All should play by the same rules

I’ve complained about the Sussex County hearing process in previous blogs. Now, I have a new wrinkle to add to the issues with the system.

Everyone should play by the same rules when it comes to a public hearing. In a good move, the county now requires applicants to submit materials for hearings at least 10 days in advance. That gives the public and county officials a little time to prepare.

But at least one department within county government does not follow that time frame.

The engineering department routinely submits comments on applications the day or day before planning and zoning hearings, the first of two hearings for most applications.

A prime example of that practice occurred during the Thursday, March 11, hearing for a proposed CVS pharmacy at the entrance to the Villages of Five Points in Lewes. On the day of the hearing, the engineering department submitted its objection to the rezoning application based on the lack of sewer capacity.

That put the commissioners as well as the applicant behind the eight ball and actually helped delay the process. The public record for the commission’s hearing was left open for 10 days to allow the applicant time to respond to the engineer’s findings.

The action even upset Vince Robertson, the usually well-composed county assistant attorney. “It’s frustrating when we get stuff at 4:30 p.m.,” he said during the hearing. “We put 10 days on everybody else.”

Something tells me this practice is about to change.

And while they are at it, county officials should stop the practice of allowing applicants to present any materials the day or night of a public hearing without sufficient copies for the public to see.

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