June 15, 2001

Transportation secretary Nathan Hayward spent 50 minutes politely turning down the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred's proposal that he reconsider the design of the planned Concord Pike-Foulk Road interchange. If anyone had missed the point of his message, he followed up by repeating it in two words.

An attender at the June 14 meeting of the civic council gave him that opportunity by opening the post-speech discussion with a question: "Is it too late for alterations?"

"Yes, ma'am," the man who shares the ultimate decision-making role with the governor replied.

Hayward patiently thanked the umbrella civic group for its continued interest in the Blue Ball Project and told it not to feel embarrassed or apologetic about raising points as the project proceeds. "There are going to be a lot more meetings ... [it] will require a lot more cooperation and teamwork," he said.

He then went on to categorically defend putting a partial interchange at the location as "a community decision" hammered out after extensive discussion and debate as one of a set of compromises that will guide "the single largest [example] of combined transportation and park development in Delaware."

"We have to do it right because there's not going to be another chance," he said.

The civic council's executive committee had called upon Delaware Department of Transportation to take another look at a cloverleaf design for the interchange. Its concept is a somewhat modified version of the cloverleaf configuration -- it was presented under the catchphrase 'double bow tie' at the time -- considered by members of the project's transportation advisory committee. The civic council maintains that using its design would consume less land, be cheaper to build and eliminate the need for a network of 'local traffic' roads through the planned Blue Ball parkland and conservation area.

As Delaforum previously reported, Hayward and other DelDOT officials earlier had dismissed the idea. Daniel Bockover, president of the civic council, remarked while introducing Hayward that the secretary would bring "some new information" bearing on the issue to the group. He did not.

Asked after the meeting whether the civic council now considers the matter closed, Bockover said, "I don't know. That's up to the executive committee."

He earlier told the meeting, at which he was re-elected unopposed to a second two-year term, that the committee took its stance because "we don't think it would be a desirable thing to mix vehicles with children at play in the park."

Hayward did not specifically speak to that point except to note several times during his remarks that the Blue Ball Project is being designed in a way that will blend recreation, conservation and historic preservation.

Although no vote was taken, it was obvious at the general meeting that there is divided opinion among the civic council's membership on the issue with sentiment leaning toward letting matters stay as they are. The secretary's remarks drew applause that was more than perfunctory and several who participated in the discussion period expressed agreement with him.

Peg Bramble, of Deerhurst, questioned the procedure by which the council's stated position came about. She said she is a regular attender at its meetings but "the first I heard about this was when I read about [the executive committee's position] in the 'Community News' (a weekly newspaper)." The civic council's executive committee meets behind closed doors, permitting others to attend by invitation when that is considered appropriate.

"The majority [of the DelDOT advisory committee] decided and we should live with the decision," Bramble, who was a member of that group, said.

Hayward said the extensive Blue Ball highway plan is "on a very tight schedule" with detailed planning now under way and completion scheduled for 2006. The first phase -- building part of a 'local traffic' net which will be used to detour traffic off Concord Pike during later phases before being restored to its original purpose and configuration -- is expected to go bid this autumn with the construction contract awarded in January, 2002.

Among other things, he said, federal dollars to pay part of the cost are predicated on carrying forward presently approved plans. "It's now a mandate of the federal government,:" he said. He did not, however, give any information about how the financing is to be divided between state and federal dollars.

Hayward characterized the standing decision as one reached through an open and public process. "It was a very deliberate decision on the part of the group that worked on the plan. ... It's not something that was conceived behind a mahogany desk in the [DelDOT] administration building in Dover," he said.

The decision actually was made by Hayward's predecessor, Anne Canby, and former governor, Thomas Carper. Hayward acknowledged that he did not participate in the advisory process, but said he supports the result, as does Governor Ruth Ann Minner.

"It's time to conclude this particular chapter," Hayward said.

He was backed by state Representative Greg Lavelle, who did participate, as a civic activist, in the original decision-making process. As did others, he said there were aspects of the plan he does not like, but concluded, "The state of Delaware made a commitment to the community [and] a commitment to Astra Zeneca. It's got to move forward -- the sooner the better."

