Letter to the Editor: Sussex2030 opposes HB 104 exempting some development from PLUS reviews


Editor’s note: The following was recently sent to Delaware’s state senators. The Senate Housing & Land Use Committee may take action on House Bill 104 soon.

The Sussex2030 group, a nonpartisan grassroots group in Sussex County, is concerned about the brain drain from the state of Delaware and advocates for industries and schools that will prepare for the future needs of our state and carry us along the path of economic and technological advancements. We are not certain House Bill 104 addresses our state’s needs clearly and effectively.

Therefore, we are writing to express the rationale behind our opposition to House Bill 104, which seeks to exempt economic development projects located at least partially in the state’s Investment Levels 1 and 2 from the Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) review requirement.

This review is a legitimate and effective means for the state to achieve and ensure uniform operation of its regulatory regime in several areas where the state has retained a substantial interest, including land use, infrastructure, environment, historic preservation, etc., and thereby strikes the appropriate balance of state and local authority and responsibility in these areas.

PLUS reviews streamline the business development process by collecting feedback upfront from all state agencies in one sitting of fewer than 30 minutes. The process prevents potential setbacks and delays later on.

The proposed legislation does not provide any explanation, much less justification, for how this exemption will benefit the state or its residents. At a minimum, the public should expect a clear explanation of a problem and how the proposed legislation is the best solution to solve the identified problem.

The language of House Bill 104 — introduced March 30 and passed by the House committee and the House within a week — is also problematic in several respects:

  • The definition of an “economic development project” lacks sufficient specificity to permit any meaningful review and enforcement. Presumably, any commercial project alleged to create at least one full-time job in run-of-the-mill businesses, such as a gas station, would qualify for the exemption.
  • Allowing the exemption for a project that is at least partially located in Investment Levels 1 and 2 will no doubt lead to an attempt to expand the types of development contemplated for Investment Levels 1 and 2 to other areas and will likely lead to many unintended consequences.
  • Currently, the review process examines how a proposed project is consistent with the comprehensive plan (as well as land use and zoning) and permits the applicant to engage in a dialogue with state professionals regarding how their project conforms with the comprehensive plan. This process is then made a part of the record for review by the local planning and zoning commission and the county council or Levy Court. Permitting an applicant to merely argue without evidentiary support that its proposed project is “consistent” with these authorities so that it can entirely avoid the state’s involvement does not promote government accountability and will undoubtedly lead to great mischief and abuse.

We at Sussex2030 strongly urge all state senators to oppose this legislation as shortsighted and not in the state’s and its residents’ long-term best interest.

Eul Lee



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