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New Castle County Council to consider extending septic development moratorium

Delaware Public Media

New Castle County is looking to ban large developments on septic systems indefinitely. 

New Castle County Council will likely consider an ordinance extending a temporary ban on large septic developments later this year. 

The ban, which currently sunsets in August and applies to the County’s Suburban (S) zone, primarily affects southern New Castle County, where officials want to prevent agricultural land without sewer access from being subdivided into developments of more than five parcels. Some landowners and farm bureau officials objected to the proposal in 2019. 

Poorly functioning septic systems can contaminate drinking water wells or bodies of water. County Executive Matt Meyer, whose administration supports extending the ban, says it comes down to protecting water quality. 

“Protecting our air, water and land for future generations is among the most important things that I do as your county executive,” Meyer said. “It is clear to me based on the information I have looked at that building large housing developments—200, 300 units or larger, 500-unit housing developments—on septic systems, is not good for the environment.”

County land use officials have also promoted the ban as a way to curb sprawl in the fast-growing areas south of the C&D Canal. They said when the temporary ban passed last year that it would affect 182 parcels and prevent roughly 4,800 potential units from being built out on septic systems. 

Meyer acknowledges the moratorium could harm those in areas not served by sewer who want to sell their land to a developer. 

“So what we're doing is we’re working on really ramping up and increasing our farmland preservation program so that they will see the incentive of preserving their land rather than selling out to developers to do something that’s really harmful to the environment,” Meyer said. 

Under the current and proposed septic bans, lots not served by sewer may transfer development rights to developments that are served by sewer. 

The Southern New Castle County Master Plan finalized in January focuses future sewer growth in the north-west corner of the southern part of the county.


The proposed extension of the ban must go before the Planning Board and through a County Council committee before Council considers it. County land use general manager Rich Hall says the measure will likely come to a vote in July.


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the proposal will come to a vote. 


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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