"The community made this decision. We have to do it on time," added state Senator Dallas Winslow.

Hayward became the first highly-placed state official to specifically acknowledge in public what many people have known all along:  that the Blue Ball highway and park plans are intrinsically interwoven with the economic development effort to have Astra Zeneca locate expanded headquarters and research operations adjacent to the Brandywine Hundred site of the former Zenca, one of the components of the merged international pharmaceuticals company.

He said both DelDOT and the state's Open Space Council had long considered what should be done at Blue Ball. But, he added, "it wasn't until we were able to respond to Astra Zeneca's interest in Delaware as a headquarters" that the respective projects could move forward together. "Would it have happened some time in the future? I don't know. But it wouldn't have happened as grandly and as forcefully without the opportunity to respond to Astra Zeneca's corporate needs."

Saying that the community will benefit from the result in much the same measure as the company will -- "You will all be happy with it." -- Hayward said that to attempt to revise the highway plans now would cause the whole thing to unravel. "The dialogue was sufficiently long and sufficiently intense. This is not the time to make any changes," he said.

New Castle County Councilman Richard Abbott, however, called him to task on alleged inconsistency after Hayward disclosed that a compromise had been worked out at a luncheon meeting on June 8 involving the interested parties to allow not only a childcare center for Astra Zeneca employees but also a parking lot for the center and the Ronald McDonald House across Rockland Road in the designated Blue Ball conservation area. There also is to be a pedestrian-operated traffic light on to let people cross Rockland Road between the hostel and the lot.

"You people made the decision to change the recommendation of [the committee which] wanted this to be open space," Abbott charged. He noted that the issue of the childcare facility had been subject to discussion at an open-to-the-public meeting of lawmakers late last year but then went underground until it was settled.. "The meetings were stopped and a decision was made," he said. "A significant change [to the original plan] was made entirely on the influence of the Astra Zeneca people."

Philip Lavelle, the civic council's land use chairman and brother of the state representative, said "conversation suddenly was shut off and you settled [the issue] by making an arrangement with Delaware Greenways."

As previously reported by Delaforum, it has been decided that Astra Zeneca will be given a place for its childcare unit in return for the state's placing a large storm management pond on its headquarters property. The swap has been acknowledged to be advantageous because the pond can be built at less cost and will be more effective at that location. At the same time, it was disclosed that arrangements have been made for the state to acquire a large former private estate across from Brandywine Creek State Park, about three miles away, which will be preserved as open space.

Hayward said the parking lot will allow Ronald McDonald House -- which provides living accommodations for families of ill children being treated at the Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children -- to expand in its present location. There had been talk that it, too, would seek to build in the conservation area.

He added that the arrangement will be beneficial to all concerned and "you will be pleased when you see the final design [for the childcare facility] that Astra Zeneca is going to put forward."

In another matter at the meeting, Rob Kohlmansberger, a DelDOT consultant, reported that a study of noise levels along Interstate 95 and Interstate 495 has found several significantly impacted communities but that it is still up in the air what, if anything, can be cone to ameliorate that. He said levels exceed Federal Highway Administration standards in only one place along I-95 and a just a few along I-495. That would determine whether the federal agency would help pay for noise abatement or whether it will require the state to foot the entire bill.

Ultimately it will be up to the General Assembly to decide on the basis of recommendations from the study which it authorized under a resolution that Winslow sponsored.

The identified impacted communities are: Ashborune Hills, Augustine Ridge, Brookview, Hillendale, Radnor Green, Windybush and Wycliffe along I-95; and Addicks Estate, the center of Claymont, Governors House, Holly Oak, Harbor House, River Ridge, Rolling Park and  Seton along I-495.

© 2001. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read related story: Astra Zeneca’s tax situation uncertain
Read previous story: Civic council still seeks Blue Ball change

Go to the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred Web site
Go to the Blue Ball Project Web site





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