June 6, 2003

One of five legislators who represent Claymont in the General Assembly intends to introduce legislation to incorporate the town, according to a civic leader.

George Lossť, president of the Claymont Community Coalition, told the meeting of officers of umbrella civic organizations, which County Executive Thomas Gordon convenes monthly, that Representative Wayne Smith floated the idea at a recent meeting of the Radnor Green Civic Association.

Such a move has been talked about, off and on, for many years with opinion among residents divided between supporting increased control of community affairs and opposing potential imposition of an additional layer of tax-supported government.

"If it's for the betterment of Claymont, I am not against it; but I don't know how it is going to help us," Lossť said.

Smith did not immediately  respond to a request from Delaforum for comment as this article was being prepared.

Lossť said his understanding is that the area defined by the U.S. Postal Service's 19703 zip code would be defined as Claymont. That presently is considered by most residents and others to be the 'town'. Bordered by the Delaware River,  Interstate 95 right-of-way, Pennsylvania Border and Perkins Run, it includes both the core area around Philadelphia Pike and newer suburban communities such as Radnor Green and Ashborune Hills.

Although it has never had legal existence, Claymont traces its history back to Colonial times when Swedish settlers pushed north from what is now Wilmington to establish farms and mills overlooking the Delaware. It served for most of the 19th Century as an exurban retreat for Philadelphians. Its most significant growth occurred with the coming of steel, oil and chemical companies around the time of the First World War.

If incorporated, Claymont would rank in size and population with New Castle and Middletown among New Castle County places. The Claymont Historical Society's Web site refers to Claymont as Delaware's "fourth largest town."

Unlike those towns, however, Smith's plan, as Lossť described it, envisions an arrangement similar to what exists in Arden, Ardentown and Ardencroft, which are separately incorporated, where local government services are limited and most functions are handled by New Castle County government.

"The way I understand it, we would be limited to zoning and land-use, with police and the other [functions] left with the county," Lossť said.

In recent times, Claymonters have be involved in several land-use controversies and there is a major effort to effect a 'renaissance' involving renewal and redevelopment along Philadelphia Pike. County government has been involved with and has supported that effort.

Gordon did not comment on Lossť's presentation at the umbrella group meeting on June 5 except to say that the county administration will be represented at any public sessions dealing with Smith's plans. Lossť said Claymont Coalition expects to host the first general public presentation of the matter.

Smith, who is the Republican majority leader in the state House of Representatives does not live the area described as Claymont, but his district includes a large part of it. Following reapportionment for the 2002 election, the area was divided among him and two other representatives, David Ennis and Robert Valihura, and two senators, Cathy Cloutier and Harris McDowell. All except McDowell are Republicans. McDowell is the Democrat majority leader in the state Senate.

There is no likelihood that any incorporation legislation Smith introduces could be acted upon during the Assembly's current session, which ends at the end of June. It is common practice, however, for a significant measure to be introduced in one session with the intention of considering passage at the next session which, in this case, begins in January.

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