Comp plan signals major change
in county's land-use policies
Council, as is likely, approves the proposed comprehensive
development plan substantially unchanged from the recently
'released' draft and, more to the point, supports
implementation of the plan, New Castle County is in for a
significant change in the way county government manages
The plan stops short of
rejecting the suburban dream born a half century ago during
the postwar, post-Depression housing boom and most embodied
in the landmark Unified Development Code adopted nearly a
decade ago. But it does seek to establish a basic policy of
concentrating future development in a relatively compact
area south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and
concentrating on redeveloping existing areas and filling in
undeveloped gaps north of the canal.
It calls for getting away
from a predominant emphasis on single-family houses on
relatively large lots in favor of greater density --
read townhouses and apartment complexes -- with a greater
amount of "housing diversity" -- read weaning builders away
from their present almost-exclusive dedication to the upper
limits of the price scale.
That, according to the draft.
will "meet our future growth needs in a cost-effective,
environmentally prudent and infrastructural-efficient
Recognizing that 'widely
acceptable' is not going fit neatly into that adjectival
litany when specific applications run into the 'nimby' --
not in my backyard -- syndrome, the proposal is careful to
emphasize preservation of existing community
characteristics. It remains to be seen, of course, the
extent to which those concepts are compatible.
The plan acknowledges that
"suburban development will continue to be in demand and a
preferred way of living for a large percentage of the
population." But it said there is no valid reason why that
cannot "surround and support the denser mixed-use centers."
It is obvious to most
observers that the Coons administration and its Department
of Land Use view compliance with state law to update the
comprehensive plan every five years to be much more than an
exercise to occupy civic groupies. Much of the recommended
course of future action already has been charted in such
initiatives as the residential rental code, redevelopment
ordinances, property maintenance code, problem-properties
taskforce and 'hometown' overlay zoning. Support for
encouraging 'affordable' housing and establishing a
Core of the proposed plan is
found in 10 objectives it sets forth:
• "Accommodate 60% of new
development in the existing-community areas, redevelopment
areas and incorporated areas of northern New Castle County."
• "Accommodate 36% of the new
residential development in the new-community development
zone in southern New Castle County and southern New Castle
County incorporated areas."
• "Accommodate 2% of new
development within New Castle County in the
• "Accommodate 2% of new
development within New Castle County in the resource- and
• "Create greater densities
and housing diversity through development and expansion of
mixed-use centers and village-hamlet communities."
• "Require the design and
uses in each center to complement and enhance those centers
and the surrounding community."
• "Encourage redevelopment
and infill projects that complement and enhance existing
neighborhoods and restore older commercial centers as vital
components of the community."
• "Reduce the number of
vacant or under-maintained residential properties in the
existing-community area by 15%.
• "Acquire permanent
preservation easements on 321 acres per year in the
possible-future-growth areas and the resource- and
rural-preservation areas through transfers of development
• "Expand the use of overlay
zoning districts to permit flexible options for preserving
and enhancing areas within New Castle County that have a
unique character (such as Marshallton, Christiana, Yorklyn,
Port Penn, etc.) threatened by conventional suburban
Read previous Delaforum article:
Draft of a comprehensive development plan posted