a third driver, residential
communities of retirees. It is likely that new economic development (jobs and businesses) will
soon take place in health care and associated services. There is a fourth area of economic
activity that is promising on the horizon, given the lower costs of bringing in new businesses
here versus nearby states, if not constrained by more regulatory checkoffs. This would be in
technology development and associated light industry that exports beyond Sussex.
As a resident of one of the newly built Eastern Sussex communities on farm land, I urge keeping
the plan ‘simple’. Avoid schemes from elsewhere that limit innovation and new opportunities.
Let the market signal what works here. We will see transitions take place, as competition clears
out what was not viable.
I come at the 2018 plan deliberations with a PhD in economics and ‘city planning’. I researched
freeway planning and then the intersection of economic development and policy attempts to
More pertinent, since moving here in 2010, I have been very active in land use deliberations, I’ve
attended three information sessions on the 2018 plan, the recent workshops in the Chambers, and a number of SCC and P&Z meetings. This started for me back in 2011-2012 when an
application for a music festival was contested by people in proximity and withdrawn.
From listening to many comments and the past six years attending meetings, I urge using the
individual land use application process, rather than the plan, to deal with proposed changes in
land use. Avoid taking on a new plan full of impossible regulations or ‘zones’ in an attempt to
control or protect x or y.
This means removing from the 2018 plan any 2008 plan details that never worked or were found
detrimental. Move forward only with very modest changes that have clear, practical impact and
justifications. Do not create ‘visions’.
Most of all, keep the following steps in P&Z and SCC deliberations as part of the regular order:
– Continue with the public hearing process to make decisions that are appropriate for the location
and type of activity.
– Use ordinances to clarify the activities that Sussex has learned have costs on others that
outweigh the likely economic change sought.
– Streamline the permit process to allow new opportunities to move much more quickly into
– Cost out better the changes needed in roads so that an application has already taken into
account the changes in traffic flows and agreed to contribute to the additional costs.
– Keep the focus on identifying water system weaknesses (both in sewer-drainage systems and
the water consumption needs) and expect changes in the future that will impact on the 2018
– Work closely with the State Department of Transportation on road status and plans for improvement.