work is necessary; a few days isn't going to do it," chairman
Vic Singer said after Philip Lavelle, of the Council of Civic
Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, called for allowing civic
leaders and the public time to digest the implications of the
amendments the ordinance would make to the Unified Development
said he had difficulty understanding the synopses of the various
provisions in the draft of the ordinance which the Department of
Land Use had circulated, let alone the legalese in the which the
amendments themselves are couched.
at the conclusion of the hearing on Nov. 6 was that board will
not be ready to make a recommendation at its next business
meeting, two weeks hence, on whether County Council should move
to enact the measure. Lavelle suggested that the board table the
issue for at least two months.
board, however, heard strong support for the measure from a
dozen witnesses representing a variety of interests. They
maintained that the amendments will go a long way toward
correcting what has been perceived as a shortcoming of the
development code enacted nearly four years ago: In establishing
stringent requirements for new development, it has all but
blocked the opportunity for significant redevelopment of older
those with deep pockets can afford to go through the costly and
uncertain Board of Adjustment process to get the myriad of
variances necessary to redevelop parcels in New Castle County,"
Beverly Baxter, executive director of the Committee of 100, a
development industry trade organization.
called the ordinance "the most positive proposal since passage
of the U.D.C."
Baker, general manager of the land use department, said it is
not uncommon for a property owner to have to seek variances to
cover 12 to 14 pre-existing conditions which do not meet
present-day code standards. Some do not even meet previous
codes. The ordinance proposes to circumvent that by compromising
the entire package to get some measurable improvements to the
system termed 'proportional compliance', a property owner would
be granted percentage credits for making improvements deemed
most important after a public hearing at the start of the
process. If the credits add up to 100% and other conditions,
such as environmental regulations, are met, the project could go
forward. Bringing provision for parking up to 40% of code
requirements, landscaping up to 40% and stormwater drainage to
20%, for instance, would total 100%. Nothing would prohibit a
from accumulating a higher total by agreeing to make other
president Christopher Coons, one of the legislative sponsors of
the measure, said that system provides property owners,
developers and the affected community "the opportunity to
engage in a negotiation process that eventually results in
improvement of the site."
that the method is novel, Coons said that the thinking behind it
is that "any substantial improvement is a positive thing" and
the way that is done be modified after a year or so if it isn't
working out the way that is intended.
biggest question raised in that connection was the likely
arbitrary nature of the calculations and the latitude given the
land use department in determining whether a specific project
complies. Any project that did not involve an expansion of more
than 20,000 square feet -- regardless of the size of the
existing building -- would be treated as a minor project and not
subject to County Council approval. Presumably, most
redevelopment projects fall into that category.
said that is not so much a matter of eliminating Council
oversight as it is a way "to put the community and the county in
a stronger position in negotiating improvements." Neither side
will be in a position to have Council at the last minute upset
what is achieved through those negotiations.
pointed out that the code presently permits a property owner to
make any changes to an existing structure or to rebuild up to
half of it without complying with the development code.
changes in the code, he added, are meant to induce property
owners or other would-be redevelopers to work with the
neighboring community to remedy shortcomings by giving them a
more open and less expensive path through the approval process.
That, he added, would apply only where it is obvious that it is
impossible to fully meet code standards.
not providing exemptions for anything that can be developed in
compliance with the U.D.C.," he said.
it difficult and in some cases prohibitively expensive to
redevelop, the code "has induced the kind of urban sprawl it was
meant to inhibit," Jay Cooperson, an architect, testified.
Inden, of the Office of State Planning Coordination, said that
anything which furthers redevelopment dovetails Governor Ruth
Ann Minner's 'Livable Delaware' initiative. Pat Todd, of the
League of Women Voters of New Castle County, said the proposed
county ordinance would work well in conjunction with state tax
credits for redevelopment "and should alleviate abandoned or
inefficiently-used land in a more orderly time sequence."
Lossť, chairman of the Claymont Community Coalition, said that
the ordinance would be welcomed by his community because "the
U.D.C. is a great thing, but it doesn't fit into some areas in
Claymont." That community is engaged in a county-supported
'renaissance' project which seeks to put older buildings along
Philadelphia Pike to constructive new uses.
said the proposed ordinance was put together "in a long,
deliberative, open process" by a taskforce representing a wide
range of community and business interests. Lavelle disputed
that, pointing out that there was no public disclosure of the
taskforce's existence and that, although he is active in and
keeps in close touch with civic affairs, he was unaware of the
ordinance's significance before reading a newspaper account a
day before the hearing.
Baker said that the process followed
in developing the ordinance was to "hammer out the details" by a
representative group and then "going public" to get broader
public participation. He noted that Daniel Bockover, president
of the Brandywine Council, of which Lavelle is zoning committee
chairman, was one of the umbrella civic group members of the