After the retirement of the late Gary Norris in 2013, the City of Milford reorganized the position of City Planner. The new position would not only provide input into planning for the city, but would also be responsible for portions of economic development. In May 2015, Rob Pierce began working in this newly reorganized position.
Mr. Pierce earned his Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Delaware in 2005 and worked for Kent County Levy Court from 2005 to 2015 as a GIS Specialist and an Engineering Project Manager.
“I am looking forward to being able to focus on a specific community instead of planning on a more regional scale,” Mr. Pierce said. “I was drawn to the position because it involves a wide variety of subject matter, including urban design, transportation, infrastructure planning, economic development, cultural and historical preservation and natural resource planning.”
Mr. Pierce said that his first focus was to amend the existing 2008 Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use maps created by the state in order to process annexation and/or zoning requests from City Council or citizens. In addition, he is working toward updating the plan with the Office of State Planning Coordination.
Amendments have been made to the city’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan and those amendments were presented to City Council in December 2012 and Council approved several adjustments throughout 2013 with the last adjustment made in October of that year. The 2013 plan had similar goals to the 2008 plan such as making Milford an attractive environment for economic development, preserving and improving the character and quality of life in family neighborhoods as well as protecting the physical environment for families and residents. However, the 2008 state plan has not been amended which means the city plan and the state plan do not match.
The 2013 plan included information from the 2010 census which showed significant growth in the city. Between 2000 and 2010, the city showed a 42 percent population growth, a rate of 4.2 percent per year. At the time the 2013 plan was presented by council, Mr. Norris indicated that, based on current growth, the city could expect to reach over 11,000 people by 2020.
However, employment rates in the city had decreased, according to the census. This was one reason council decided to add economic development to the job duties of the city planner. The city employed an economic development director several years ago, but the position was cut due to funding issues. At that time, the duties of economic development fell to then City Manager, Richard Carmean. When Bryan Shupe became Mayor in 2014, he took over some of the economic development duties.
“I see that as one of the duties as the mayor,” Mayor Shupe said. “The mayor needs to be the face of the city and when we go out to businesses to encourage them to develop or relocate to Milford, it helps to have one contact person for them to talk to about any issues they me encounter. Job development is critical to the success of our town. However, it takes more than one person to achieve those goals, which is why an economic development person would be beneficial.”
Over the next few years, council discussed adding funds back to the budget for an economic development director, but when Mr. Norris announced his retirement, the decision was made to combine the two positions into one. Because planning and economic development go hand-in-hand, council felt that someone with experience in both would benefit the city greatly.
In addition to amending the Comprehensive Plan, Mr. Pierce plans to develop and implement GIS datasets for parcels, zoning, land use and other needs within the city. GIS stands for Geographic Information System and is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present all types of geographical data. City planners use GIS to keep track forecast future needs, track various indicators and plan based on information included in that data. Mr. Pierce said that GIS datasets for Milford would be utilized to perform quality control and assurance of existing datasets regarding parcel and zoning information.
“I am still researching and evaluating the city’s past performance and future goals,” Mr. Pierce said. “I am excited to help Milford move forward over the next few years.