Archive for July, 2010

Always fair in Harrington

July 29, 2010

The Delaware State Fair is the only place on Earth to find the following in one place:

The world’s smallest woman and horse; racing pigs; circus and midway rides; doughnut burgers; every kind of food imaginable from ribs to crepes; people selling everything from toe rings to leather cowboy hats; tractor pulls; an ice show; and all kinds of animals from strutting turkeys to a giraffe you can pet for $1.

The most unbelievable aspect of the fair is that hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people actually live on site for the whole 10 days of the event. Each year the number of motor homes, pop-up tents and travel trailers grows.

The numerous contests geared toward farm families and 4-H clubs prove that agriculture is still the biggest industry in the state. The colors, sounds and smells are enough to overload the senses.

The fair has grown from a Kent-Sussex Fair started in 1920 on 30 acres in Harrington to the colossal Delaware State Fair now covering 300 acres. It cost 50 cents for adults to attend the first state fair, plus 25 cents per vehicle. Now, there is no charge for parking, but adults pay $6 at the gate.

More than 307,000 people visit the fair each year.

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County getting into farming?

July 27, 2010

Country truck parked in county lot filled with corn.

Just answer her question

July 23, 2010

Sometimes I don’t get how Sussex County government works.

At the Tuesday, July 20 meeting Dixie Boucher of Lewes blasted county council in one of the most tersely worded criticisms I’ve heard recently. She used words and phrases like “total lack of concern,” “abhorrent” and “detrimental” in her dissertation on the ills of county government.

She also wanted to know the status of recommendations for possible code changes relating to manufactured home issues. She was a member of the committee that came up with the recommendations.

Obviously council members did not appreciate her comments. Councilman Sam Wilson fired back that her comments were just one woman’s opinion.

What they should have given her was a simple answer to her question. The answer is ordinances are being drafted by county legal staff and will be introduced soon. That seems simple enough.

Open up site-plan reviews

July 16, 2010

There is a major flaw, as I see it anyway, in Sussex County’s zoning-change application process.

After a zoning change is approved, the proposed project proceeds to the site-plan review stage conducted by planning and zoning commissioners – without public input. Although the review is conducted during a public meeting, no one from the public can speak.

It doesn’t seem fair that a zoning change can be granted with public hearings while the site-plan review takes place without any public comment at all.

Although the zoning-change process is important, the actual ins and outs of a site plan are equally important. It’s left to the discretion of the planning and zoning commissioners. County council does not even get involved other than to act on the zoning-change request.

So here is where it gets a little weird. During the hearings, county officials are told time and time again to judge the application on the merits of zoning only – not the project. They must apply county code to the request for a zoning change only. Yet, for every zoning-change application I can recall, details of the project are discussed.

Take the denied Townsend Village Centre project for example. Although the application was for a zoning change from AR-1 to CR-1, just about every comment made during 10 hours of testimony at two hearings involved the merits of the shopping center – not if CR-1 zoning was acceptable for the parcel along Kings Highway.

To get the process centered and fair for all, a change to allow public input on site reviews needs to be instituted. It would add another layer and public hearing to the system, but if conducted in the proper way, this change would allow those who are affected by a project a chance to have a say in what that project looks like.

The story of the first American winner

July 8, 2010

Greg LeMond during pre-helmet days on the Tour de France.

Allow me a little latitude the next few weeks, as I go off The Circle and into the world of cycling.

Lost in all the hype of the current Tour de France riders is the first American to win the Tour.

Greg LeMond won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, as well as finishing second in 1985 and third in 1984. LeMond was like a sharp stick in the eye to the European racers who had dominated the Tour since it started in 1903.

At the top of his career, and two months before the start of the 1987 Tour, LeMond was injured in a turkey hunting accident. It took him two years to recover, but he was on the starting line for the 1989 Tour with 37 shotgun pellets still in his body.

That Tour would end up being one for the record books that is still debated in cycling circles to this day. In the closest finish in Tour history, LeMond won on the final stage into Paris with an 8-second margin.

Legendary French rider Laurent Fignon was all but assured victory with a 58-second lead heading into the final stage – a time trial.

