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New Castle County Executive signs pollinator garden ordinance, gives exception in property maintenance code

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer signs an ordinance exempting rain and pollinator gardens from property maintenance code.
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer signs an ordinance exempting rain and pollinator gardens from property maintenance code.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer signs an ordinance making property code exceptions for pollinator and rain gardens.

The ordinance amends New Castle County's property code to allow homeowners to plant pollinator gardens or to construct rain gardens without running afoul of county property maintenance codes.

Patibanda says some residents’ gardens were in violation of county code, despite having innumerable ecological benefits.

“We did have situations where technically, the planting area was in violation of the property maintenance code, but the neighbors would say, ‘well this is actually a pollinator garden.’ And we wanted to take a deeper look into that concept, working with our county council members, obviously we got a lot of support from our state legislators that are here today.”

One of those state legislators is Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown), who applauded the county’s effort and hopes to use it as a guiding document for developing a state law for pollinator gardens.

Hansen notes Delaware’s native flora and fauna are declining – 37 percent of the state’s native flora is rare and known to just a few populations. And 32 percent of the state’s overall flora is non-native, posing invasive risks.

At a Land Use Committee meeting in March, concerns over size and buffer restrictions were raised, but Patibanda says this is a good first step.

“People who are really engaged in this don’t want to be limited in any way and we can certainly understand that concept. But this is new legislation for the county, we do want to test it, and we also want to encourage it for people who may not have been engaged on the issue but they want to try it out.”

Patibanda notes until the legislation itself is amended, people with larger gardens than the code allows can apply for a special permit through the Delaware Nature Society.

The Society's Executive Director Jennifer Adkins says native plants are the foundation for a healthy ecosystem – and this ordinance is one way to bring back some of the state’s rare flora.

“These places also, if done right, require less water, less chemicals, less moving to manage, all of which help the environment.”

Adkins notes the society has an upcoming native plant sale, which is a great way for first-timers to learn more.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.