Lewes is a quaint little hot spot and the first town in the first state of Delaware. It was settled right here in Sussex County in 1631. Our county today retains a rich maritime and agricultural heritage. It supports both a major beach tourism industry that caters to more than five million visitors annually, and a vibrant agricultural industry that produces poultry and crops (soybeans and corn) as the major commodities. According to recent surveys, Sussex County's booming population growth is being driven by an influx of retirees who are attracted to a high-quality lifestyle and low property taxes. Prospective residents are also attracted by the charm and historic character of the area, the recreational activities associated with the coastal region, and its proximity to major metropolitan areas including Philadelphia, Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
Along with the county's increasing population have come residential and commercial development, congested highways, and greater impacts on our natural resources. Preserving open space and conserving agricultural land has become a major concern. Many communities in Sussex County do not have professional, experienced land-use planners on staff. They count on elected commissioners or citizen volunteers to help fill this role. Areas assumed to be open space are being converted to residential developments, retail outlets, schools, and workplaces.
Forest cover in the county has rapidly decreased in the past twenty years. Overloads of nutrients in the Inland Bays and other estuaries have led to periodic algal blooms and fish kills. Protecting water quality and preserving natural resources in the coastal region is becoming increasingly difficult. Studies have shown that in the long run, this type of growth does not pay for itself because the costs of required services fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers. The values and amenities that originally characterized the communities are eroded, and the ecological carrying capacity ultimately is exceeded. For these reasons the Coastal Community Enhancement Initiative was created.