Fenwick comprehensive plan to start soon

After months of discussion, the seven newly-appointed Fenwick Island planning commissioners and an Aspen, Colo., company will soon begin work on the town’s first, and state-mandated, comprehensive plan.

The plan will “lay the groundwork,” as one town councilman put it, for future town ordinances, land use and design decisions. Town officials have not yet set a specific date to begin work on the plan.

“Our town needs to have much longer-range planning in place and we need to have guidelines that will help us reach good conclusions, zoning issues and ordinances,” said Chris Clark, a Fenwick town councilman and long-time proponent of developing a plan. “In order for zoning and ordinances to have a good legal basis, they have to be put into place in accordance with a comp plan,” he said.

Bluegreen Aspen — a planning, design and project management firm founded in 2001 — will assist Fenwick’s commissioners in conceiving the plan, which also has a design element. The firm’s officials work on planning and design projects mostly in Colorado but have worked with out-of-state clients, according to its owner and its Web site at www.bluegreenaspen.com. And there is a local connection, too.

“We’re really excited to be a part of (the project),” said Sheri Sanzone, a principal/owner of the firm, whose parents have owned property in Fenwick for a decade. “We work in mountain resort communities a lot that are dealing a lot of the same kind of (growth) pressure that beachfront communities are experiencing.”

Fenwick Island’s town council voted 5-1 at a special meeting on Saturday to approve Bluegreen’s $49,400 proposal, which was $17,000 more expensive than the two local proposals but included a design elements the others did not. The Institute for Public Administration, a branch of the University of Delaware, and Davis, Bowen & Friedel, a Milford company, sent proposals to the town to work strictly on the comprehensive plan.

The design element, which is equally as important for the town’s future, according to officials, will address ways to add life to the town’s commercial district on Route 1, which has been consistently pressured by residential development and tempting property values.

“The Route 1 corridor is usually what everyone sees, whether you’re staying in town or breezing through town,” said Agnes DiPietrantonio, Fenwick’s administration assistant. “Often, a small town doesn’t offer enough to compel a person to stop. What they’re interested in doing is giving a new look or a better look to the commercial district here on Route 1 that might encourage people to stop as they’re passing through.”

Sanzone has photographed the area and has read Delaware Department of Transportation reports on the roadway but said it was too early to comment on potential work along Route 1.

“There are a lot of things that are falling into place nicely,” Clark said of including the design element with the comprehensive plan. “This is a good way of combining it all into one, moving several issues forward at the same time.

“The sooner” officials can start work on those two major elements of the town’s future, Clark said, “the better.”