Urgent Action Alert #80
Destroying Rural Life in Delaware?
of Agriculture finances
Your comments needed.
Official comment period closes Monday, Dec. 4, 2000.
Port Penn, DE, November 30, 2000. All over the state, people are upset about a pace of "development" that is ruining Delaware's natural resources and quality of life. This is at it's most extreme in the beach resort and retirement communities in Eastern Sussex County (Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, etc.) This story illustrates how deep-seated are the subsidies for development.
The Farmers' Home Administration, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) began in the Great Depression, and millions have seen the heart-rending photos of ragged rural kids in front of shacks used to show the need. Around 1972 Farmers' Home started to guarantee commercial loans, because small rural banks often lacked the resources to make loans big enough for business start-ups. Jump ahead to 2000: Allied Capital of Greenville, SC, applies for a USDA loan guarantee of five million dollars to build a hotel near Rehoboth, DE Green Delaware reviewed the files (using the Federal FOIA) and visited with the Federal officials handling the application (It's now called the Rural Business-Cooperative Service). We learned:
"The mission of the Rural Business-Cooperative Service is "to enhance the quality of life for rural Americans ..."
The hotel is to be built by Rehoboth Beach Partners of Lexington Park, MD. Principal owner appears to be Henry Thomas Waring. It will be a 100 room Fairfield Inn and Suites, on 3 ac at the intersection of Rts. 1 and 24. Four other hotels in the area are listed as competitors. USDA likes it because it might create 30-some jobs, and the owners have other hotels, so they probably can pay back the loan. Labor is already so short in the area that workers have to be imported? Not their concern. A "Certification of Non-relocation...." form has been filled out. Development already out of control in the area? "Sussex County wants growth in the area." USDA wrote "This project must be processed as quickly as possible to meet the borrower's, bank's and federal government's funding cycle."
The applicants claim "NO" for every category of "land use or environmental resource to be affected," including "agricultural," "recreational," "transportation," "open spaces," "air quality," and "flood plain." They claim "No adverse reaction to the project has been voiced ... no public hearings have been held ... Various newspaper articles and public announcements have been made ... No adverse environmental impacts have been identified. ... [and] No environmental permits are needed except those already applied for and received." (Signatures and dates are missing.) They say the population in the "project area" is 1,234. But the Citizens Coalition wrote " [we] testified at hearings against ... this ... for many reasons ... both environmental and quality of life ..."
Federal money is involved, so the National Environmental Policy Act applies, "USDA has determined this action will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment... Therefore, USDA will not prepare an environmental impact statement for this proposed action."
As often, there is a shuffle between different levels of government: Sussex county re-zoned the property from "agricultural-residential" to "general commercial" on Nov 2, 1999, saying: The application, in concert with other zoning applications, is causing the Department of Transportation (DelDOT) [a State agency] to implement needed improvements .. by planning to provide a bypass or auxiliary local road. ... the re-zoning is in accordance with the 1997 Sussex County Comprehensive Plan ..." Charles Hopkins of the Carper Administration wrote "The use provided for these funds is not inconsistent with the goals ... in the 1995 Shaping Delaware's Future Report.... the [state] gives a conditional approval ..." Sarah Cooksey of the Coastal Zone Management Program told us "I don't think I have any jurisdiction." Delaware's own state Coastal Zone Act doesn't apply because "environmentalists" connived at weakening rather than extending it.
What can citizens do to stop this perverted use of Federal resources? USDA is taking comments until Monday, Dec 4th. Negative comments are already on file from the Citizens Coalition, the Henlopen Grange, and at least seven individuals. . One wrote "...tax dollars available for financial assistance must be assigned to credible projects that aid in the support of the agricultural community ... to help agriculture in Sussex County survive the commercial development pressures that exist." USDA will probably dismiss this sort of comment because "our customers are bankers." They are more likely to liste--a little--to comments about their environmental findings.
USDA says "priority is given to projects in areas of high unemployment, to projects which show a low amount of investment per job created or saved, and to projects that will employ members of displaced farm families." Does overcrowded Rehoboth qualify?
The Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact is incorrect and incomplete, dismissing direct, cumulative, and secondary impacts. Direct impacts include polluted runoff from parking lots, loss of groundwater recharge, air pollution from kitchens and heating systems, noise, and water and sewer use. Secondary impacts include air pollution from more cars and trucks, increased traffic congestion, and increased discharge from sewer and power plants. Cumulative impacts recognize that while no one project may be "the straw that breaks the camel's back," the total effect of all the development in the area does. By ignoring the real impacts, USDA has violated the National Environmental Policy Act and it's own regulations. USDA should prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, and should hold a public hearing.
Recently a representative of the hotel industry wrote in an Op-Ed that hotels are overbuilt in Delaware, such that state tourist officials should attract more visitors. What does this say about the need for another hotel?
Hotel spokesperson Harry Wetzel told Green Delaware "We think it is a very responsible project ... we have complied with all requirements ... we are proceeding." He said the project would go ahead with or without Federal loan guarantees
ACTION: Send comments
to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax to 302.697.4388, or hand deliver to
4607 South DuPont Hwy, Camden, DE 19934 They need to be delivered or postmarked
by the 4th. Copy Green Delaware (email@example.com), USDA headquarters (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Gov.-elect Minner (email@example.com)
What about our ELECTED officials? Will Governor
Carper (firstname.lastname@example.org) withdraw state approval? Will Gov.-elect Minner
take a position? Will Senators Roth and Biden, and Congressman Castle,
help? How about other elected officials?
Let us know what you think.
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Let us know what you think.
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was last updated on December 31, 2000.