It’s time for the Town of Milton to update its comprehensive plan, and officials say the most important element of doing the job well is maximizing citizen participation.
About 30 town residents attended a Feb. 25 meeting to find out about plans to begin reviewing the town’s last comprehensive plan, filed in 2010.
Connie Holland, Director of the Office of State Planning Coordination and Dorothy Morris, Sussex County circuit rider and planner, joined Milton’s Mayor and Town Council to discuss how to begin the review.
“Look at the plan that’s in place now and if you determine there are a lot of changes to be made, such as your growth is happening in a different place or things that you didn’t have going on in 2010,” Morris said.
The revised plan goes to the Preliminary Land Use Service to be checked for regulatory compliance, and is then sent back to the town for corrections.
“Then it would be recertified by the governor and then go into your five-year review file,” Morris said.
Morris said the town could submit its existing comprehensive plan to Pre-update PLUS and state agencies will review it to determine if it meets state regulations.
PLUS will tell the town whether the plan meets state regulations and which new regulations must be added. The service will also make recommendations on how to improve the plan.
One change known to have occurred is that the town’s population has grown.
Holland said her office has had conversations about sea-level rise with several coastal municipalities that have added it to their plans.
“I think it’s very wise. The world’s changing, and the climate is changing. You see the kind of winter we have,” she said.
Holland said many jurisdictions are also finding they have insufficient housing. “Maybe there are too many rentals or maybe not enough. We’re striving for everybody to have a home, and a good home,” she said.
Holland said PLUS has also been master planning, looking not only at housing changes and climate change but also at area density and healthcare. She said a segment of town that has gone through master planning could be pre-permitted.
“A developer comes in, he or she will know the rules and regulations (needed) to pull a permit within 60 days because all the legwork has been done,” she said.
Ginny Weeks said she was a member of Milton’s Planning Commission in 2005, and she took part in the town’s last comprehensive plan review.
“The last review wasn’t really a review. We were limited to about 35 pages by a councilwoman. I’ve been here since 2004, and we have not had a complete comprehensive plan.
“When we tried to do the maps the consultant told us that we were not allowed to; it wasn’t within the purview the council had set. We are in dire need of a full and complete review,” Weeks said.
Weeks asked Holland which is more important in the review process, maps or plan content.
“Maps are important but be careful with them,” she advised. She said comprehensive plans carry the force of law. Holland said planners have learned that segregating activities is detrimental.
“Mixed use is the way to go. When you start segregating your people and activities, that’s when you lose your community,” she said.
Holland said town residents should look for ideas used in plans of other municipalities that might be useful in Milton’s revised plan.
Hal Godwin, Sussex County deputy administrator and his wife, Jocelyn, a Georgetown planning administrator will assist Milton with its update.
Godwin said neither he nor his wife are being paid or are working on the plan in connection with their official jobs. He said they’re doing it because they have experience and feel they’re a part of Milton.
In 2005, Hal was hired to serve as Milton’s first town manager. From 1998 to 2004, he served as Mayor of Newark, where he worked on two comprehensive plans.
“We’ve both done comprehensive plans, and we’ve both been involved with Milton, and we’ve both lived close to but not in the town. We’re here to help get this done,” Hal said.
He said every town resident should read the plan and then come to public hearings prepared to ask questions.
“The town needs to have its own energy to get the comprehensive plan through its review process and to PLUS in a fashion that will be acceptable,” Godwin said.
The Godwins are working with public officials to coordinate meeting dates that will maximize their attendance. They will also schedule daytime, evening and weekend public meetings to accommodate the public’s mixed schedules.
Go to www.milton.delaware.gov to see the 2010 comprehensive plan. Plan copies will also be available on loan at the Milton Public Library and Milton Town Hall.