UD county growth workshop slated for Thursday

University of Delaware officials will be holding a workshop on Thursday, June 28, to discuss Sussex County growth and its impacts. The workshop is an extension of the Coastal Community Enhancement Initiative, a teaming of three of the university’s colleges to educate Sussex County policy makers on the impact of future development on the landscape and lifestyle in Delaware’s southernmost county.

The initiative, a collaboration of the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Institute for Public Administration, and Sea Grant Program, was birthed through a $300,000 state grant last year that the university will receive annually to continue research. Officials there plan to fund research projects that educate the public and policymakers on the impact of growth and to conduct workshops and seminars on growth in the area.

“This whole program isn’t to tell the county or local communities how to do things,” said Jim Falk, director of the university’s Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, who is temporarily running the program, “…but we’re saying the university has resources we can bring to the table to help people. If we can bring anything to the table to help communities be better equipped, we feel like we’ll be in a useful role.”

Thursday’s workshop will run from about 8:45 a.m. to noon, and people must register to attend. Call Carrie Sterling at 856-2585, ext. 574, or e-mail her at csterlin@udel.edu to learn how to register. Registration that day will take place at 8 a.m., and Dr. Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will issue opening remarks at 8:45 a.m. Thomas Hylton, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist from Pennsylvania and author of “Save our Land, Save our Towns” will speak from 9 to 10 a.m., on the effects of sprawl.

Those in attendance will also hear the first research projects funded through the initiative. Dr. David Ames, director for the Center for Historic Architecture and Design at the university, will present research on how historical sites in the county could be affected by continued growth. And Dr. Joshua Duke, an associate professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, will present research touting the benefits of farmland preservation.

Officials will also present a computer program that will allow local residents and policymakers to visualize the impact of future growth on county resources by, for instance, using GIS pictures to implant proposed developments over the current landscape to see the potential impact. It is a tool, officials said, that could allow policymakers to see the potential impact of growth on the environment and infrastructure before approving or disapproving a development.

Lunch will be served after the workshop ends, about noon. Officials are currently seeking more research projects to fund within the university and a director to run the initiative full-time to expand research and outreach programs.

“Land use in this county is an ever-evolving story,” said Dr. Bill McGowan, a staffer in the community development section of the university’s Cooperative Extension who is helping run the initiative. “It’s going to be a long term conversation. Everybody has got to be talking to one another. The more we do that the better off we’ll be.”