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June 24, 2008     Cape Gazette
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C.IcI Gazette NEWS TUESDAY, JUNE 24- THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2008 S Sussex land-use plan clears first hurdle Planners send document to county council By Ron Mar.Arthur ronm@capegazette.com Not with a bang, but a whim- per, Sussex County Planning and Zoning put its stamp of approval on the much-debated, edited and rewritten county comprehensive land-use plan. In the last 15 minutes of a two- hour meeting Wednesday, June 18, commissioners had few com- ments on a new draft containing more than 200 pages. Voting 5-0, they recommended approval of the plan. County officials were sup- posed to have adopted the plan by the end of 2007, but they have been granted two time exten- sions. The plan is on the Tues- day, June 24 county council agen- da. Commission Chairman Robert Wheatley wanted to make sure one change was included in the updated plan. The commission wants all references to the West- ern Parkway, a road planned by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to connect Route 1 and Route 9 with Route 24, to read "future local transportation connector." "We don't want DelDOT pod cy working its way into our land- use plan," he said. "We don't want it to sound like where the road is going because there needs to be flexibility - things change." Hal Godwin, assistant to the administrator, said he is opti- mistic the plan will also get council's approval. "There are some minor changes possible, but I think the council will endorse it," he said. "They are acutely aware that we need to get this done." Godwin has been working on the plan with staff and consult- ants Urban Research & Develop- ment Corp. in Bethlehem, Pa., since the summer of 2006. It has been through several state re- views and public hearings. The next step for the planwill be the certification process by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's office. "We feel that will happen as well," Godwin said. "We have been back and forth with the state enough." ,xut the n Godwin said one of the key features of the update, a process the county must do every five years by state law, is a positive 'WE DON'T WANT DELDOT WORKING ITS WAY INTO OUR LAND-USE PLAN. WE DON'T WANT IT TO SOUND LIKE WHERE THE ROAD IS GOING BECAUSE THERE NEEDS TO BE FLEXIBILITY - THINGS CHANGE" - JROBERT WHEATLEY, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN approach to government. "The county looks at incen- fives rather than restrictions and that's a basic theme throughout the plan," he said. He pointed to expedited re- views and small increases in den- sity for developers who voluntar- ily adopt green standards as pre- scribed by environmental groups. Another key feature is a set of 23 ordinances, which is the driv- ing force of the plan. Proposed ordinances include transfer of development rights, source-wa- ter protection, creation of agri- cultural and agribusiness zones, a clearer definition of open space, new buffer regulations Walk Different! Think J00COMFORT,00- 237RdmbA Up0omRde8 N;r/.;L0 tBTS6CoastalHwy. HaoorSqumBng.(nextl]) 302-r$-t and updated development stan- dards to include green-site de- sign. Wheafley said there is an 18- month deadline placed on ad- dressing the 23 ordinances. "The consultants are going to get the ordinances this time - it's part of their contract," he said. "The ordinances will not sit around forever. This is the single biggest improvement in the land- use plan." Lawrence Lank, director of planning and zoning, said consult- ants are al- ready writing new ordi- nances. Previously, ordinances at- Lawrence Lank tached to plans were not quickly adopted. The basic themes of the plan are: directing development to ar- eas with or near community services; preserving the county's agricultural economy and farm- land; protecting natural re- sources; encouraging tourism and other responsible job prgviders; expanding affordable housing options; and ensuring that new developments incorpo- rate usable open space and best- design practices. Godwin said because of the in- teraction with the state during the past year, many people think the atmosphere is hostile. State agencies were critical of the first draft of the plan claiming the county did not clearly differenti- ate growth and nongrowth zones. The state also wants county officials to reconsider their stand on agricultural-resi- dential density of two units to one acre. "It's not hostile - it's a process. We learn from the state and they learn from us, and at the same time, we are listening to the public," he said. 'q'hey bend a lit- tle and we bend a little. 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