Kent County Profile covers another year of progress

The Delaware State News produces the Kent County Profile in collaboration with the Kent Economic Partnership. On Tuesday, the ninth annual economic profile, a glossy magazine, will be released.

DOVER — We get to celebrate another year of progress with Kent County on Tuesday.

The occasion is the unveiling and release of the Kent County Profile.

This will be our ninth edition.

The magazine, a collaborative effort with the Kent Economic Partnership, is designed to be an economic development tool.

In a sense, it’s also something of a throwback to what newspapers once called “progress” editions.

Indeed, when you look back on the past nine years, there has been quite a change in the landscape in Kent County.

The cover of the first, published in January 2010, featured a crane at the construction site of the Bayhealth Kent General Hospital expansion in Dover.

From there, the magazine has celebrated success in manufacturing, agriculture, entrepreneurship, downtown revitalization, tourism, colleges and more.

The 2017 cover story featured the investments, including the $100 million runway replacement project, at Dover Air Force Base.

We keep the cover top secret and unveil it in front of an audience of more than 100 invited guests from the business community. You’ll have to wait until Tuesday to learn what is featured and what makes Kent a great place to live, work and play.

The 60-page glossy magazine will be available from the Kent County Economic Development Office and select events. It will also be available at www.kentcountyprofile.com.

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In today’s edition of the newspaper, you’ll see the annual figures for Kent County real estate sales.

Cynthia Witt, a broker and Realtor with Woodburn Realty in Dover, compiles the information and shares it with the Delaware State News. She has diligently tracked these trends for years.

She reports that the average sale price in 2017 was $215,577 — up slightly from the year before, but the highest since 2008.

Ms. Witt said there were 3,180 homes sold in 2017.

It was the highest total since 2006 during the real estate boom in the county.

The busiest areas right now, she said, are Smyrna and the Camden-Magnolia areas.

The “hot spots” show up in the electronic maps kept by the Kent County Planning Services.

“Smyrna is the place to be,” said Kent planning director Sarah Keifer.

Del. 1 opened up northern Kent’s boom as a bedroom community for people working to the north.

She said the county recorded 769 new home starts last year — an increase of 20 percent from 2016.

The 2017 figure was the highest since 2007 when there were 923 new housing starts.

New home starts represented about 24 percent of all home sales.

“We’re definitely seeing a resurgence,” said Ms. Keifer. “We’re nowhere near the boom.”

Homes went up like crazy in 2005-2007 when the county recorded more than 3,400 starts.

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Quite a bit of housing data is available in the drafts of the latest comprehensive land use plan the county is preparing.

New housing is filling in many of the lots that were planned in the middle of the last decade. In 2006 alone, there were 34 subdivisions approved with more than 5,200 lots.

The plan’s latest draft said there are about 8,800 vacant lots within major subdivisions now. More than 4,400 lots have been expunged because construction did not begin,

“If market demand for single-family lots of 10,000 square feet remains the same and the average number of new housing starts remains at roughly 650 per year, the current inventory will be sufficient for more than a decade,” the land-use plan says.

The subdivision applications trickled to a stop in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, there were none approved.

In 2016 and 2017, just two total were approved and there were re-applications required because of inactivity, said Ms. Keifer.

The Kent County comp plan should be finished before October.

To read draft chapters of the comprehensive plan, visit http://www.co.kent.de.us/planning-dept/planning.aspx.

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Ms. Witt said there is a troubling trend in the Kent County statistics.

Foreclosures remain high, she said. There were 349 sheriff sales last year, about 11 percent of all home sales.

She said most were homes purchased between 2000 and 2010.

***

The full text of Gov. John Carney’s “State of the State” address, delivered Thursday at Legislative Hall, is available at www.DelawareStateNews.net.

The annual budget proposal from the governor comes out this week, and we will report on his ideas for fiscal change in the state.

It certainly appears that state spending and revenues will be a hot topic from now until June 30 — as it was last year and the year before and the year before …

“We’re standing here today facing a much more positive financial picture than this time last year,” Gov. Carney said Thursday. “We closed a $400 million budget shortfall. But we did not go far enough, unfortunately, and as a result, our long-term budget problems continue to linger.

“It’s a simple math problem. Our long-term growth rate for state spending is two times the growth rate of our revenues. We have to find a long-term way to limit our spending growth. I’ve imposed this type of discipline on the budget I’ll introduce next week.”

Stay tuned. And let your feelings be known. Email a letter to the editor at newsroom@newszap.com.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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