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Kingsport helps Sudanese town design land use plan
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May 26, 2010 - 7:02:43 AM

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Kingsport helps Sudanese town design land use plan

By Matthew Lane

Published May 25th, 2010




KINGSPORT — A small delegation from Southern Sudan has been in the Model City for the past month, working with city planners and geographic information system (GIS) officials, learning more about zoning, regulations and long-range planning.

In the end, Kingsport has made good on its promise to assist the struggling Sudanese town of Yei in crafting a land use plan — the first step in having an organized and structured city over the next 20 to 25 years.

The idea of Kingsport helping the town of Yei with its long-range planning began last year after Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote — along with more than a dozen local residents, medical personnel and religious officials — traveled to Yei on a missionary trip sponsored by the Holston Conference and First Broad Street United Methodist Church.

Upon his return in March 2009, Mallicote asked Kingsport for help in crafting an urban plan for Yei, which city staff agreed to do. Since then, city planners and other employees, along with GIS officials, have been working to draft the plan.

For the past month, three members of the Yei government have been in Kingsport, working with planners, touring various city facilities, and helping finalize the land use plan for their town. The delegation included Godwill Soro Eliaba, head of survey for Yei, and two Yei planners — Asega Joseph James and Candiru Lilly Thomas.

The three expect to leave Kingsport today with the plan in hand.

“What we were charged to do was develop a concept plan and a map for them to use as a basis to begin some long-range planning. It’s a 20- to 25-year plan,” said Karen Combs, city planner. “They had the information, the vision, but they didn’t have the experience to organize it into a manner in which they could use.

“Now, they’re going home with a land use plan and a map and a major street and road plan and map. We’ve also highlighted zoning and given them mechanisms to enforce the plan.”

The land use plan includes information on the climate, topography and demographics of Yei, along with existing land uses and recommendations on how land should be use, whether for residential, commercial, manufacturing, public or agricultural. The plan includes a map of suggested road types and touches on zoning and subdivision regulations.

“They have everything we have, but they call it different things, so there was a minimal language barrier. Once we got on the same page, being from two different worlds, it went really quick after that,” Combs said. “They knew exactly what they wanted. They just didn’t know how to get there.”

Eliaba said the behavior of the people of Yei has encouraged him and his department to come up with a better plan to accommodate the development of the city.

“This plan has been one of the things we’ve been striving to get. It was really a great opportunity to come and work together with the planning department in Kingsport to come up with this plan,” Eliaba said. “We hope this plan, once we reach home ... we’ll keep updating it and implementing it. It will really be a great blessing to Yei.”

Sudan was embroiled in a civil war — in one form or another — for nearly 50 years between the Muslim Arab Northern Sudanese and the Christian and Nilotic Southern Sudanese. A peace agreement was signed between the sides in 2005, which granted Southern Sudan autonomy for six years, to be followed by a referendum about independence.

Since the end of the civil war, Yei has experienced a population explosion, with many refugees of the civil war pouring into town. Yei has grown from 45,000 residents in 2005 to more than 400,000 today. The boom in people living in and coming to the town has caused a major strain on infrastructure and services of Yei.

“Before the civil war, Yei was a pretty prosperous place, but a large part of the Sudanese civil war was fought in and around Yei, and they were fighting a much better equipped army, which decimated the town,” said Mallicote. “They don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it, and there are problems with malnutrition and water contamination.”

Mallicote said all of the buildings in Yei have been built since the end of the war. The town has only dirt roads, which during the rainy season are more or less impassable. All of the town’s water (mostly contaminated) comes from wells, and electricity exists about 16 hours a day in a small area in town, supplied by a diesel generator. Yei has no sewer system or waste disposal and only one hospital, with one doctor and a handful of clinical assistants.

“Part of the reason we’ve done this is because there is money and resources available from nonprofits, but you can’t unlock those funds unless you have a plan to present,” Mallicote said. “Between them building their own capacity to do these kinds of things and hopefully unlocking some grant and nonprofit funding, these just don’t become plans, but the development that happens.”

Eliaba said war has broken down the services and infrastructure of Yei, but its people are working to build that back up.

“We’re really delighted in the way Kingsport has given in to helping to develop the city of Yei. We appreciate their support and how much they’ve done,” Eliaba said.

The plan will now go before the executive director of Yei (essentially their city manager) for approval, with Combs and Mallicote saying Yei officials would like Kingsport representatives to come to the town for a month. Combs said the logistics of that trip have not been worked out yet.

“They’re not going home and that be the end of it. This is just the beginning. We’ll continue through e-mails and communication as we can, to set up zoning ordinances and the authority to implement their concept,” Combs said.

Mallicote said for Kingsport to have jumped in and done something so well is something everybody in the city can be proud of.

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