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April 26, 1996     Cape Gazette
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April 26, 1996

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12 - CAPE GAZETI, Friday, April 26 - May 2, 1996 State legislature returns to work to face full plate By Michael Short The Delaware legislature re- turned to work on Tuesday fol- lowing the Easter recess with a number of issues undecided. Here's a look at some of the key legislation being considered and where it stands, with a special em- phasis on the efforts of local legis- lators. Rep. John Schroeder (D- Lewes) has proposed legislation to cut elementary class sizes in grades five or under to no more than 15 students. Schroeder ar- gues with passion that small class sizes will mean a better education for students at the critical elemen- tary school level. But Schroeder said this week that his legislation will be held while an amendment is drafted which would make it voluntary for school districts to follow the smaller class sizes. School dis- tricts who meet the standard would receive a carrot of extra state funding. He said he has mixed feelings about that, saying he was hoping the legislature would send a clear signal about small class sizes. But Schroeder said making the mea- sure voluntary will make it more likely the bill will pass. Rep. George Bunting (D- Bethany Beach) has suggested a plan to redraw the councilmanic districts for County Council. His suggestion is to make the districts more representative of the entire county. But Bunting said Thursday that he expects that bill to go nowhere in this year's legislative session. More funding for textbooks. This legislation has already been signed into law and it gives school districts $10 million to update text books. That's long been a com- plaint of schools that complain that many textbooks are so out of touch that they don't even men- tion the recent fall of the Soviet Union. The funding will provide $190,447 for the Cape Henlopen School District. Indian River will receive roughly $353,000, Laurel will receive $95,000, Woodbridge will receive $80,000 and Delmar will receive $35,000. Cape Henlopen Superintendent Suellen Skeen said her reaction to the news was "hooray!" She added that the textbook money will be a big help to the district which will enable them to pur- chase much needed materials. "It really helps us," Skeen said. Reassessment. Sussex County has supported this bill, which is being pushed by Sen. Robert Voshell (D-Milford). The idea is to make the way property taxes are assessed more fair and equi- table through a new reassessment. That will mean changes in the amount of taxes individuals pay (although the overall amount of taxes collected should not change). Voshell said the bill has prompted questions from a busi- ness group--the Committee of l(X)---and by realtors. The biggest question has to do with the way commercial property would be as- sessed and those concerns must be hammered out. Traffic, rezonings and land use. This may be the big issue of this session with several bills be- ing proposed that would restrict development by limiting rezon- ings etc. Most of the bills have come from upstate legislators and are seen as an indication that peo- ple feel development may have started to careen out of control. House Speaker Terry Spence (R-Newark) called earlier this week for the legislature to step back and not rush bills into law. Spence suggested formation of a task force to bring people together to talk about those issues. Rep. Schroeder said that it's not a good idea to put land use deci- sions into state hands, because state legislators will be less ac- countable to local constituents. "To me, you have to have local decision makers so you have local accountability," Schroeder said. There may be a new package of bills on this issue coming from Governor Tom Carper's office, according to Carper Chief of Staff Jeffrey Bullock. Senate Bill 72. This was ex- pected to be debated in the legisla- ture on April 25 and has drawn the support of at least one local legis- lator. Rep. George Carey (R-Mil- ton) supports the bill, although he said it was a tough decision to make. The legislation affects the amount of medical care patients may receive, in effect giving pa- tients more opportunity to say how far medicine should go to preserve their lives. Among provisions of the new bill is a measure to allow patients to limit the type of treatment they receive if they fall into lasting un- consciousness. ANTIQUES, FINE COLLECTIBLES, GIFTS I 201 West Dupont Highway (302) 934-9175 iillsboro, Delaware 19966 Sussex Land Use Plan moves slowly ahead; five-acre mobile home limit may be nixed By Michael Short A five-acre minimum lot size requirement for mobile homes in the AR-1 zone is likely to be one of the casualties of the county's efforts to develop a comprehen- sive land use plan. Where mobile homes can be placed has proven to be a "hot but- ton" issue during the development of the comprehensive land use plan, which will be completed by the end of the year. Consultant Thomas Shafer of the consulting firm Whitman, Re- quardt and Associates in Balti- more, said that his firm continues to tabulate results from public sur- veys on issues that will shape the land use plan. But that mobile home require- ment in the agricultural residential area is one of the issue prompting the most discussion, Shafer said. Currently, a more traditional home can be built on a half acre lot in the zone, but mobile homes require five acres of land (there is no such requirement in mobile home parks). It's a controversial provision enacted because of worries that mobile or manufactured homes will deteriorate and cause sur- rounding property values to dip. The Sussex County Mobile Home Tenants Association has gone on record in support of re- ducing the five acre minimum lot size, but other residents feel just as strongly that it shouldn't be changed. Shafer is reluctant to say what he thinks will happen to that five acre re- quirement for mobile homes in the AR-1 zoning. SHAFER But he thinks that it will be reduced and will wind up somewhere between the half acre required for stick- built homes and the five acres for mobile homes. "People feel very strongly about the issue," Shafer said. "They [manufactured home owners] want parity and I think they will get it... but other peo- ple feel just as strongly that they would rather not see as many." The final results of that differ- ence of opinion won't be decided for some time. Whitman, Requardt and Asso- ciates, which is helping the county to develop the plan, is expected to spend April and May tabulating survey results. Sussex County will then hold a pair of public hearing on the pro- posed land use plan (by the Coun- ty's Planning and Zoning Com- mission and by Sussex County Council) before a plan is adopted by the end of the year. He said that they received ap- proximately 200 surveys from the public. The public will also have a chance at those public hearings to speak on the land use issues, which range from zoning to trans- portation. Shafer said the consultants may well come up with more than one option for the county to consider and he pledged that whatever is proposed will be available before the hearing dates (which have not yet been determined). He said that residents will not come "to the hearing and see it for the first time. That would not be fair." Shafer was reluctant to predict what the actual recommendations of his firm may be. One recommendation may be for three housing zones which are based upon density, he said. 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