Jerry Smith , The News Journal 3:48 p.m. EST December 20, 2016
In the next 10 years, Kent County residents want to see less traffic congestion, more affordable housing, the preservation of the county's rural character and more ways to reach businesses and neighborhoods via bike trails.
That's according to the nearly 500 responses the county has received so far from a survey about what should be a part of its revised comprehensive plan.
“The Comp Plan is meant to be a vision articulated by the community and to draft something they want,” said Sarah Keifer, director of the Planning Division in Kent County. “It is not our plan, it’s the community’s plan. We’re just here to write it.”
The top two concerns raised in responses were traffic congestion and development/land use, Keifer said.
Keifer said traffic and congestion is an ongoing discussion with the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Dover/Kent Metropolitan Planning Organization. She said the West Dover Connector – named POW-MIA Parkway in October – will improve congestion problems in the First State.
DelDOT officials have said the purpose of the West Dover Connector is to improve mobility across the Norfolk Southern Railroad for all modes of travel from the west side of Dover. But more importantly, officials say, the connector aims to reduce congestion at key intersections, improve the connectivity of the roadway network for regional, through and local travel and reduce high traffic volume on local streets. DelDOT officials say the roadway will open in August 2017.
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Another Kent County project that will relieve congestion in Camden and Wyoming is the Camden Bypass. Discussions about the bypass have been taking place for years.
It is also once again the top Kent County project on the Delaware Department of Transportation’s proposed construction list for the next six years. The $17 million project, which will route heavy truck traffic around historic Camden, is moving forward, with preliminary engineering phases taking place the next two years before construction begins in 2020.
DelDOT recently ranked the project as No. 3 on its Capital Transportation Program, which outlines various construction efforts in the coming years.
“If you want to live in a developing area, you will encounter traffic. It’s a balance,” Keifer said. “Transportation plans are being looked at for areas that are developing, like the Smyrna-Cheswold area and west of Magnolia. We have backing from DelDOT.”
Those submitting feedback pretty much agree that development in Kent County should be focused and should occur in existing areas, Keifer said. Along with that were many comments about preserving the rural character of the county and not seeing development sprawl out into rural areas.
As the senior population continues to grow in Kent County, people say via feedback they would like to see more 55+ housing developments built in existing growth areas outlined by the comp plan. The 65+ population is expected to reach 25,035 by 2020, an increase of more than 14 percent from 21,904 in 2015.
Feedback also indicates that people are thinking about alternative modes of transportation when talking about future development. From the survey data, many residents want to see more connectivity to parks and business centers not only by proper and safe roadways, but also using bike and walking trails.
“That wasn’t a conversation that was taking place 10 years ago,” Keifer said.
Of the nearly 500 responses from the survey, certain trends could be seen, Keifer said:
•Needs – small, locally owned businesses; technology-based industry
•Priorities – farmland and open space preservation; improving accessibility and services for the disabled; parks and recreation within biking and walking distance
•Housing needs – Mixed-use communities; walkable/bikeable communities; low and moderate housing
Kent County officials are asking residents to take its survey by the end of December and to also share the link with anyone who lives and/or works in Kent County. Feedback will aid in the development of goals for the future of Kent County, Keifer said.
The survey is comprised of 34 questions touching on various topics, such as land use, transportation, the environment, economic development, etc. and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KCCompPlan2018.
From the feedback, county officials will write a draft of the plan, have conversations with other agencies, which will lead to new laws adopted based on the plan. From there, public hearings will be held and the plan adopted before going to Kent County Levy Court. The revised draft will then be circulated for public comment. The plan will be finalized in 2018.
Reach Jerry Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JerrySmithTNJ.