Town Comp Plan Review Continues

FENWICK ISLAND – A review of the town’s progress highlighted a meeting this week on the development of the Fenwick Island comprehensive plan.

On Tuesday, University of Delaware consultants Jen Reitz and Sean O’Neill presented members of the Fenwick Island Comprehensive Planning Commission with an update on the town’s comprehensive planning process.

As officials work to update the planning document, Reitz said the University of Delaware will continue to assist the town.

“The scope that UD signed with the town is to act as advisors on this process …,” she explained. “Our role is really to provide data and research, but also provide mapping and demographics and make sure you are meeting the requirements of the state.”

Reitz told committee members this week she had reviewed the commission’s draft planning documents. She recommended, however, that the town simplify its proposed comprehensive plan.

“We think you are well exceeding any state requirements, and it’s ambitious in terms of the level of detail you are encompassing in your comprehensive plan …,” she said. “But this is a higher-level document.”

Consultants said mapping and data are expected to assist the town in developing its comprehensive plan and identifying priorities. O’Neill also presented Census data and occupancy rates that the commission could use.

“These are some of the things you might want to think about in terms of future policy …,” he said. “What you want to do with your growth and annexation is something else you need to think about.”

Commission Co-Chair Ann Riley questioned what the town could do to improve its comprehensive plan.

“From your experience, do you think we would be better served trying to look at the higher-level issues so we can better focus?” she asked. “Our outline is long and detailed.”

Reitz recommended the town’s comprehensive plan highlight three to five issues that officials want to see addressed.

“There’s definitely room to consolidate,” she replied.

Riley also noted that the town has prioritized the development of sidewalks. She questioned if it was something the commission should highlight in the comprehensive plan.

“We’ve been trying to get sidewalks in our town for 20 years,” she said.

Reitz said prioritizing sidewalks in the town’s comprehensive plan was beneficial, as the document is typically reviewed by state agencies. O’Neill noted that while the comprehensive plan is meant to be a broad look at the community’s goals, priorities should be detailed.

“The comprehensive plan is a place where you can wave your hands and say, ‘this is what we want …,’” he said. “It’s good to be specific in this instance.”

Commission members this week also reviewed drafts of comprehensive plan chapters and pitched ideas for a public survey. Reitz noted that while response rates were typically low, she encouraged the town to seek community input.

“Given the lack of response to them, I think it is still worth getting that input,” she said.

Following Tuesday’s presentation, the commission agreed to discuss growth and annexation with University of Delaware consultants in January. They also agreed to set a timeline for completing work on the comprehensive plan.

“It would be really helpful if we could work out a defined schedule as to how we move forward and deadlines for getting products done,” O’Neill said. “We don’t want you being disappointed or upset at us for not meeting expectations because we didn’t lay them out further in advance.”

Tuesday’s meeting follows a months-long process of updating the town’s comprehensive plan. While the town’s planning commission began a five-year review earlier this year, the town council ultimately agreed to conduct a complete rewrite and hire consultants to assist in those efforts.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.