Letter to the Editor: Health, safety and welfare of Sussex residents at risk due to overdevelopment


Editor’s note: Jill Hicks shared these comments at the Jan. 24 Sussex County Council meeting.

I appreciate County Council’s job to balance the rights of property owners, while providing for the health, safety and welfare of the county. However, it is time to acknowledge the growing imbalance.

Sussex County ordinances and codes were written to promote growth. I understand why that is. And, in the past decade, strides have been made to streamline the process.

However, because of the efforts made to save the woods and wetlands of Coral Lakes, now renamed Brentwood, I have had the opportunity to hear from many residents. Their main concern is overdevelopment, which has led to two unsafe conditions.

The first is traffic congestion.

The second, ascending to the top, is health care. We can no longer secure timely appointments with our doctors. And it’s not the fault of the health care system. Sussex County has reached its crisis point, with the worst still looming ahead because of the large number of approved permits in the pipeline.

While on vacation in November, my husband had a medical emergency. Fortunately, we were in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was admitted and treated until he was well enough to make the trip home. When we arrived back in Lewes, Bill’s doctor recommended that he see a gastroenterologist ASAP. However, not even Bill’s doctor could secure him an appointment with a specialist anywhere in Sussex County, from Selbyville to Milford, until August. Unacceptable. He now travels two hours for his appointments.

We have established doctors here; we just can no longer see them without waiting for months. And this has become exponentially worse in the last two to five years.

Yes, Delaware is a property rights state. But New Castle and Kent counties are part of the same state, and they are finding ways to strike a better balance.

Here, in Sussex County, the risks continue to mount and outweigh the rewards.

Having said that, I am optimistic. On Jan. 10, County Council denied a requested land-use change to higher density near the Great Marsh. Their denial is significant and encouraging. The Sussex Preservation Coalition commends their decision and asks that they continue to hold the line on land-use and zoning changes to higher density until the needs of the county can be restored to a safe and healthy balance.

Jill Hicks

Vice president, Sussex Preservation Coalition

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