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12/11/2011
Councilman Bob Weiner: County Comp Plan maps are so small that potential zoning changes in specific neighborhoods are indetectible - News Journal

Updated growth map fails to satisfy
Criticism stands with zoom feature
Dec. 11, 2011   Written by ADAM TAYLOR  The News Journal

New Castle County has added more precise online maps of proposed changes to the 2012 Comprehensive Development Plan update, but some residents and a council member aren't satisfied.

The Comprehensive Development Plan will guide the county government's land-use decisions during the next 10 years. It was last updated in 2007. A public hearing on the changes proposed for the 2012 plan is scheduled for Jan. 3 before the county Planning Board.

Councilman Bob Weiner and several residents complained that the maps that accompany the text of the plan on the county's website were so small that potential zoning changes in specific neighborhoods couldn't be detected.

On Wednesday, the county added a link to a map that could be zoomed in on, but Weiner said it's not "parcel-specific," which is how it's described on the website.

"It's just a close-up look from an aerial photo that shows squiggly lines of streets and borders," Weiner said. "It doesn't have street names or neighborhood designations. If this is the best the county can do, there is no point in having the Jan. 3 hearing, because residents and council members don't have the information they need to analyze the plan."

County Land Use General Manager David Culver said consultants for the county are exploring whether even more precise maps can be generated before the Jan. 3 hearing.

Resident Christine Whitehead said the maps are a vital part of the plan. A small change to a zoning designation to a specific property could make a property owner millions of dollars if the changes allowed for a large development, she said.

"I'm glad to see the county has gotten as far as they have with coming up with better maps," Whitehead said. "I just hope they complete the job, because we need to get to the point where people see what is planned for their own property and in their own neighborhoods."

The text of the plan proposes new zoning districts that would preserve open space and farmland. A new zoning district for areas on the outskirts of Wilmington "to preserve the commercialized and highly developed areas of the county" is also suggested. So is a new zoning designation for "sub-regional commercial areas," which could make small pockets of commercial land easier to redevelop.

But Culver said any of the changes would have to go through the normal county process that the council would have to approve, so nothing is being sneaked through on the maps.

Weiner said the council and residents need better maps to make sure that's the case.

Residents and Weiner said Friday that the new maps were difficult to find on the website and that there were no maps from 2007 to compare with the 2012 draft maps. Those changes were made Friday afternoon after a reporter called the Land Use Department.

Culver said the 2012 Comp Plan process has been the most open one ever.

"We've had several public planning sessions, made updates online and went to many community-group meetings," Culver said. "We made it as transparent as possible, and I think it went very well. I'm sorry if several people who chose not to engage aren't satisfied, but most of the feedback I've received has been very positive."

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