Delaware County to compile comprehensive plan

Jan. 29—For the first time in the county's history, Delaware County will compile a comprehensive plan.

Planning Director Shelly Johnson-Bennett said she has been trying to get a comprehensive plan completed for 20 years, but other issues came up and the plan was never completed. A comprehensive plan outlines challenges facing a community, studies the challenges, comes up with solutions and guides municipal leaders to implement the solutions.

The Appalachian Regional Commission reached out to the counties in the Southern Tier Eight to offer matching grants to compile or update their comprehensive plans, she said. Delaware County received $150,000 from the commission and matched the funding with money from the American Rescue Plan Act funds it received from the federal government. The county will use the money to hire a consultant to do public outreach and delve into the county's problems and come up with solutions.

"We know there is a housing shortage," Johnson-Bennett said. She also outlined other problems facing the county, including code enforcement, combating climate change, studying shared services between municipalities, highway management plans, transportation and the New York City's Land Acquisition Program.

There may be more issues residents want addressed in the plan, she said and they will be able to share their concerns at future public meetings. These meetings will be announced and will be in-person and online. The goal is to hold a meeting in each town in the county.

The county has hired Fisher Associates from Binghamton, who placed a bid for just under $200,000, she said. The other $100,000 can be used to fund subcontractors that are focused on one particular issue toward the plan. The aim of the comprehensive plan is to come up with a solid plan with goals and solutions that will help municipalities.

For example, Delaware County doesn't have an urgent care center. If this is mentioned as a problem for residents during the public hearings, the plan could suggest the county work with the three health care systems that operate hospitals in the county to see if they would be willing to open an urgent care center in the county, or try to entice an urgent care center company open a facility in the county.

Johnson-Bennett said she, her staff and the county's planning board are excited to see what is presented in the plan. "We have a very good planning board," she said. The planning board of Will Outsen, Travis O'Dell, Diane Monroe, Dale Downin, Bruce Dolph, Art Edel, James Erwin, Matt Gray and Mark Lee represent the business, agriculture, education, real estate and law enforcement communities within the county and different towns within the county. "It's the most non-partisan board in the county," she said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.