09/06/07 — Still more talk likely on county comprehensive plan

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Still more talk likely on county comprehensive plan

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 6, 2007 1:46 PM

Since May, Wayne County's Comprehensive Plan has received overwhelming support at a public forum, been approved by the county Planning Board and has now passed a county Board of Commissioners' public hearing without comment. But the commissioners still think there's some tweaking to be done on the nearly 30-page document before they can approve it -- possibly in October.

"We're still going to look at it," commission Chairman John Bell said. "We haven't had a work session on it. We need to go back over it again, line item by line item to make sure it's all how we really want it. We'll probably come back with a prioritized list of where we want to start."

The plan, which features 12 topic areas, includes policies and suggested implementation actions for the county to follow.

It focuses on such issues as transportation, economic development, agricultural preservation/growth management, water and sewer services, schools, housing and neighborhoods, public safety, downtown revitalization, parks and recreation and community appearance. Ideas on funding and intergovernmental cooperation are included as well.

In addition, the plan also features a growth strategy map, which classifies various areas of the county based on their potential for development.

The map divides the county into six types of zones -- urban areas, urban transition areas (areas of future urban development), community growth areas (areas of small town development), rural enclaves (areas of rural residential development), rural areas (areas of rural development, agriculture and open space) and conservation areas (areas of protection and conservation).

The plan, explained Glenn Harbeck of Glenn Harbeck Associates in Wilmington, is meant to help guide the county's decision-making processes for the next 10 to 20 years, and once it's adopted, all county decisions will have to be accompanied by an explanation based on its policies.

However, he told the commissioners, because it is a long-range document, it can be changed.

"I recommend you revisit the actions in this plan once a year -- check off the ones you've accomplished, cross off the ones that are no longer relevant and add new ones. That will give your county manager a clear idea of what he and his staff need to be focusing on," Harbeck said. "There's also no reason why you, as elected officials, can't make some amendments to these policies, though I wouldn't make a lot of them because the benefit of this plan is that it allows for a consistent track."

Also Tuesday, the commissioners gave the go-ahead to the renovation of the first and third floors of the Jeffreys Building on John Street. Once complete, likely sometime in the first half of 2008, the building will house the county's human resources, planning, inspections and environmental health departments, as well as its emergency services department, WayneNet and eventually, additional emergency vehicles.

The resulting space in the courthouse, county Manager Lee Smith explained, will give more room to the district attorney, the county's judges and the clerk of court.

"We've got a real problem here with space," he said. "We'll begin negotiating with them once we begin renovations over in the Jeffreys Building."

To pay for the $758,857 project, the commissioners tapped into a reserve fund that was set aside specifically for the renovations.

"These are not new dollars. We've been saving for this project the last two years," Smith said.