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12/27/2011
NCCo upgrades online proposed comp plan maps; Councilman, residents still concerned over lack of time - News Journal

"The new maps are hardly user-friendly for the average citizen who is trying to check for zoning designations that could be changing for the next 10 years," Weiner said. "There should be a very careful explanation of what all the changes mean as well."

NCCo upgrades online maps

Dec. 27, 2011   Written by ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal

The county has added more detailed maps to its website of proposed changes to the 2012 Comprehensive Development Plan update, but some residents and a council member say its not enough to inform people about the new plan.

Earlier this month, Councilman Bob Weiner and a few civic leaders asked the county to provide online maps that would allow residents to see what potential changes could be in store for their own neighborhoods. At the time, the maps that accompanied the text of the plan were so small that specific neighborhoods couldn't be detected.

The maps, which have been changed for a second time, remain a problem, critics say. Even though they can zoom to a street level, they arrived on the website late in the process, are hard to find and are difficult to navigate.

"This is what was asked for, and we put it up," county Land Use General Manger David Culver said. "If this makes somebody more comfortable, then it's there."

The Comprehensive Development Plan will guide the county government's land-use decisions during the next 10 years. It was last updated in 2007.
Culver said he thinks the public has enough information to be able to comment on the plan at the Jan. 3 public hearing before the county Planning Board and Land Use Department.

Councilman Bob Weiner said there isn't enough time for residents to check the website and familiarize themselves with.
the plan and would like to see the plan reviewed later in the year. He said the county needs to do more before the hearing.

"The new maps are hardly user-friendly for the average citizen who is trying to check for zoning designations that could be changing for the next 10 years," Weiner said. "There should be a very careful explanation of what all the changes mean as well."

Bill Dunn, vice president of the Civic League for New Castle County who has said he's running for County Council president next year, thinks the online maps aren't accompanied with instructions for how to use them on purpose.

"I think this approach is specifically designed to keep the public in the dark," Dunn said.

Resident Christine Whitehead said the new maps are a "major step forward in informing the public about future land-use plans." She agrees with Weiner that the review of the plan should be delayed to let people study the maps.

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.

Culver said any proposed changes would have to go through the county's normal rezoning process, so there's no effort to sneak anything past the public. He said the process is more open than it was in 2007 and has included 12 public meetings.

Weiner isn't satisfied.

"This isn't transparency," Weiner said. "I had a constituent email me asking what changes might be in store for their backyard. I had to reply, 'I'm your councilman. I don't know.' And I'm supposed to vote for this?"

IF YOU GO
WHAT: The New Castle County Planning Board and Land Use Department will hold a public hearing on the draft of the 2012 Comprehensive Plan update
WHEN: 7 p.m. Jan. 3
WHERE: Gilliam Building, 77 Reads Way, New Castle Corporate Commons
INFORMATION: A copy of the plan is on the county's website at www.nccde.org in the "NCC Spotlight" area of the home page. All county libraries also have a copy available. Comments on the plan should be sent to CompPlan12@nccde.org or NCC Department of Land Use, Attn.: D.J. Guthrie Cater, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE 19720

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