Citizens Desire Recreation, Pedestrian Friendly City

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The University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration (IPA), in collaboration with DelDOT and the State Office of Planning Coordination are working with two pilot communities—the City of Milford and the Town of Elsmere—to formulate a framework to plan for Complete Communities in Delaware. This research took a look at the town of Milford to help build a framework that includes planning and economic development, transportation planning and policy, healthy communities initiatives and local government training.

According to the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration a “Complete Community” is one that considers transportation options and connectivity, mixed and efficient uses of land, healthy environments, job growth and business diversity, and an involved citizenry with sense of place.Three workshops were conducted in Milford where stakeholders participated in a series of facilitated exercises. Local stakeholders, chosen by the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration for the Complete Communities Project, included community leaders from city and state government, large and small employers, faith-based and non-profit organizations, school district officials, and community activists.

At the second workshop held in July, stakeholders took a Visual Preference Survey (VPS) and Milford-area residents were invited to take an online version that was posted to the Complete Communities website. Survey respondents were asked to rate the appeal of each image presented within the 34 base questions of the survey. To accurately measure the appeal of each photo, a scale was developed. Survey respondents were asked to rate the series of images from a possible high of +3 (strongly appealing) to a possible low of -3 (strongly unappealing), or 0 (neutral).

“We hope that not only Milford but other communities in the future can use these tools as a basis to develop their own planning process,” commented Marcia Scott, Associate Policy Scientist at the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration. “These tools help communities engage their citizens and encourage them be a part of the future planning process of the town they live in.”

Officials at the Institute for Public Administration made several observations from the Milford Visual Preference Survey. Among individuals that took the survey there was a strong visual appeal for active recreation and developed parks and recreation facilities and streetscaping that provides a pedestrian orientation. Individuals highlighted their desire for more facilities for walking , multiple public transit options, sheltered bus stops, sheltered bike parking and on-road marked bikeways. They preferred landscaped islands that serve as gateways to the city and multiple downtown public gathering spaces as destinations. When asked about development and redevelopment options, the individuals surveyed preferred options that provided mixed-use design, moderate building heights and downtown food shopping venues.

“Image is very important to perceptions,” commented Scott. “Strong positive visual images and strong negative visual image impact perception of future residents and potential businesses.”

Images of strip development, “Big box” retail design and parking lots lacking landscaping were found unappealing to individuals that took the survey. A great indicator of public perception for historic preservation, open space conservation and future development design, the Complete Communities project as a whole offers a detailed view of citizen consciousness. All of the information gathered during the Complete Communities project will be given to City of Milford officials to be used at their discretion for future planning purposes. Officials at the University of Delaware plan to use this developed framework for assisting multiple communities across the state of Delaware as they begin to plan for the future of their own municipalities.

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