Sussex comp plan: County council approves hefty increase for expanded scope

GEORGETOWN –Sussex County’s 10-year comprehensive plan is due in June 2018.

Efforts to incorporate utmost public participation and expertise in developing the land-use plan will come at increased cost.

With perhaps a twinge of reluctance and one steadfast “no,” county council at its June 6 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 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 will allow for more discussion and public interaction, as sought by the county’s planning and zoning commission.

“More meetings were requested with the commission, other governments, county leaders, county council creating a $165,000 increase in scope,” said Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings.

Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said McCormick Taylor, selected through a request for proposal (RFP) process for its experience in comp plan work, has a standard process that they follow.

“They base that initial scope of work expense based on that standard process,” said Mr. Lawson. “Once we got into the process and started the process there were some concerns raised, in particular concerns coming from the planning and zoning commission members related to the process that McCormick Taylor had sent out.”

Mr. Lawson informed council that there are almost weekly or bi-weekly workshops taking place in council chambers, where consultants talk with the commission about parts of the elements of the comprehensive plan.

“We have outside experts coming in, agency testimony that is taking place. All of this is within this change of scope,” said Mr. Lawson. “Said another way: the scope changed to add all of this work and time and meetings because the commission was more comfortable with this change.”

“Obviously, it is a big increase in the contract,” said county council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, who voted in favor of the increase. “I would assume then with all of this we are going to have the best comp plan in the entire country.”

“It will be a very thorough comp plan,” said Mr. Lawson. “I think we are making every effort to allow the public the opportunity to participate as well as the appointed and elected officials.”

Councilmen George Cole, R-Ocean View, Rob Arlett, R-Frankford, and I.G. Burton, R-Lewes, also cast approval.

Sam Wilson, R-Georgetown, opposed. “I say no. The more you give them the more they want to spend,” said Mr. Wilson.

“We’re in this thing so we’ve got to keep moving forward; unless the staff tells us there is a problem with it, that they are charging too much,” said Mr. Cole. “We want to get it right.”

“I’m going to do it because of planning and zoning. They have been the driving force here. In the end, this is something that they have requested. They have had the desire to have more communication,” said Mr. Arlett.

“Yes, for public communication. You can’t go wrong with that,” said Mr. Burton.

“I do have concerns. Certainly, public comment is a great thing,” Mr. Vincent said. “It’s easy to spend money when it’s not your own, I guess.”

A comprehensive plan serves as the standard for development and how land use is governed in a community over a long-term period. 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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