frank: Northern New Castle County is largely an unincorporated
city," the plan will declare.
hard to tell the difference between the city [of Wilmington] and
[surrounding] New Castle County," said Charles Baker, general
manager of the Department of Land Use, as he publicly unveiled
the proposed new plan, still in early draft form, at a meeting
of Council's land use committee on Sept. 4. The draft will be
the subject of soon-to-be-scheduled public hearings and, after
revisions, given to Council in early January. State law requires
county comprehensive plans to be updated every five years and
March will be the fifth anniversary of adoption of the present
plan led, at least indirectly, to adoption two years later of
the county's Unified Development Code.
indicated by Baker in an earlier interview with Delaforum, the
updated plan will answer in the negative the question of whether
the county has run out of room to accommodate expected economic
Population Consortium data, it estimates that 38,800 new jobs
will be added to the existing 250,000 by 2020. Accommodating the
jobs, Baker said, will require about 1,000 acres, which is less
than a fourth of the 4,500 acres presently zoned for commercial
development but unused. His conclusion: "There is adequate land
for business development" without the necessity for any
Similarly, there is adequate land designated for residential
development to provide housing for the people who will hold
those jobs. "There is a good supply of housing ... with median
price about 8% lower than the median housing cost in the
region," he said.
Unified Development Code, he said, provides "a variety of
[residential] development options" that were not available under
the former zoning code. "We're a lot more flexible today than we
were before," he said.
new code went into place three years ago, 90% of building
permits have been issued for projects in areas designated for
development. "That means that we are 90% in line with the
[present comprehensive] plan," Baker said.
permit sufficient building to meet foreseeable housing needs
without encroaching on the existing 43,000 acres of protected
other hand, the expected greater population density will bring
on increased demand for urban-type services. Moreover, since the
largest amount of development will occur south of the U.S. Route
40 corridor, they will have to be provided on a larger
geographic scale than in the past.
plan appears to point to a scenario of manageable growth and
what Baker called "development predictability," it also raises
some significant issues that will have to be dealt with in the
Freebery, the county's chief administrative officer, said an
example is determining who has responsibility for maintaining
sidewalks. While Delaware Department of Transportation should
have that responsibility since virtually all the walks lie
within its rights-of-way, she said that state agency is
attempting, through General Assembly action, to shift the burden
to the county. To avoid that, she called on County Council to
amend the development code to change its present requirement for
sidewalks to a more general statement that sidewalks "may be
required." That verbage would throw the ball back into DelDOT's
court because that agency, rather than the county, would then be
doing the requiring, she explained.
want it to be our responsibility to tell people they have to pay
for [repairing] their sidewalks," said Councilwoman Karen
questions exists with bicycle and pedestrian paths now being
constructed. "Everybody loves greenways, but who's going to
operate and maintain them? Who's going to repair them 10 years
from now?" Freebery said.
is yet another potential problem. Although the new code
addresses that, it does not provide for enforcement of those
provisions. And, since present conditions have been brought
about by past development, a matter of equitable treatment
our agenda for the next five years: How do we handle these
really thorny issues?" Baker said.
Council President Christopher Coons
agreed that, as an initial step, he will schedule a Council
'retreat' to lay out the issues and begin to establish