A proposed New Castle County ordinance would extend a temporary moratorium and bar developments of more than five parcels in certain zones without public sewer access. Landowners and farmers spoke out against it at a planning board meeting Tuesday.
The current moratorium on major septic developments in the County expires in February. The ordinance introduced in August and put before the planning board this week would make the moratorium permanent.
New Castle County General Manager of Land Use Rich Hall argues the rule would protect water quality and help contain development in the fast-growing areas south of the C&D canal to areas planned for growth.
“You put infrastructure, public services — and sewer’s one of the main ones— where you want growth to go, and you plan where you don’t want growth to go,” he said. “The thing is, often politically it’s easier to say, we want to grow here and we might want to reserve over here. But to follow that up with strong rules is something that’s lacking.”
Some landowners and farmers say the ordinance would significantly reduce the value of their land for purposes of sale and loan equity. They characterize it as a down-zoning and a “taking” of their development rights.
Gary Warren owns 134 acres of farmland near Port Penn. “Right now, I can build up to 160, 180 units on my farm with sewer,” he said. “With septic, I can probably build close to 100. If this goes into effect, I can build four.”
Representatives from the New Castle County Farm Bureau called for more stakeholder engagement and a focus on farmland preservation.
County Councilman Dave Carter opposes the ordinance, citing what he calls a “lack of technical justification.” He also claims there has been limited transparency and a “suppression of input” surrounding the ordinance. He plans to introduce an alternative to Council next week.
Rich Hall says public engagement surrounding the County-backed ordinance has been integrated with public engagement surrounding the draft Southern New Castle County Master Plan, which was released this week.
The ordinance will go through a Planning Board Business Meeting before it can be voted on in Council.