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County Councilman pushes for alternate septic limits after county plan faces criticism

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

As a New Castle County plan to limit development on septic systems faces pushback, a council member is advocating a different approach.


An ordinance introduced in August would extend a current moratoriumand restrict new development using septic systems in certain zones to subdivisions of five or fewer parcels — effectively limiting development in areas not served by sewer. County officials say it would protect water quality and help prevent more sprawl in southern New Castle County.

The county government-backed plan saw pushbackfrom farmers and landowners at last week’s planning board hearing. Detractors characterized it as a down-zoning of many properties that would result in a loss of value.

County Councilman Dave Carter plans to introduce an alternate ordinance at the next council meeting that would dictate lot size based on the number of lots in new subdivisions using septic. 

“You can get the first ten at one acre, 11 to 25 at two acres, and then you would get a certain number at three acres,” he said. “That is because when you look at the average lot sizes, septic works well if it’s not concentrated. At some point it becomes able to treat that much and not add to the watershed. ”

“It’s an effort to make sure that we protect water quality and do it in a fair and equitable way to our rural landowners,” he added. 

County land use manager Rich Hall prefers the ordinance introduced in August. “Our draft ordinance is very clean and simple. It’s a proven approach,” he said. “[Carter’s  draft ordinance] would allow a lot more sprawl.”

Carter’s plan would also regulate maintenance of existing septic systems, which Hall says is more the purview of the state government.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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