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Lewes adopts wetlands buffer zone some think does not go far enough

Delaware Center for the Inland Bays

The city of Lewes approved a new wetlands buffer zone.


The buffer zone is designed to protect the wetlands in and around Lewes from being further destroyed by large developments as the city continues to grow.


Wetlands are a vital resource in the ecosystem, providing food to many types of animals, protecting against shoreline erosion and nature's own flood control -and city council wants to ensure they are protected. 


Councilman Andrew Williams is among those who think the buffer ordinance doesn’t go far enough.


“Again I know this ordinance is probably gonna disappoint people on both sides. Those that felt tonight they would like to see something more aggressive immediately get passed and those that would not like to see no buffers remain,” said Williams.


The ordinance only creates a 50-foot buffer zone, which Sussex County already has on the books. New Castle and Kent Counties have 100-foot buffer zones for wetlands and Sussex is considering expanding its buffer as well.


Citizens have expressed a desire for a strong wetlands buffer, but one member of the annexation regulation committee says he doesn’t want regulations tougher than the county, because it will discourage developers to consider the city.


Councilman Robert Morgan agrees with William’s sentiments


“The comment we've received has all been that we’re not being bold enough, we’re not showing leadership," said Morgan. "And I think that we could do more, but we wanna hear from the public about it before we do.”


Morgan specifically mentioned making sure the wetlands buffer ordinance accounts for wetlands migration.


Wetlands will ultimately move further inland as the sea levels rise and threaten to drown the wetlands, and Morgan wants to make sure the council takes those facts into consideration.


The council decided to approve this ordinance as is, citing the fact they would have to hold another public hearing before any major changes could be made. They’ll hold that public hearing soon to listen for more comments on what could be strengthened before moving forward.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.