LeMond, pellets and all, rode the second fastest time trial in Tour history to gain 58 seconds on Fignon, who finished second. It was one of the most heroic comebacks in sport; that was until another American, Lance Armstrong, came back from near-fatal cancer to win seven Tours.

It was the last time a time trial was used on the final stage.

In 1992, LeMond became the first American to win the short-lived Tour DuPont. He officially retired in 1994 and now runs LeMond Fitness, a company specializing in indoor bikes and trainers.

Since his retirement, he has had a love-hate relationship with cycling. He had a lucrative deal with Trek Bikes that ended up in court. He has accused Armstrong of sabotaging his deal with the company.

He has also accused Armstrong, and most other Tour winners, with doping. In the small world of elite cyclists, LeMond has severed all ties because of his comments over the years.

There is no doubt Greg LeMond should be doing color commentary for Tour de France coverage on American television. He is among a rare few in the country who really understands the Tour and its history. Instead, one of his former teammates, Bob Roll, has made a name for himself providing insights to the event during daily coverage on the Versus cable network.

It’s sad that LeMond’s outspoken ways keep him in the shadows of an international sport he brought home to the United States.

TOUR TIDBITS . . . . ..

Either a U.S. or Spanish rider has won the Tour 20 of the last 24 years.

The last French rider to wear yellow in Paris was the legendary Laurent Fignon, who won in 1985. French riders have won 36 races, which is more than twice the number of riders from any other country.

Lance Armstrong holds the record with seven wins wearing the yellow from 1999-2005.

The 97th Tour is made up of 20 stages between July 3 and July 25 covering 2,221 miles.

Shhh! Best fireworks are in Lewes

July 5, 2010

Fireworks over Lewes Beach.

On the night of July 4th as Lewes police cracked down on alcohol consumption and bonfires on Lewes Beach, dozens of illegal fireworks shows were blasting and booming all around them. It was hard to hear them speak because of the noise of the bombs bursting in air.

It’s not just Lewes. Fireworks could be seen exploding all along the Delaware Bay coastline and even across the bay in New Jersey. There were so many different blasting areas, you almost got whiplash turning your head from side to side.

As locals know, one of the best kept-secrets in Lewes is fireworks on the beach on July 4th. I was at a party two years ago when police stopped a show our host was having because a neighbor complained about the noise. Others went on without disruption – I guess because no one complained.

July 4th is not an easy holiday for local police; they probably don’t look forward to it, even if they get overtime pay. Police are in a no-win situation because nobody wants to throw a wrench into a great party, especially on July 4th.

Board may need some adjustment

July 1, 2010

Sussex County Council is taking a two-week break following a marathon meeting Tuesday, June 29. When council returns it will have a tough issue to tackle that has many people upset – the board of adjustment.

The board with the funny-sounding name is a cross between People’s Court and Justice of the Peace Court where people are at the mercy of five men. The board deals in feet and inches as it decides on variances to county regulations and also determines special-use exceptions within certain zoning districts.

The board operates under the radar – most residents have no clue who members are – and there is no way to contact the members via email or  phone, which is information available on the Sussex County website for county council members.

Most of those who appear before the board have done something stupid or wrong – like building a garage in a setback area. Others purchase property without realizing it has a history. Most of those who appear are violators of county code, and don’t even realize it or have a clue what to do when they get there. In addition, they are paying $400 for the adventure.

The smart ones hire an attorney, which drives up the cost, but gives them a fighting chance.

The board also decides on placement of towers and windmills and variances on signs and billboards.

What has some people upset is that between 1973 and 2009 the board has approved about 7,700 of the 9,000 applications it has heard. Most of those approvals are for variances, and many are in manufactured home parks.

Those numbers equate to about 250 applications per year, or about 20 per month, which doesn’t seem like a very high number.  I don’t know if an approval rate of 85 percent is good or bad.

Council wants to take a serious look at why  variances come up in the first place. Could some changes be made in county code to lessen the number? That’s the question the board and council will debate when they meet, probably for the first time ever, in a workshop in the near future.

While they are at it, there should be some time spent discussing how the four arms of Sussex County government – administration, council, planning and zoning commission and board of adjustment – could communicate with each other a little better.