executive is authorized to distribute up to $250,000 during this
fiscal year to help finance professional planning and related
activities. Charles Baker, general manager of the Department of
Land Use, said it is expected that all of the authorized money
will be given out or committed by the end of the year on June
30. Whether the program continues beyond that, he said, depends
upon what Gordon asks for and County Council approves in the
fiscal 2004 budget.
Announcement of the official start of the program, which was
developed over the past several months, came on Feb. 6 during a
wide-ranging discussion of several linked topics at Gordon's
monthly meeting with the umbrellas. Baker distributed a concise
set of program guidelines and a one-page application form to the
the meeting ran the gamut from municipal annexations, through
the proposed county rental and tenant code to the size and
conduct of County Council.
planning grants, according to the guidelines are intended assist
"unique and diverse communities that have previously established
themselves apart from the common form of suburban development
that characterizes much of the county."
government previously has assisted, financially and otherwise,
redevelopment planning efforts in a few places. Gordon used his
discretionary fund to provide 'seed money' to the Claymont
Renaissance. A member of the land use department staff is
spearheading a similar effort in Hockessin. The county also has
had a role in the village-preservation effort in Centreville.
Administered by the department, which will actually handle the
money and pay the bills for authorized activity, the grants will
be available only to umbrella civic organizations. Those are
basically confederations of civic associations in given areas.
application process requires that the requesting organization
hold what amounts to one or more public hearings about the
proposed project and obtain approval through a vote of its
general membership. "We want to make sure [the proposal] comes
from the group and has community buy-in," Baker said.
use department has reviewing authority and is to work with the
organization to define the scope of the project and determine
whether there are reasonably available resources to complete it.
department also will determine how the grants will be
apportioned. Projects, however, will be presented to meetings of
the umbrella group representatives and their views will be
considered in that decision. Projects other than community
development and redevelopment will be considered but assigned
secondary priority, the guidelines say.
program is viewed as an effort by the county to maintain the
existing status of unincorporated areas which have established
identities. They would acquire a large measure of control over
redevelopment within the county government's regulatory and
administrative structure without having to become separate
side of that, which also came up separately as a topic for
discussion at the meeting, is annexation of adjacent land by
existing municipalities. That is frequently done to permit new
development apart from the requirements of the Unified
Development Code. In the process, county government loses a
portion of its real estate tax base.
of the 'Livable Delaware" initiative, there is an effort
underway to develop state legislation to restrict annexation,
which now requires only agreement by a majority of property
owners in the affected area. A sole exception to that pertains
to the city of Wilmington where, under state law, an annexation
also requires agreement by County Council and the county
suggested at the civic group meeting that, rather than change
the law to give Wilmington the same latitude as other
municipalities, the other municipalities should be bound by the
same restriction as the city. He added that he does not oppose
every annexation and actually favors "logical ones." As an
example, he cited a couple made to straighten the city boundary
in the Christina Riverfront development area.
annexation could soon become significant in relation to the
proposed Bank One data processing center on Governor Printz
Boulevard just north of the city. The city owns the targeted
property, although it is located beyond the city line. The major
economic development project reportedly hinges in part on an
effort to permit or prevent, depending on viewpoint, future
cautioned that the proposed county rental and tenant code, being
drafted by a committee led by County Council president
Christopher Coons, will not work unless it is aligned with a
method to finance its enforcement. He urged civic
representatives participating in the drafting process to oppose
anything which exceeds enforcement resources.
process now stands, the key to enforcement is periodic
inspection of rental properties to assure that they are up to
building code standards as well as inspections whenever a new
tenant comes in. Baker pointed out that the county's 12 code
enforcement officers presently conduct about 6,000 inspections a
year. That, he said, gives an indication of the personnel that
would be necessary to oversee the 30,000 to 50,000 rental units
in the county.
said the county needs a rental code, such as Wilmington and
Newark have, but questioned whether extensive representation by
apartment owners and related commercial interests on the
drafting committee might prevent coming up with an effective
county law. "Do you think they're going to pass [sic] anything
that's going to work?" he quipped.
Bockover, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of
Brandywine Hundred asked support from other umbrella groups for
a lobbying effort to seek repeal of the state law requiring the
doubling of the present number of County Council districts in
time for the 2004 election. "If we don't stop [implementation
of] this law now, we never will. Once you get more Council
members, you'll never roll [it] back," he said.
later said that he agrees with the official County Council
position that Council be increased to nine members plus a
president elected at large, instated of 12 plus a president as
the law provides. Council presently has six members plus a
said that reapportionment to establish new Council districts.
"You don't just cut [the present[ districts in half. It has to
be done by population, not geography," he said.
Murphy, president of the Greater Hockessin Area Development
Association, said that not only the number of Council members
but the way the perform their duty should be scrutinized. "Maybe
there should have a job description," he said. "They get elected
and we give them and office and an aide, but there are no
minimal requirements for what they have to do to be a good
Cannon, president of the Centreville Civic Association, said
passing judgment on how they handle their job "is something we
all can do at election time."
Narcowich, president of the Civic League for New Castle County,
questioned the efficiency of Council. He cited a recent meeting
of Council's Executive Committee, which began about 20 minutes
past its 3:30 p.m. announced starting time and ran until 7:45
p.m., with a 45-minute recess to conduct a scheduled Land Use
Committee meeting. He questioned how much that cost in terms of
the pay of members of the county's administrative staffs who had
to be present and lawyers, business people and members of the
public who came to hear about and speak to specific items on