Kent County Regional Planning Commission chairman replaced

DOVER — Albert W. “Bill” Holmes Jr. was replaced on Kent County’s Regional Planning Commission (RPC) last week after 24 years of service.

Newly- elected 2nd district Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Jeffery Hall (D) decided to appoint Colonial School District teacher and Dover resident Peter Servon on the RPC rather than keep Mr. Holmes on.

All seven Levy Court commissioner seats come with the right to appoint an individual from their district to the RPC.

Albert “Bill” Holmes

“When a new commissioner comes on, you hope to get a chance to meet with then and that they’ll decide to keep you on, but in this case Commissioner Hall decided to make a change,” said Mr. Holmes of the recent change. “It’s, of course, his prerogative and decision, and there’s certainly no hard feelings about it.”

Mr. Holme’s tenure included serving under three separate commissioners and long stint as the RPC’s chairman.

“I was originally appointed by then- commissioner Ron Smith, kept on by commissioners Brad Eaby and then, later, James Hosfelt — so both Democrats and Republicans appointed me,” he said. “I was very appreciative of them for having kept me on and was happy to serve.”

Both county planning director Sarah Keifer and county administrator Michael Petit de Mange, who’d worked closely with Mr. Holmes over the years, applauded his service.

“Working with Bill was a great pleasure,” said Ms. Keifer. “His desire to serve in the interests of Kent County citizens is very much appreciated and will be missed. Staff wishes him all the best.”

Mr. Petit de Mange recalls Mr. Holmes providing a steady hand on the commission during a “development boom” in the county in the early 2000s.

“The county was under some intense development pressure back around 2005 and 2006 when I was the planning director,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “Normally the RPC meets once per month, but back then we had to have multiple meetings per month just to keep up with the case load. Bill had a quality about him that enabled him to work well under pressure and he was good at dealing with resident’s who had opposing viewpoints on issues.

“He had a way of easing tension, which is a really important quality for commissioners because people can often come to those meetings with very strong opinions and it can get heated — particularly with land-use applications. He served the county with distinction for 24 years and he’s been a faithful public servant.”

Ruminating on his tenure, Mr. Holmes says the span of time between 2005-2008 was an “interesting” few years for county planning.

“That was like the county’s heyday — there was a ton of development and we approved a lot of projects,” he said. “During that time a lot of people were moving down from Pennsylvania and New Jersey so a lot of housing developments were going up. I think the fact that we have low taxes and a great quality of life here in Kent County make us an attractive place to relocate.

“It was interesting to see though that only about 80 percent of the developments we approved ended up getting built because we ended up getting a recession in 2008. Back when it was busy, our meetings would go till almost midnight most nights. These days they wrap up somewhere around 7 or 8 p.m. Things have calmed down a lot.”

Going forward, Mr. Holmes recommended to his peers on the RPC to pay close attention to expected development in the southern portion of the county.

“The main thing in the future is going to be development down along the Rt. 1 corridor between Dover and Milford,” he said. “Since there are new overpasses there and the DE Turf complex, I think that’s where a lot of future development will be. They’ll need things like hotels and Wawas and things like that. It’d be best to go slowly with it and develop one piece at a time to avoid making any mistakes.”

Since Mr. Holmes was the chairman of the RPC, the board will elect a new one at their monthly public hearing meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Levy Court Chambers on 555 Bay Road in Dover.

Public service not over?

Having announced his intentions in January to run for the Dover city council seat vacated by Brian Lewis, Mr. Holmes’s stint of public service may not be over yet.

Former councilman Lewis resigned following his election as Kent County Sheriff last November.

The vacant Second District seat has four candidates in pursuit, Anthony Egipciaco, Jr., Mr. Holmes, Ralph L. Taylor, Jr. and Faye Della White.

Decades as a planning member qualify him for the role, Mr. Holmes claims.

“I was on the Dover planning commission years ago as well — I served for about four years,” he said. “I’ve lived in Dover all my life, I know how it operates and know of lot of people here. The city has a lot of great people working for it and the Mayor has done a great job so I’d like to see if I can get in and see what I can do to help as well. With my experience and understanding of the area, I think I have a lot to offer.”

Specifically, Mr. Holmes feels that the city’s ongoing battle with “crime” is what needs most attention.

“We have a great police department and they do a good job, but they need to be supported in policing downtown Dover — it’s really the heart of the community,” he said.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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