County council OKs more expanded scope funding in comp plan process

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County’s state-mandated land-use plan update is not an inexpensive process.

For the second time in 10 months, Sussex County Council has approved expanded scope funding for the 2018 comprehensive plan, which is due in June of this year.

Council at its April 17 meeting voted 5-0 to approve slightly more than $35,000 – but no more – for expanded cope of work in compiling the land-use plan, which serves as the standard for development and how land use is governed over a long-term period.

Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said the expanded scope includes an additional 224 hours of work at an additional cost not to exceed $35,213.08.

Additional hours are for the workshops with Sussex County Council. Additional meetings with the county council regarding the status of the comprehensive plan could be required. Expanded scope funding could cover tasks such as preparation of workshop agendas, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations.

“I’m not sure what is going to wear out first, the council or our money,” remarked county council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford.

Ms. Cornwell noted the approval is not to exceed the amount; therefore, if some hours are not used, the county will not be charged.

“For example, as we have been moving through the process, we have reduced hours for plan publicity, media coordination and communication support, as staff has been completing those tasks and if a meeting is not needed the hours will not be charged,” Ms. Cornwell stated in her memorandum to council.

“Like a worst-case scenario, is what you are saying?” said county councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View.

“Yes,” Ms. Cornwell replied.

“This is basically an insurance policy,” said Mr. Vincent. “As we move along from now through May, if have cover costs. If we don’t need it, we don’t spend it.”

Significant progress has been made on the comprehensive plan through public involvement, commission meetings, council workshops, and various interviews, it was noted.

County council at its June 6, 2017 meeting agreed to a $165,000 increase in the contract with consultant McCormick Taylor, which has been leading the comprehensive planning process since early 2016.

Council’s 4-1 vote in June 2017 approval authorized “expanded scope” for the 2018 comprehensive land-use plan not to exceed $435,193.31. The original budgeted amount was approximately $270,000. Increased scope was to allow for more discussion and public interaction, as sought by the county’s planning and zoning commission.

That request in 2017 was for more meetings requested with the planning and zoning commission, other governments, county leaders and county council creating a $165,000 increase in scope, according to Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings.

County councilman Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, asked if this latest request means the county has exceeded its comprehensive plan budget.

“We haven’t gone over budget,” said Ms. Cornwell. “We’ve been working on reducing hours in other areas. Technically, we’re not over budget as of right now.”

Comprehensive plans are utilized by local and county governments to establish land-use policies and identify growth areas, while also casting consideration to various other community concerns, such as agriculture preservation, affordable housing availability, open space protection, historic preservation, economic development and transportation mobility.

By state law all counties and municipalities in Delaware must review and update their plans for state certification every 10 years.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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