Seaford updating comprehensive plan

By Lynn R. Parks

The city of Seaford Tuesday night held the first of what city manager Dolores Slatcher said will be a series of public hearings on its updated comprehensive plan. The state requires that the updated plan be completed by the end of February. The city's last comprehensive plan was completed in 2003. The state requires that all municipalities and counties update their plans, which map out land use and growth patterns, every five years. Attending the hearing were several members of HAPPEN, the citizens group that last year successfully fought annexation of five parcels totaling nearly 600 acres near Hearn's Pond. Erroll Mattox, who lives on Hearn's Pond Road, read a statement from HAPPEN to the city council, underlying the importance of the comprehensive plan. "What kind of community do we want this to be?" he asked. "What kind of businesses do we want? How will we best attract them? How will we protect our land and our assets? How will we grow our tax base while keeping expenses under control?" All these questions, he said, are answered in a comprehensive plan. Mattox said that it is important for the city to protect open spaces and the environment. Neighborhoods should be within walking distance of shopping and recreation areas, he said, and the downtown should be revitalized. "We have to allow businesses to flourish without damaging our environment or our residential areas," he said. Assistant city manager Charles Anderson told the council that the state has added four new topics that the comprehensive plan has to address: The plan has to include information about the city's "total maximum daily loads" of damaging nutrients that it is putting into the Nanticoke River. It has to address how the city is dealing with the state's Corridor Capacity Preservation Program, whose goal is to limit traffic on U.S. 13 with the development of a system of access roads. "We are ahead of a lot of other communities on that," Anderson said.

The plan has to address the state's goal of preserving farmland. Current agriculture lands around the city have to be identified, Anderson said, so that developers know where they are and where buffers between them and residential areas will be required. The plan also has to address the state's new Wellhead Protection Program, designed to protect land through which water seeps to recharge public wells. The city has held one public hearing on its program, required by the state to be complete by the first of the year. City manager Dolores Slatcher said Tuesday night that the city is waiting for the county's plan to be complete to make sure that it and the city's plan are compatible. Slatcher also said that in writing its comprehensive plan, the city will have to keep in mind the state's proposal for a plan to allow transferred development rights, through which developers could purchase development rights from farmers and then use those rights to get higher housing densities than typically permitted. The plan would give farmers money to enable them to continue farming, and would allow developers to build more houses.

Comprehensive plan
The housing would have to go up in designated growth zones, areas near city centers. "The state wants more density in growth zones, and they want to keep farmland farmland," Slatcher said. A bill to allow transferred development rights is pending in the state legislature, she added. The bill has the backing of the state Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse, she added. Gabriel Zepecki, who also lives on Hearn's Pond Road, asked what role members of the public can play in development of the comprehensive plan. Slatcher said that the city welcomes comments from the public regarding the plan. "Does that mean that everything the public says will be included in the plan? No," Slatcher continued. "But hopefully, your comments will open the minds and eyes of the people who will be working on the plan." Councilman Rhea Shannon, who was acting as mayor in the absence of Mayor Ed Butler, told Zepecki that he hopes she has confidence in the council. He and Councilman Mike Vincent are lifelong residents, he said, and "we have the same concerns about Seaford as you do."

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