Sussex County adopts overhauled drainage ordinance to lessen flooding problems

Georgetown, Del., March 28, 2017: Sussex County is taking steps in the present to stem the tide on future flooding issues.

County Council, at its Tuesday, March 28, 2017, meeting, adopted a comprehensive drainage and grading ordinance that establishes new standards aimed at improving the flow of stormwater in new residential developments. In recent years, the public and County officials have grown increasingly concerned about flooding that resulted after repeated heavy rainstorms overwhelmed ditches and swales in certain residential communities.

The ordinance eliminates outdated standards for construction – some adopted as far back as the 1970s – and inserts more detailed requirements for road construction, sidewalks and runoff collection systems. It also creates new steps in the County’s land use process to require more specific grading plans for developments and individual lots, to ensure rainwater is properly collected and flows away from homes, streets and other improvements to a stormwater retention system.

The ordinance, which also revises bonding requirements and parking design within County code, will apply to all new construction of major subdivisions and residential planned communities, as well as townhouse, condominium and apartment complexes.

“I think it’s fair to say that everyone, not just residents, have the same goal here: to make sure flooding is minimized wherever possible in our communities,” County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “These new standards really elevate Sussex County’s requirements. Ultimately, we believe the ordinance will make for a better product – and better communities – that our residents can enjoy.”

The new rules are the result of a years-long collaboration between County staff and the Sussex Conservation District, with input from numerous participants from the general public, developers, engineers, site work contractors, and home builders. Mr. Lawson said the ordinance is intended to satisfy public concerns while at the same time establishing practical, consistent rules for the development community to follow.

While County officials hailed the ordinance as a positive for homeowners and developers, they cautioned that the ordinance does not solve past issues within existing developments; those may require case-by-case solutions to mitigate flooding problems. However, County officials believe the new ordinance is a step in the right direction to prevent future issues in new developments.

“You’re never going to solve flooding issues entirely. Sussex County is very flat, and water often stands on fields and along roadways,” said County Council President Michael H. Vincent. “But we certainly can take steps to lessen the effects of flooding, and I believe developers and the residents living in the communities they design and build will appreciate everyone being on the same page.”

The new ordinance will take effect in various stages, with some components occurring immediately and others occurring 30 days or later from Tuesday’s adoption. To view a copy of the ordinance, visit



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