Online exclusive: Comp Plan forum to focus on developers’ perspective

Residents of Sussex County are being encouraged to attend a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Sussex County tonight. The forum, “The Developers’ Perspective: An Effective 2018 Comprehensive Plan,” will be held in County Council Chambers in Georgetown on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.

Preston Schell, CEO of Ocean Atlantic Companies; Sarah Keifer, Kent County director of planning; and Nick Hammonds of Jack Lingo Asset Management will be forum’s key speakers.

“The origin of this perspective came about from Preston Shell himself, who attended one of our workshops back in April 2015. We had educational workshops on what the comprehensive plan was in each of the five councilmanic districts in Sussex County,” said Sue Claire Harper, the Land Use Committee chair for the League.

“Someone alluded to the fact that they didn’t think developers could care less about the Comprehensive Plan. He was responding to that in general, saying that if Sussex County had a well-crafted 2018 Comprehensive Plan, it would make the job of the developers much easier. They could operate much more efficiently; they could plan… That’s what laid the groundwork for this particular forum.”

Harper said the League followed up with Schell, who agreed to participate in the forum.

“We wanted to hear what the developers who had such a significant influence in Sussex County — particularly in the eastern part and with the incredible wealth that we experience…” had to say, Harper explained.

Schell recommended that Hammond be asked to participate as well, as Lingo provides planning and feasibility studies for developers.

“And, Sarah Keifer from Kent County... Kent and New Castle counties have far more advanced Comprehensive Plans than Sussex County. We wanted to find out how one of the other two counties was doing what they were doing and doing it successfully, what they found works with the developers.

“My understanding from speaking with Sarah briefly is that they have experienced success in providing low- and moderate-income housing, for which there is a critical need here in Sussex.”

Harper said everyone should attend the forum to learn more about the Comprehensive Plan.

“The public, unless they are thoroughly versed in this information, should attend because public input is critical in the development of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. The 2008 plan was initially rejected by the State because there was insufficient input from the public and they had to backtrack and get comment after-the-fact, document that and then submit that to the State.”

The League’s next forum is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at 7 p.m., focusing on low-income housing issues and fair-housing enforcement.

Harper said the mission of the League of Women Voters is education, and getting people to express their views to their elected officials and to stay informed.

“As our moderator and former league president is fond of saying … ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport.’”