Lewes needs full time city planner

February 28, 2014

The Lewes City Council has proposed hiring a city planning consultant with an allocation in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget that goes into effect April 1. While a consultant can be useful, the real and pressing need is for a full-time professional planner, dedicated to help implement our community’s vision for the future. In fact, the city already employs multiple consultants - for planning around hazard mitigation and climate adaptation; the scenic and historic byway; traffic; pedestrian walkways, as well as for drafting the 2015 Lewes Comprehensive Plan.

While these consultants are professional planners themselves, their roles are very different when compared to that of paid City Hall staff. They do not exercise authority, have responsibility for decisions, or perform in the professional capacity of someone with the duty to advocate for the community and its citizens in the various forums and administrative processes that conduct the city’s business. Instead, consultants are hired to give often specialized advice that is neither comprehensive in perspective nor well-grounded in the actual life of the community.

A capable, competent, AICP-certified city planner, committed to the AICP code of ethics, can provide us with value on our investment in salary and benefits, by successfully fostering good governance; promoting a community-inspired vision; supporting well-conceived policies around sustainable development and smart growth; and attracting novel and additional sources of funding for city projects. An attractive investment in an effective city planner can help produce many times that in the safety, desirability, viability, and prosperity of our beautiful community. Given that Lewes is within close proximity of the premier graduate school program for city planners (at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia), it has ready access to highly qualified individuals. So we could benefit greatly by including a full-time position in our 2015 budget, and advertising the position as soon as possible.

Lewes has good elected and appointed officials, who carry out important and necessary work, mostly on a volunteer basis. It has specialized professionals in various capacities for public works, building engineering, public safety, and emergency management. What Lewes does not have is an capable, competent, and full-time AICP-certified professional with extensive training and experience around the various concerns of a coastal-zone community facing the myriad challenges of sea-level rise and climate change; economic and employment development; transportation; renewable energy production; and disaster preparedness and mitigation. We need a planner to help build resiliency to environmental and social hazards; respond to demographic shifts in population age and diversity; develop sustainable infrastructure; and promote our rich scenic, historic, and cultural legacies. Lewes needs a city planner, whose full-time job is to implement the Comprehensive Plan reflecting the multiple perspectives and interests of our community’s many stakeholders. By neglecting that need, we face an increasingly difficult road ahead - which is why we need a full-time, fully credentialed City Planner to help us navigate the future. And the sooner, the better.

Richard Moore

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