DelDOT Secretary Calls for Transportation Improvement Districts - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DelDOT Secretary Calls for Transportation Improvement Districts in Sussex

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DelDOT Secretary Cohan has recommended six districts for Sussex County DelDOT Secretary Cohan has recommended six districts for Sussex County
The first recommended district covers the Lewes and northern Rehoboth Beach areas The first recommended district covers the Lewes and northern Rehoboth Beach areas

GEORGETOWN, Del. - At Tuesday afternoon's Sussex County Council meeting, Delaware Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan recommended the establishment of transportation improvement districts in Sussex County, in order to deal with the increasing need for infrastructure investments. The purpose of these districts, according to a University of Delaware analysis, is "to comprehensively coordinate land use and transportation within a specific geographical area."

The districts would also create a "transportation-based impact fee," by which developers take on the costs in a more predictable way. The districts would outline how much developers would owe in impact fees for specific projects, so that the state and county could plan infrastructure accordingly. The fees would go directly toward projects in the district, rather than toward the general fund.

Cohan recommended up to six districts in Sussex County, starting with one that would cover the Lewes and Northern Rehoboth Beach areas. These districts are already in use in multiple upstate locations, and Cohan said they've proven very successful there. 

"In Sussex County," she said, "the situation we've found ourselves in is that every time a new development pops up, the public - you know - there's a little bit of an outcry from them. Saying 'we didn't know this was coming. What are we going to do about traffic?' So by having a transportation improvement district in place, then the public will know exactly what is coming, when it is coming, and what the Department of Transportation is going to do about infrastructure." 

The council did not act on the request, but County Administrator Todd Lawson called it a "positive meeting." Councilman Rob Arlett said he had his doubts about the effectiveness of the districts. 

"I'm not prepared to make a commitment," he said. "Or a contract of sorts with the state of Delaware to put the residents, the developers, and the builders in Sussex County on the hook for anything...There have been plans in place for many, many years with our infrastructure. It's just never been implemented." 

This is the second time this year that Cohan has recommended transportation improvement districts to the council, although none are currently used in southern Delaware. Lawson said that public comment will likely be solicited before any decisions on the district are made. 

There are currently two other transportation improvement districts in Delaware. One has been set up in Middletown, where the developer fees are set at 30 percent of the total development costs. They're expected to spend approximately $40 million over the next couple years. Another district is located in southern New Castle County, where the split is 50-50 between the state and the developers. 

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