City’s Comprehensive Plan Supports Economic Development

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File Photo of Milford City Planner Gary Norris
File Photo of Milford City Planner Gary Norris

By Terry Rogers

At the December Milford City Council meeting, City Planner Gary Norris presented the City’s Comprehensive Plan Update as required under Delaware state law. Amendments to the plan have already been submitted to the State Planning Office and was presented to City Council for their review at their regular meeting.

The 2013 plan has goals similar to the 2008 plan and include making Milford an attractive environment for economic development, preserving and improving the character and quality of life in family neighborhoods and protecting the physical environment and enhance the character, quality and livability of the city by protecting natural environment. The plan also includes a vision of improving the living environment for families and residents in order to maximize natural resource and open spaces in the city, providing additional recreational opportunities for the present and future residents of the city and protecting and improving the existing public services in the city.

The amendment to the plan includes statistics from the 2010 census as well, which indicate that Milford is undergoing significant growth. Population showed the biggest increase within the city. In 2000, the population of Milford was 6,732, while, according to the 2010 census, the population was 9,559, an increase of 42 percent, or 4.2 percent per year. By assuming a 2 percent growth per year rate, which is closer to the national average, Norris anticipates Milford’s population to grow to over 10,000 by 2015 and to over 11,000 by 2020. However, with the census data indicating a 4 percent increase in Milford’s population, it is not unreasonable to see the population of the city rise to over 11,000 by 2015 and to more than 14,000 by 2020.

Employment rates in the city of Milford have decreased, following the national trends since 2007. According to Norris, the city in 2007 there were 4,629 employees in the city, while the same survey in 2012 showed 4,575. The unemployment rate in 2007 was 2.7 percent in Kent and Sussex County, compared to the national average at that time of 4.7 percent. The 2012 rate is 7.6 percent compared to the national rate of 7.9 percent. Despite the higher unemployment rates, median income increased in the city. Housing values dropped from a high of $200,000 in 2008 to today’s average housing value of $120,000.

Land use and annexation were the biggest amendments to the Comprehensive Plan presented by Norris, who stated that the city currently has no plans to annex more land, but does entertain requests by homeowners who may desire to have their land annexed into the city. On the corner of New Wharf Road and Coastal Highway, there has been a request by the Lynch brothers who own approximately 100 acres, some of which includes floodplain lands, to re-zone the property highway-commercial rather than agricultural. The land, on the east side of Coastal Highway, will adjoin the proposed Delaware Department of Transportation (DELDOT) overpass. Norris believes that DELDOT requested no development in that area until the overpass was completed. The city does plan to continue commercial development near the Grotto’s, Royal Farms properties on Route 1.

In southwest Milford, the city plans to continue expansion near Redner’s, and Norris pointed out that there are already strip stores being constructed in the area. An active adult residential community, Central Parke at Milford Ponds, is also planned in the area. In southeast Milford, utility work continues on the overpass near Wilkin’s Road, and there is potential new commercial development on the Hall property, which has already been annexed into the city. Innovation Park, a medical services industrial park, is planned in the area as well.

Continued development will occur at Independence Commons on Airport Road, and development of the solar farm continues near Milford-Harrington Highway. Norris stated that there may be a need for changes along South Walnut Street in the area of Polk Avenue due to the expansion projects at Bayhealth. The City Council will review all amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, and a vote will take place at a later date.