County holds workshop on new comp plan

Date Published: 
November 18, 2016

The Sussex County Council, along with members of the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission and County staff met earlier this week for a workshop on the County’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

A comprehensive plan, which is required by state law, is a long-range policy guide for decision-making regarding the future of the natural and built environment of a community.

“It’s a narrative. It’s broad ideas,” said County Planning & Zoning Manager Janelle Cornwell. “It’s big ideas of what we want to do.”

“It’s a guidance document,” said John Millen, planning and communications manager for McCormick Taylor, a firm hired by the county to help with the comp plan update.

Millen said they would be looking at trends within the county and identify how they might want to change those trends in a desirable way.

“This will all be vetted by you, the public and stakeholders… We’re going to have a lot of dialogue… because we’re not going to start a final plan until everyone is on the same page.”

Alexis Williams of McCormick Taylor said the plan will be looking as far out as 2045 to establish a set of direction for the county.

She noted that the county has seen much growth, almost on par with Kent County.

“You’re growing faster than many of your neighboring counties,” she said, adding that the county is outpacing the state of Delaware, having issued more than 10,000 building permits since 2008.

Williams noted that the County has received 89 comments on the plan so far, had 283 responses to a public survey conducted in the fall and have close to 100 people signed up to receive email updates.

Through citizen comments, the County knows that the aspects of Sussex County people love include its small-town feel, beaches, low taxes, open space and inland bays.

Williams added that topics brought up included housing, asking for the improvement of housing quality and condition, and providing more affordable housing options.

Many comments included the interest in the creation of a parks-and-recreation department within the County.

Planning & Zoning Commissioner Martin Ross said that, while parks and recreation would be a good addition, there are more pressing items he believes the County should support financially.

“There’s a lot of feel-good things and good ideas and noble things to do in this world. There’s a never-ending list of those. But we cannot forget our obligations to public safety and the roles that are critical to county government.”

“The reason people come here are for the low taxes,” added County Councilman George Cole. “A growing population demanding more services does not equate to low taxes in the future. We, as a council, for the future also have to determine what we want to take on, because everybody moving here from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania wants something. ‘Why don’t we do this?’ ‘Why don’t we do that?’ At this rate, we haven’t provided many resources, and we’re proud of it… Be careful of going down a path that is going to be a costly path.”

Williams pointed out that many comments received said the commenters would be willing to pay more taxes for those services.

Those in attendance at the workshop were charged with reviewing the County’s current plan and the comments received, and to decide what elements they would want continued in the future plan, what elements they did not like, and what items they would like to see addressed.

“The perception with the general public, I think, is the current land-use plan favors the developing interests of the county, because we’ve been very generous in a lot of areas,” said Cole. “I would like to see, this next land-use plan, the pendulum swings over and people who look at it and the perception would be that this favors, leans toward, supporting the people who live here, call Sussex County their domicile, they go to work, they send their kids to school… The priorities of everything we do should be geared to that element — that live and reside here.”

County officials will next meet to discuss the plan in January. The second round of public hearings will be held next spring, with final review expected to happen at the end of 2017.

For more information about the County’s Comprehensive Plan, to comment or sign up for email updates, visit www.sussexplan.com.