REPORT TO THE GOVERNOR AND THE 146th GENERAL ASSEMBLY
From the Cabinet Committee on State Planning Issues
This report has been prepared by the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination, in coordination with and on behalf of the Cabinet Committee on State Planning Issues, in accordance with 29 Del. C. c. 91. Cabinet Secretaries and agency staff provided data, ideas, expertise, and editorial comments to the OSPC staff to assist in the preparation of this report. The full report is available as a PDF document.
The changes that have taken place in state planning under Governor Jack Markell's administration have served to identify and capitalize on opportunities for economic growth while preserving Delaware's quality of life. The Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC) now reports directly to the Governor's office and works in close coordination with the Cabinet Committee on State Planning Issues to implement and enhance multi-agency initiatives. In the past year some of these initiatives include:
- Creation of an Economic Development Ombudsperson to foster collaboration between and among agencies to ensure efficient site selection and permitting for economic development projects;
- Strengthening and streamlining of the Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) to provide clear, concise comments detailing regulatory requirements and site specific recommendations;
- Implementing the Complete Streets Policy through DelDOT to ensure that all modes of transportation are integrated into new transportation infrastructure projects;
- Revised Timeframes for Permitting Responses in DNREC and DelDOT provide predictable, accurate, and timely information to applicants, which aids in private-sector planning for investment;
- Updating the Delaware Strategies for State Policies and Spending to reflect all currently certified local government comprehensive plans and updating state agency data to more accurately direct state investments in infrastructure and services.
In order to support the state government and its agencies in making these critical infrastructure and public service investment decisions, OSPC reviews and tracks important trends in demographic changes and development trends. This report highlights a number of trends, such as:
- Delaware's population has grown to over 885,122 residents as of 2009, a 13 percent increase since 2000. These estimates are from the American Community Survey, and we are awaiting results from the 2010 U.S. Census to provide more detail regarding Delaware's changing population.
- Land-development activities consumed approximately 39,000 acres (about 3 percent of Delaware's land area) between 2002 and 2007. This period coincided with a very significant development "boom" period. The largest amount of land development, almost 18,000 acres, occurred in Sussex County.
- Land-development activities are largely occurring within approved growth areas according to local government comprehensive plans and the State Strategies. Whether we are reviewing land-use change by land cover, the location of building permits, or development approvals, it appears that Delaware's plans and land use regulations are effectively directing growth to locations where local governments and the state are planning infrastructure and services. New Castle and Kent County trends show a high degree of development concentration, whereas Sussex County demonstrates a more dispersed pattern of development activity.
- As might have been expected, economic conditions have led to a significant decrease in land development in Delaware during the past two calendar years. In 2005 during the height of the recent building boom, there were approximately 9,800 residential building permits issued in the state. There were fewer than 3,200 residential building permits issued in 2009.
The state continues to invest significant taxpayer resources to meet the needs and challenges of continued population growth and land-development activities. Since our state government is responsible for infrastructure and services that are usually delivered at a county or municipal level in other states, it is important to maintain a high degree of coordination and collaboration between the state and local governments. Here are some highlights of recent state expenditures and trends that support growth and development activities:
- The state expended $1.21 billion in operating costs for public education in FY10 alone, which is roughly one third of Delaware's $3 billion operating budget.
- Since FY 2006, there have been 12 new public schools opened to meet the needs of increasing public-school enrollment and replacing aging school infrastructure. During this same period, the state expended $343.7 million on new construction and land acquisition for these and other public-education capital projects.
- In the past five fiscal years, the state has expended $1.06 billion on capital transportation projects to address the maintenance and expansion of our transportation system.
- During this same period, vehicle miles traveled have decreased, while transit ridership has increased. These are positive trends that reduce congestion and maintenance costs while improving air quality. Unfortunately, these trends have also led to decreased Transportation Trust Fund revenues, which are needed to meet future capital project needs.
- The state has provided approximately $17.6 million to local governments for water and sewer infrastructure since FY06 through the Water Pollution Control Fund.
- To address Delawareans' public safety needs, the state has provided $56.1 million to county governments to support paramedic services in the past five fiscal years. During this same period, the state has expended $541.3 million to operate the State Police, which provides support to all local police agencies and serves as the primary police service for unincorporated portions of Kent and Sussex Counties.
- In the past five fiscal years, the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation has preserved 152 farms comprising 15,800 acres. These preservation activities are critical to maintaining the viability of the state's agricultural industry. The state has invested $45 million during this period to preserve these farms.
- The Delaware State Housing Authority continues to provide a diverse array of housing assistance to a wide range of Delawareans through its Housing Development Fund and other sources. During the past five fiscal years, the agency has assisted over 8,500 homeowners, rehabilitated 1,800 units of homeownership housing, and preserved or rehabilitated over 3,100 rental units.
The State of Delaware will continue to coordinate among its agencies and with the municipalities and counties in order to meet the infrastructure and service needs of current and future Delawareans. In order to accomplish this coordination, the Cabinet Committee and the Governor are moving forward on the following land use agenda in FY11:
- Adopt and Implement the 2010 Delaware Strategies for State Policies and Spending. This will include continued work on master plans for smaller areas within counties and local jurisdictions to ensure efficient infrastructure investments and provide pre-permitted areas for economic development. OSPC will also be working on a scorecard system to evaluate development projects and on fiscal analysis tools to assist in budgeting for infrastructure and services.
- Study and Consider Establishment of a Geographic Information System (GIS) Office. A GIS office is necessary to organize and make more efficient the use and sharing of GIS data and information important to state, county, and local governments.
- Legislative Initiatives. These initiatives would be limited to clearing up inconsistencies in Delaware's planning and zoning enabling statutes to ensure a more efficient and effective planning process. Such improvements would streamline government reviews and increase predictability for all parties engaged in growth and development activities, thus spurring economic growth while protecting our quality of life.