March 23, 2009

ISSUE:    State Resource Areas (SRA's) are lands that have been identified by the state that are valued for their natural, cultural and geographic significance. In addition, they provide wildlife habitat, natural resource based outdoor recreation, scenic beauty, conservation of water resource and buffering or connection of existing public and private lands under conservation management. A SRA is an overlay zone.

   SRA's were originally designed to provide information to the Delaware Open Space Council, so they could prioritize which lands the state should purchase for permanent protection. Over the last number of years and including a recent lawsuit, SRA's have come under fire because of the lack of specific scientific criteria for designation purposes, non-notification of property owners and other procedural issues that were not fulfilled by DNREC.

DAR POLICY:    While DAR supports the protection of critical habitat and undisturbed lands, our overriding position is protecting property owners from having their rights taken away from them by an SRA designation. Specifically, if SRA maps are to be used, DAR believes five things must occur. First, participation by a landowner in an SRA program must be voluntary. Second, the criteria used must have a basis in science and it must be well-understood by those on the Open Space Council who are charged with designing the SRA program. Third, notification of the property owner that their lands have been placed on an SRA map must occur prior to publication of the map. Fourth, the property owner must be given the right to appeal the designation. Fifth, DAR believes it is inappropriate for the state to force the counties to be the enforcement agency for SRA protections.

IMPACT:    The SRA maps presented previously represented a continuing erosion of private property rights in Delaware. Additionally, the SRA designation has a potential to devalue the owners land because its use for any other purpose is now restricted. As more land is encumbered with restrictions and regulations that remove it from the economy, the less opportunity for growth and the more expensive our current housing options become.

    As a result of a lawsuit that DAR participated in, DNREC was ordered to re-evaluate their SRA program in its totality prior to the publication of any new maps. DAR, along with other organizations affected, is participating in a stakeholders group that is currently reevaluating the maps, the procedures and the impact this will have on private property owners. DAR continues to participate in lawsuits attempting to minimize the adverse affect of SRA's on property owners.