March 16, 2001

Charging that the process so far has been seriously flawed and has little community support, County Councilman Richard Abbott called for a review of the Centreville development plan being produced by the Wilmington Area Planning Council. Patt Cannon, president of the area civic association, disputed Abbott's position, but said she would welcome "this opportunity to review Centreville's progress toward a master plan."

Abbott said he, state Senator Liane Sorenson and Representative Deborah Hudson have scheduled a public meeting on Mar. 28 to discuss where the process should go from here. The session will begin at 7 p.m. in the Natural History Museum on Kennett Pike.

Abbott told Delaforum that his main objection is with the process for developing the plan. "It has been a very closed process. Outreach has been minimal and many people in the Centreville area are quite upset. Many didn't even know it was going on," he said.

Cannon said that a preliminary meeting last October and a three-day workshop-style symposium in January were well publicized in the association's newsletter and open to the public. Abbott, she said attended just one day of the workshop.

"I'm sorry he feels that way," said Heather Ehrlich, the planning council's representative on the project. The organization "has followed a process for the [Centreville] plan that is very similar to what we have successfully used on other studies" and views the coming meeting "as a continuation of our public process."

Cannon said a preliminary report from paid consultants, financed by a federal government grant, is scheduled to be published in April. Erlich said there is to be "a final public meeting later this spring," but added that will not be "the end of the public input process."

Hudson said she was "satisfied with the way things have gone so far," but added that, "the more you share with the community the better."

Her main concern, as a state official, is with the transportation component of the plan and specifically the traffic-slowing 'gateways' planned for Kennett Pike just north and just south of the village. She said they should be constructed without further delay.

"Then we should see what effect that has on traffic through the village before going further," she said. "We don't want to get too agressive. We need to take this one step at a time."

Abbott said there needs to be many more meetings to produce a rounded public view of what residents of the area want for the traditional Centreville village and surrounding territory. "For something like this, you don't get a total of, maybe, 50 people, ask them what they're thinking and use that to write a plan. You come up with concepts, then go back several times and build on those concepts," he said.

"I have no idea what took place last October since I was unable to attend the first meeting due to its being poorly scheduled. ... Thus, I have attended the first and only meeting that I could. Anybody knows that one meeting does not a plan make."

He said the three-day workshop, billed as a 'charette', was, essentially, "a waste of time and money." 'Charette is a French term for an open-ended architectural planning session which has become trendy among planners and their consultants.

It is in the interest of consulting firms "to justify their existence by coming up with grandiose schemes," he said. In this case, the result is likely to be recommendations for "20 to 50 years down the road which might never come to fruition" while what is needed is a plan that can be implemented during the next few years.

Cannon responded that the consultants -- Angelo Alberto, of Alberto & Associates, a landscape planning firm,  and Frank Jaskowitz, of Glatting Jackson Associates, a transportation-oriented firm -- constitute a "highly regarded professional planning team."

Abbott said that, although the proposed plan centers around traffic and land use matters, Delaware Department of Transportation and the New Castle County Land Use Department have had, at best, a minor role. The former did sent an observer but the latter did not participate, he claimed.

Ehrlich disputed that saying that both agencies have been "valuable partners in the planning process and [the council] has sought their full participation." Cannon added that DelDOT "has taken a particularly active role in guiding traffic solutions toward those that would be acceptable under state transportation guidelines."

Sorenson did not respond to a Delaforum request for comment.

© 2001. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read previous story: Centreville advised to draw the line
Read previous story: Residents set out to 'save' Centreville
Go to the Centreville Village Plan section of Wilmington Area Planning Council's Web site





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