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1/9/2012
NCCo growth plan review extended after objections that the public needs more details - News Journal

NCCo growth plan review extended
Land-use map complaints lead to longer public comment period
Jan. 9, 2012   
Written by MELISSA NANN BURKE 
 
The community has about three more weeks to comment on the proposed update to New Castle County’s Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint that would guide land-use decisions in the county for years to come. 

At a hearing on the draft document last week, county planners voted to extend the period for public comment by 30 days after complaints that GIS maps affiliated with the plan arrived too late in the process to allow for sufficient review. The new deadline is 4 p.m. Feb. 2. 

“They wanted more time to provide detailed, public comments on the record,” said Richard Killingsworth, who chairs the Planning Board and made the motion to extend the comment period. “That is a very basic request. It doesn’t encumber anyone, and we want to hear from the public on these issues.”

The land-use maps illustrate how communities could be affected by the changes proposed in the plan, which was last revised in 2007.State law requires Delaware counties and municipalities to update their comprehensive plans twice a decade. The process to develop the 2012 update began more than a year ago. 

Maps initially published with the plan in November lacked the precision for residents to locate local roads and neighborhoods, instead illustrating, for example, general categories of density. 

Last month, Councilman Bob Weiner and civic leaders asked the county to provide more detailed maps online so homeowners and others could pinpoint what potential changes might affect them. 

“The initial maps were very deficient. You couldn’t tell what was going on,” said Jeff Peters, president of the Pike Creek Valley Civic League. 

Late last month, county officials complied with the request, posting new maps viewable via the county GIS mapping system. It was a great improvement, according to Peters, who has familiarity with using GIS software to interpret and visualize geographic data. 

Critics countered that the upgraded maps were hard to find on the county website, confusing to navigate and arrived amid the bustle of the year-end holidays.

David Culver, general manager of land use for the county, could not be reached for comment. He has said the public had sufficient information to submit comments on the plan at the Jan. 3 hearing hosted by the county Planning Board and Land Use Department.

At that hearing, where people spoke for and against the plan, several wished for additional time for review and comment since the new maps arrived so close to the hearing date. 

“That was a prime issue for most people,” Killingsworth said of the testimony. “The maps have always been there. It’s just that some people need more help using the system. Information technology is only good if you know how to use it.”

At Killingsworth’s request, the county last week posted a link to GIS maps among documents related to the comprehensive plan update. The county also included directions for accessing the comprehensive-plan data in the county GIS system, as well as a contact phone number to reach the Land Use Department for help.  

“This was really hitting the nail on the head by the chair of the planning board,” said Weiner, who testified in support of the plan 
but mentioned his concern about the map issue.
 
The nonprofit preservation group Delaware Greenways didn’t have time to gather and submit formal comments on the plan, said Andrea Trabelsi, the organization’s director of programs and community planner.

“It was a really tight deadline at some points in the last year, so we’ll definitely be looking to submit comments with the additional time,” she said. The planning board now won’t consider the draft plan until its business meeting Feb. 21, Killingsworth said.

Next, the County Council reviews the draft and will likely hold its own public hearings and offer time for public comment. The updated comprehensive plan is due to the state in July.

Comment period extended 
 
The New Castle County Planning Board has extended by 30 days the time for the public comment on the proposed 2012 update of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The new deadline is 4 p.m. Feb. 2. 

A copy of the plan is on the county’s website at www.nccde.org . Follow the link under the “NCC Spotlight” area of the home page. For detailed maps down to the parcel level, click on “Draft Documents” and follow the directions to view map layers through the GIS mapping system. 

All county libraries also have a copy available. Comments on the plan should be sent to compplan12@nccde.org or to NCC Department of Land Use, Attn.: D.J. Guthrie Carter, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE 19720. 

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