Dover City Council adopts 2019 comprehensive plan

DOVER — There was a relieved look of satisfaction on Dover City Planner Dave Hugg’s face as the first Dover City Council meeting of the year wound down at City Hall Monday night.

That content look stemmed from members of city council voting 9-0 to adopt the 2019 City of Dover Comprehensive Plan following its final public hearing on Monday night before it sends it to the state’s planning office for certification and eventually to Gov. John Carney for approval.

Mr. Hugg and the city’s Planning Department, as well as other city entities, have worked for the past two years on developing the plan, which is a living document that will serve as the blueprint of the city’s vision and a road map for its future over the next decade.

“I’m extremely proud of (the planning staff) and proud of the work that they’ve done,” Mr. Hugg said. “It’s been a pretty extensive process. They released three complete drafts of the plan and a number of drafts had various components on it with various goals and recommendations and policies.

Dave Hugg

“We’ve had a series of public events and a number of workshops and surveys, so there’s an extensive list of elements that went into putting the plan together. We did a number of things to try to get input from the community into the plan.”

The development of a comprehensive plan is designed to be effective in guiding the growth and improving quality of life within a city and must identify specific actions and time frames for implementation. The city’s success in meeting the upcoming challenges will, in large part, be determined by the actions it takes in the coming years.

The city of Dover’s goals for its new 2019 Comprehensive Plan were to report on the implementation status of the 2008-’09 plan; add in recommendations from other plans and studies conducted over the past decade; assess the significance of demographic and economic changes; identify the city’s accomplishments and reflect on new trends that may factor into the city’s plan for growth.

Mr. Hugg said the Comprehensive Plan is more than just a list of goals, it also serves as an important informational, police and regulatory document. Dover City Council and the Planning Commission use the plan as the foundation for rezoning, annexations and other land-use decisions.

Mayor Robin Christiansen noted the importance of having a plan during his “State of the City” speech to city council last year.

Robin Christianen

“While we must certainly handle the day-to-day mundane tasks of the present, we must maintain and improve our infrastructure in anticipation of the next 300 years of success and prosperity,” Mayor Christiansen said. “We are actively exploring opportunities that will support the infrastructure downtown, allow adequate parking for existing businesses and leave room for growth.

“We need to continue to maintain and improve the water system, our roadways and our electrical system — these are the arteries that keep our city moving forward. We must assess and candidly address these issues and the resources needed to do so.”

Preparing for a ‘bigger’ future

It is an important document, as Dover’s new Comprehensive Plan notes the city’s estimated population is 38,058 while the population for Kent County is estimated to be 181,864 persons. The city has grown to an area of more than 23 square miles, including 170.33 miles of roads, 226 miles of water mains and 192 miles of sewer lines.

Homes and businesses in Dover produce 40 percent of the sewage treated by the Kent County Regional Resource Recovery Facility each day. It is estimated that 70 percent of the jobs in Kent County are located in Dover. Currently, there are over 4,030 businesses licensed, and the estimated value of buildings within the city is more than 3 billion dollars.

“There were a couple of important steps in the process,” Mr. Hugg said, of developing the Comprehensive Plan. “Early on we went to the state and asked them for an evaluation of the existing city plan, the one that was prepared back in 2008 and adopted in 2009. The state gave us guidance in terms of the things that needed to be addressed as we put the plan together.

“There are sections of the plan dealing with a variety of topics, including transportation and housing, recreation, economic development and a lot of data sources about the city of Dover and how it’s grown or changed over the last decade or so.”

In the text of the Comprehensive Plan, it says, “Despite its size, growth, and regional significance, Dover strives to maintain a small-town feel, celebrating attributes that make it a desirable place to live, work and do business. Dover’s residential areas remain tranquil and have retained their small-town feel.

“When recently polled, residents of Dover cited the design and size of the city, its historic buildings, and its small-town atmosphere as among the qualities they like best about living in Dover.”

Mr. Hugg said Dover received letters from neighboring towns in Cheswold, Little Creek, Camden, Wyoming and Kent County, all of which approved the city’s plan.

There were six recent requests focusing on changing the city’s land development plan map that also had to be approved by council before the plan was moved forward. Council followed the Planning Commission’s recommendations and approved them.

Councilmen impressed

City Councilman Fred Neil was impressed by the city’s final product when it came to its plan.

“During the holiday period I was able to go through the (Comprehensive Plan) line-by-line, cover-to-cover, and it was magnificent,” he said. “They did a marvelous job. The only thing I did was, drawing on my newsman background, was add a little bit of clarity.”

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. was also appreciative of the work that went into creating the extensive document.

“Mr. Hugg, I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you,’ for your creative thinking and being receptive to new ideas for new innovation,” he said. “I really appreciate it and I know my constituents appreciate it as well.”

Mr. Hugg and the city’s planning staff thanked the citizens of Dover for their help within the text of the Comprehensive Plan.

“This project has worked to define the future of Dover,” the Comprehensive Plan notes. “Public input is at the heart of the goals, recommendations, and implementation actions of the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan is intended to be a living document that will guide the actions of city government as it addresses the challenges of a growing city.

“The public input does not end with the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan; rather, the public is encouraged to stay involved in the implementation of the plan to ensure that Dover continues to be a place where people want to live, work and play.”