EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Atlantic County’s proposed master plan points a way forward on economic development, sustainability and resiliency and preserving some of the county’s agricultural and green characteristics.
About 20 county residents attended a public hearing on the plan wednesday at the Anthony “Tony” Canale Training Center.
John Barree, senior planner with Heyer Gruel & Associates, the consultants who created the master plan, said one of the goals was to try to make the county more resilient in the face of future natural disasters, such as flooding, severe storms, wave action and coastal erosion.
There are uneven and inconsistent bulkheads and dunes, Barree said, but also ongoing resiliency initiatives, such as pump-station improvements.
After seeing a map that showed all the areas where floodwaters reached into the county during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, an audience member expressed concern about new development in areas vulnerable to flooding, such as Historic Gardner’s Basin in Atlantic City.
Barree said the county has limited jurisdiction over the land-use decisions of a single municipality, but master plan does take into consideration how resilient a coastal area can be to flooding.
One of the most ambitious parts of the plan was farmland preservation.
There are more than 40,000 acres of farmland within the county, an amount that has held relatively steady since the late 1960s, Barree said.
“Right now, things seem to be in balance,” Barree said.
A preservation program within the master plan calls for the addition of 355 acres of farmland in one year, 1,500 more acres in five years and 2,500 more acres in 10 years, Beebe said.
When it comes to the open space, one of the recommendations is to consider a new open space referendum to include tax funds for the maintenance of county parks.
Beebe and Ranae Fehr, director of land acquisition for the Atlantic County Department of Regional Planning and Development, both said money is available for park acquisition, but not maintenance.
Ventnor Planning Board Chairman John Cooke and board member Roman Zabihach were among those at the meeting.
Cooke said the last county master plan, updated in 2000, did not go into the details that the proposed one does.
Ventnor just went through the master plan process itself, Cooke said.
The public is invited to review the proposed Atlantic County master plan, open space and recreation plan and farmland preservation plan at the county’s web site, aclink.org/planning, or at county library branches or local municipal offices.
Zabihach said Ventnor was in agreement with many things proposed in the county master plan, including a countywide Complete Streets Policy, which is to make the roads accommodating for as many modes of transportation as possible, including pedestrians, bicycles and cars.
“We haven’t adopted it yet,” Zabihach said of the policy.
The Ventnor Planning Board is supportive of mass transit and the expansion of agriculture to take advantage of the farm-to-table movement, Zabihach said.