The Lewes Planning Commission is reviewing the city's comprehensive land use plan in order to have an update ready by a 2015 deadline.
University of Delaware Planning Consultant Lori Athey met with commissioners March 19 to go over a rough draft of the plan. Much of the initial meeting was spent clarifying roles and responsibilities of city committees and departments as well as updating the city's community profile. The commission will delve into deeper issues at later meetings.
“I feel like we're in a good place,” said Commission Co-Chair Kay Carnahan. “We've got so much done that I feel like we are on track. I think what we'll find different this time from last time is we have far fewer issues, but the issues will be far harder.”
Municipalities are required to revise and readopt comprehensive plan every 10 years to reflect goals and objectives for future growth. Once accepted by the state, the plan carries the force of law. Development is not permitted unless it is in accordance with the plan. The plan outlines future growth and development and its possible repercussions on a municipality's infrastructure.
Athey's initial research on Lewes found the city is aging faster than the rest of the county and state. She also reported Lewes residents are more educated and generally enjoy a higher than average income. Still, some folks live below the poverty line, including 30 percent of all persons under 17 years old. While that statistic may seem high, she said, Lewes does not have a lot of young people.
Dealing with the city's older population will be addressed at a later meeting, but in the meantime, Athey told commissioners and the public to think about the community and whether they want to attempt to attract younger people. For the older population that will continue to age over the next 10 years, she said, planners must think about the services and assistance that will be needed.
“We've got this great little place, and a lot of people are coming here to retire,” Athey said. “That makes for a unique community, but it does mean we have some things to think about in terms of moving forward into the future.”
Resident John Mateyko said a key to a sustainable future is easy access to the essential needs, such as grocery stores. He said walkability is important because as residents get older they will benefit from amenities within walking distance of their homes.
Resident Bob Dillman said attracting young people to Lewes could be important for the city's future growth, and that may require diversifying housing options.
“It's sad to think of the people who want to live here but can't because of the cost of living,” he said.
Commission Chair Mike Mahaffie said while the comp plan details the city's future, the greater Lewes area is attracting a diverse group of people.
“We would never want it to be the case where we keep the poor people and young people out there,” he said. “We also have to recognize we're all part of the big community together. Things are growing up around us, like Village at Five Points, that we integrate with.”
The commission did not present opinions or develop policies on the issues March 19; those will be formulated later in the process. Residents will be invited to offer opinions on Lewes' future at public information sessions scheduled for June 11 and June 14. Comp plan documents and maps are available at www.ci.lewes.de.us.