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EPA Selects Wilmington Area for High-Tech Land-Use Pilot Program

Release Date: 8/30/2000
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

WILMINGTON – During the 2000 Republican Convention, the Philadelphia Police Department used high-tech mapping software to devise their security plan – software that provided intricate detail of every foot of the City of Brotherly Love.

With the help of EPA’s new Smart Growth INDEX, the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO) will soon be using a similar high-tech approach in its land use planning to forecast future growth in New Castle County, Del. and Cecil County, Md.

How much more air pollution will be caused by developing a tract of land as a shopping center rather than as an office building? Which scenario will require additional infrastructure (transportation, sewer, water)? How would the public transportation system be effected by promoting transit-oriented development?

These are just some of the questions WILMAPCO will be able to answer after implementing the Smart Growth INDEX, a program developed in 1998 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Criterion Planners/Engineers, Inc. (with Fehr & Peers Association), Portland, Ore.

"EPA is interested in providing communities with tools to help them evaluate the environmental impacts decisions they make. INDEX is just one way to help communities do this in a quantifiable fashion," EPA Regional Administrator Bradley Campbell said in announcing the pilot program in the mid-Atlantic region.

After volumes of data on population, housing units, vehicle miles traveled, employment, natural environment, and infrastructure, is entered, the Smart Growth INDEX will allow planners to easily compare and evaluate various alternative growth scenarios. And WILMAPCO will be able to produce these new possibilities inhouse without the delay involved in relying on outside contractors.

WILMAPCO is particularly interested in evaluating various alternative development scenarios for Wilmington’s brownfields sites estimated to be about 1,750 acres of vacant, abandoned, under-used and contaminated properties in the city. The communities adjacent to these brownfields areas are comprised of low-to-moderate income families experiencing higher than average unemployment. Poverty rates in these areas range from 12 to 66 percent, and unemployment ranges from six to 20 percent.

Specific locations designated for evaluation include: Northeast Wilmington – bounded by Brandywine River, Market Street, Wilmington city limits, and Northeast Boulevard; South Wilmington – bounded by the Christina River, Wilmington city limits, and New Castle Avenue; and the 7th Street Peninsula.

"This Smart Growth INDEX model will provide WILMAPCO and its member agencies the opportunity to better understand the crucial land use and transportation link from a truly regional perspective," said DelDOT Secretary and WILMAPCO Chairperson Anne P. Canby.

The Smart Growth INDEX is provided to WILMAPCO as part of a pilot program that is scheduled to be completed within one year.