Robert Weiner, who is cosponsoring the measure with Council
president Christopher Coons and Councilwoman Karen Venezky, said
the purpose of the rewrite is to "remove the perception of
unfettered discretion" on the part of the Department of
Land Use when dealing with applications under what would be a
new provision in the Unified Development Code.
is to be made "more user friendly," he added.
county Planning Board had been expected to make its formal
recommendation concerning the measure at its Dec. 18 business
meeting, but has agreed to table the matter and to hold another
public hearing, probably on Jan. 10, on a substitute ordinance.
Delaforum previously reported, the ordinance would significantly
liberalize requirements under the development code. As it stands
now, rebuilding or improving more than half of an old property
brings it under the purview of requirements meant to govern new
building. In some cases that is literally not possible and in
most cases doing so would be prohibitively expensive.
alternative which has been used in the few instances that have
come up since the development code was enacted have required
seeking multiple adjustments through a process which is
time-consuming, expensive and uncertain. The adjustment process
frequently turns out to be an adversarial one, pitting community
proposed amendments would, in effect, institutionalize within
the subdivision approval process a system of tradeoffs. An
applicant would be required to come part way up to standard in
several respects. Redevelopment would be approved if the sum of
the proportions met, expressed as percentages, equaled at least
100. If, for instance, drainage is brought up to 60% of what
would be required for new development and 20% each of parking
and landscaping standards are met, that would total the
the whole thing, Weiner said, is that the specific formulas
would be determined with extensive community 'input' in
conjunction with land-use professionals. The process would start
with a public meeting at which property owners and community
residents will catalogue the shortcomings of the subject
property. They then would work out a mutually acceptable
agreement based largely on what was established to be
having been done to all parties' presumed satisfaction, the
application would then be put on an accelerated course through
the subdivision approval process.
project involved construction of less than 20,000 square feet,
it would be handled as a minor subdivision and approval would be
primarily administrative. The proposal would go before County
Council for final approval only if it were larger.
said up-front community review and its pivotal role in shaping
the application's final form should offset any concern that the
land-use professionals would be arbitrary or biased in favor
of development interests.
that had been the most significant objection. Although Philip
Lavelle, zoning chairman of the Council of Civic Organizations
of Brandywine Hundred, was the only one to testify against the
measure at a Planning Board public hearing on Nov. 6, Weiner
said he has since heard similar concerns from other umbrella
definition of what is minor and what is major will likely remain
unchanged, but the Department of Land Use's position as a
partner in, rather an ultimate judge of, the process will be
Singer, chairman of the Planning Board, and others at the
hearing also complained that the language in the proposed
ordinance was confusing and difficult to follow. The rewrite,
Weiner said, will clarify those points.
the issue to another hearing at that level and subsequent review
by Council will provide time to increase public awareness of the
issue. Lavelle had complained that there had been insufficient
time for review of an obviously significant change in the law
before the first hearing.
said that the purpose of the ordinance is not to subvert the
development code and its strict requirements but to provide a
mechanism for encouraging redevelopment in areas with existing
infrastructure and a history of commercial presence.