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Sussex County Council approves new development buffer ordinance

After what seems to be years of debate and discussion, this week Sussex County has "modernized" their "Drainage and Resource Buffer Ordinance" for developments. The Friends of the Nanticoke River has been one of the many voices concerned about the environment lobbying County officials for effective government regulations. The 34 page ordinance written up last December has been somewhat improved by the addition of eleven amendments, taking into account comments made during two public hearings in the meantime. It is somewhat an improvement over the old regulations, it even offers protection to perennial streams that Maryland does not regulate. It bothers us that a developer could still clear cut a forest before submitting a development plan.

One of our sources heard from Mr. Robertson, who read out the amendments (he missed the first one):

1. Disclosure statements on site containing language about penalties for disturbing resource buffer or violating the rules.

2. Improvements to final site plans - boundaries and permanent markers note to site plat. The markers will contain language re: penalties for disturbance of buffer and violations of the rules.

3. More language about markers and signage at the upland edge of the buffer, which will be marked with permanent 5"x7" markers.

4. Buffer averaging can only occur in the same resource, adjacent to the same resource. (Zone B).

5. Changes to Table regarding permitted uses (cells 17, 18, and adding new cell 24) having to do with walking trails and no storm water ponds in buffer zones.

6. Changing "native" to "natural".  (County Engineer Hans Medlarz chimed in that the "native plant" list is in flux plus the word "natural" is mostly used in the document, with only a couple of "natives" and they want to be consistent.)

7. Clarifying sec. G re: cannot use buffer averaging in tidal wetlands/waters areas, but can happen in non-tidal wetlands/waters. (Mr. Hudson had a question about inter-changing meadows and forested areas in buffer averaging.)

8. More clarifying of sec. G and removing Zone A from buffer averaging. All references to Zone A deleted. And area of conservation easement may not be for agricultural use.

9. Penalties. New sub-paragraph "K". fine of $10,000 per quarter acre of disturbance. Resource buffer rehabilitation and replanting. if one tree removed (measurements specified), must be replaced by 3 trees. Property owner shall be responsible for survival of trees replanted, for at least a 2-year period. No building / zoning permits shall be issued for area where violation occurred. (Robertson indicated that constables would take enforcement action through the courts.)

10. Zoning Code language would be made consistent with new wetlands/buffer ordinance -- e.g., boundaries to be marked, signs about disturbance of buffers subject to penalties, etc.

The County's version of this event, including much patting themselves on the back, can be found here:

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