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Controversial septic limits stall as plan to extend current moratorium suggested

New Castle County Council has delayed action on a controversial ordinance that would limit development on septic systems. 




The administration-backed plan to prevent subdivisions of more than five parcels in areas of certain residential zones not served by sewer has stalled. It aimed to protect water quality and curtail sprawl in the fast-growing areas of southern New Castle County, but saw pushback from farmers. 

The sponsors of the ordinance agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to table it until January. The move followed an attempted floor amendment by council members Dave Carter and Bill Bell that would have extended the current county moratoriumon all major and some minor developments using septic, as well as called for a task force to examine the issue. 

Janet Kilpatrick, co-sponsor of the original ordinance, says she will work toward extending the current moratorium for one year, while the Southern New Castle County Master Plan and a report from the Land Preservation Task Force are finished. 

“It may not be perfect, but I think it’s going to pass now,” she said of the compromise.

New Castle County Land Use General Manager Rich Hall sees the move as “kicking the can down the road.” 

“The County really needs to decide how it wants to grow,” he said. “Yes, it’s a tough decision, but now we’re just going to delay that. And I am willing to bet that when we come back around to make one tough decision or another, we’re going to be very much in the same place.”

The farmers who have opposed the ordinance argue it would devalue their land. Stewart Ramsey, who heads the New Castle County Farm Bureau, sees the move by Council Tuesday as a favorable outcome. He thinks a one-year extension of the current moratorium would give the county time “to get it right and use the right tools.” 

“The current ordinance proposal is not the right tool for the problem," he added. "It’s like a square peg in a round hole."


Hall says the County Land Use department has seen a significant uptick in land use proposals using septic systems in the last few years. The current septic moratorium expires at the end of February.


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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