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New Castle County ramps up environmental efforts with draft legislation package

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer presents a package of draft environmental legislation at Rockwood Park

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and land use officials announced an environmental agenda Wednesday comprised of seven pieces of draft legislation. The package focuses on issues ranging from protection of scenic byways to financing for commercial energy efficiency projects. 


Meyer cites insufficient action on climate change by elected leaders nationwide as the reason for the push locally.

“We in local leadership must take a stand and do actual things, pieces of legislation, and take individual actions to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent the further change of climate that will be harmful to future generations,” he said.

The draft legislative package starts with an ordinance limiting the height of landfills in the county, namely a controversial Minquadale-area landfill currently looking to expand. The measure could see a Council vote next week if it clears the land use committee. 

Also scheduled for a vote next week is a resolution that would allow the county to partner with Energize Delaware to offer financing for energy efficiency and clean energy projects on commercial properties through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Another element of the package would extend the county’s current moratoriumon large septic system developments by permanently restricting subdivision applications for developments over a certain size within certain zoning districts to areas served by public sewer. This draft ordinance is scheduled to be introduced to County Council next week. 

Other elements of the legislative package are further from becoming a reality. 

County Land Use General Manager Rich Hall says a draft ordinance would update, enhance and clarify requirements in the unified development code for forest conservation.

“There’s no requirement for aforestation— creating new forests where none exist. So you can build in a farm field and don’t have to add any trees other than for landscaping,” he said. “We’d like to enhance that a bit.”

Officials plan to present the draft forest conservation legislation in a public workshop in October, and hope it could go before County Council for a vote next spring. 

Another piece of the legislative package set for a public workshop this fall would update the county’s drainage code. Hall notes New Castle County had one of the “wettest years on record” last year. 

“Stormwater management always has been an issue,” he said. “But with climate change, and a building community, an aging community like in New Castle [County], how we handle climate change is very important— and stormwater is part of that.” The soonest officials anticipate this measure could go for a council vote would be next spring.

Other elements of the County’s environmental package, addressing private open space and scenic byways, are also planned for public workshops in the next few months and County Council next spring.


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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