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Plan for southern New Castle County advances toward draft, meets criticism

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

A New Castle County Councilman is crying foul as the county moves toward a draft of a master plan for the area south of the C&D canal. 


The Southern New Castle CountyMaster plan has been in the works for about a year. It aims to curb sprawl in the fast-growing areas south of the C&D canal. 

The plan investigates three scenarios: “business as usual,” development guided by sewer extension in the western wing above Middletown, and development clustered mainly within existing towns in addition to sewer extension north of Middletown. 

“[Scenarios] 2 and 3 are very similar except that 3 directs a bit more growth to the municipalities than scenario 2 does,” said  New Castle County General Manager of Land Use Richard Hall. "Scenario 3 goes beyond the official growth projections that are out there, and it assumes a significantly higher number of employees, or job growth. ”

But County Councilman David Carter, who represents much of the area covered by the plan, worries these options— if they greatly increase density in the western wing— would not reflect the culture of the area. 

“I think we will get a lot of pushback from the community,” he said. “Rightfully so. They bought expecting a certain lifestyle and standard of living, and you could drastically change that.”

“I think we do want to push a little bit in that direction,” he added. “I think we do recognize that if you’re going to have a lot of houses, sewer is better. But we have to be really careful to find a balance here. It’s not one extreme or the other.”

Officials have hosted four public workshops on the plan following an initial information session roughly a year ago. The most recent public workshop was held earlier this week.


Hall says the plan is about increasing clarity and transparency over the 2012 Comprehensive Development Plan about which areas are targeted for sewer extension and which areas are not.

“I think in many instances the County hasn’t been as forthright as it could have been about where they definitely want growth to go and where they definitely do not want much growth to go,” he said. “They sort of take this middle of the road approach or path of least resistance, because it’s easy— that way you don’t get people upset. And I think it’s not good planning. I think it’s not honest, and it’s not responsible. 

Councilman Carter also objects to the County introducing legislationto permanently extend a septic moratorium on major developments before the plan is adopted. Carter argues that would quietly down-zone many rural properties. 

Hall says extending the moratorium is necessary to keep several developments that would utilize septic from going through before the plan is finalized.

Hall says a draft of the plan could be finished within about a month. Officials are collecting comments on the current stage until Oct. 18.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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