Sussex County Council welcomed new state planner Bryan Hall (circuit-rider for Sussex) at the Oct. 31 council meeting, and Council Member George Cole (4th District) took the opportunity to press a little responsibility on Hall and the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC).
The county is in the process of updating its comprehensive plan, and Cole pressed for something more from the OSPC than mere facilitation.
“Will the state take any positions,” Cole asked, “or are you going to be just a knee-jerk reaction to what the county gives you?”
He asked Hall to speak up if he saw something he felt didn’t jibe with Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s Livable Delaware agenda.
“We need to have that input,” he said. “So many times, state people are… you know — they’re bureaucratic.” He noted an apparent aversion to active participation.
“I’d like to see people involved in the process — as they hear conversations and arguments, it sometimes leads to better policy,” Cole said.
However, OSPC Director Constance Holland, also in attendance, said Minner wanted comp plan updates run bottom-up, rather than top-down.
“I’m here to work with you,” Hall emphasized. “I’m here to serve as a technical resource, to guide you through this process and to provide support to you and your staff.”
Hall could also serve as a “conduit to other state offices,” and as an advisor on matters related to Livable Delaware funding, Holland said.
Council Member Dale Dukes offered counterpoint to Cole’s comments. “This plan is Sussex County’s, and not the state’s,” Dukes said.
“As long as we have that understanding, we’ll get along fine,” he told Hall.
“I want this to be your plan, and I want what comes out in it to be your thoughts, your ideas and suggestions,” Hall answered.
Dukes warned Hall that there’d likely be controversy over the new State Resource Area (SRA) maps, which must be made part of the county’s comp plan.
He remembered a meeting at Delaware Tech in 1998, when between 2,000 and 3,000 people turned out to scrutinize the last update. “From the calls I had yesterday — probably the public hearing you’re going to have on the resources maps, you’ll have that many people to deal with again,” Dukes said.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has recommended a near doubling of the total Sussex acreage designated “natural area,” from 39,000 acres to nearly 77,000 acres.
According to DNREC officials, these natural areas are the best of the best — the SRA lands of highest value. Land owners could still develop natural areas, but would have to do so in a sensitive manner, state officials pointed out. The county will need to flesh out specifics as the comp plan update progresses.
Council will not meet next week, as Tuesday, Nov. 7, is Election Day. Sussex County Return Day festivities will commence Wednesday night, with live entertainment in the Courthouse parking lot, and run all day Thursday (Nov. 9) on The Circle. Check www.returnday.org for an events schedule and more information.
Council President Lynn Rogers once again invited local students in grades K through 12 to submit their Election Day predictions — by 7 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7 – for the county’s biennial Election Year Scholarship Contest. For online information and submission, visit the county’s Web site, at www.sussexcountyde.gov, follow the scholarship contest link and look for directions along the left side of the page.