locations civic activists sought so-called historic zoning
overlays as a means for thwarting development plans. And in both
cases, the Historic Review Board initiated the effort to obtain
overlays over the objections of the respective owners.
Charles Baker, general manager of the land use department,
sought to sidetrack any question about the review board's
jurisdiction by pointing out that the matters were on the table
as the result of County Councilman Robert Weiner's having
introduced rezoning ordinances, which he clearly has the
authority to do under the Unified Development Code, Planning
Board member Joseph Maloney chided the Historic Review Board
for, in effect, not being a team player with respect to Jester
Farm. "There is a lack of communication and coordination between
the Historic Review Board and other departments of county
government," he said.
the basis for the land use department's recommendation was the
Department of Special Services' contention that an historic
zoning overlay could raise complications at an unspecified
future time when the county gets ready to determine the ultimate
use of the 25-acre former farm property, which lies between
Grubb Road and the community of Chalfonte. It was acquired in
1973 as parkland. County Executive Tom Gordon has given public
assurance that the farmhouse will not be demolished and that no
development will be undertaken except through an open process
with public participation.
[in] the county's purview to make that decision, not the
Historic Review Board's," said Planning Board member Sandra
Anderson with reference to future development. Historic overlay
zoning does not alter the basic zoning classification of a
property, but does give the Historic Review Board the final say
over development plans based on their effect on the perceived
historic integrity of the property.
use department also declared in its recommendation that the
ultimate plan to develop the park "should rest with the public
and their elected officials."
the current county executive's decision, I'm concerned [that]
some future county executive will want to demolish the house,"
said Planning Board member Mark Weinberg. "An historic overlay
is not an onerous restriction on future development of a park."
Weinberg, who lives in Brandywine Hundred, subsequently was the
only one who voted against the board's recommending denial
of historic protection.
recommendation, the department cited the Historic Review Board's
contention that the farmhouse is "a well-preserved example of
the moderate-sized farmsteads that once dominated Brandywine
Hundred." It also noted that Gordon has publicly supported
establishing a resident curator program in the county and
identified the Jester property as potentially the first place it
will be used. In return for restoring the building, maintaining
it and agreeing to some public access, a volunteer curator would
be able to live there rent-free and tax-free.
dismissed references to extensive community support for an
historic overlay. "The people signed the petitions to preserve a
property they didn't even know was a county park to keep the
soccer kids out," she said. There were reports that the Concord
Soccer Association sought development of the perk with playing
fields, but that organization has said it will not pursue that
in the face of community opposition.
Planning Board was agreeable to trust county government's
long-term stewardship at the Jester property, it was reluctant
to do so with DelDOT's much shorter-term involvement with the
Weldin House. "I'm uncomfortable with voting on something with
that degree of uncertainty," said member June MacArtor.
in the process of following through on a stated intention to
purchase the house and surrounding 1 1/3 acres on Philadelphia
Pike half way up the slope of Penny Hill from Carol Harrington,
who originally sought to sell it to become the site of a
Seven-Eleven convenience store and gasoline station.
Harrington had objected to an historic overlay; DelDOT officials
have said they have no problem with one on the house, but they
want the ability to subdivide the property and sell off the
portion adjacent to Lore Avenue for commercial development
acceptable to the community. Although the officials have not
been specific, they have indicated that the department would
look to have the house renovated either as a residence or
'adaptive reuse' of a commercial nature.
of Penny Hill, an organization formed to oppose the Seven-Eleven
plan, supported an historic overlay on the house while saying it
had no objection to commercial use of the rest of the property.
The proposed rezoning ordinance as it now stands covers the
entire property, but County Council could amend it to make it
did say that she thought Harrington's objections, which were
based mostly on the premise that historic zoning would
lower the property's sale value, were answered by DelDOT's
stated intention to pay 'fair market value' based on an
appraisal which considered the property as not having an
overlay. That will happen if the appraisal is made, as expected,
before County Council acted on the rezoning ordinance.
said the department's recommendation to recommend the rezoning
was based on the assumption that DelDOT's plan to sell a portion
of the property would result in commercial development in
compliance with its present zoning for neighborhood-scale
commercial use. The department would have no jurisdiction over
any DelDOT highway improvements at the intersection of the pike
with Lore Avenue and Marsh Road.
also criticized the Historic Review Board for "not doing its
homework" with regard to whether the historic overlay should be
placed on just the house or the entire property, which also
contains buildings once used for a donut shop and a sandwich
questioned why DelDOT was purchasing the property. To that,
Baker responded, "I'm not going to answer that."
a decision by the Fox Point Association, an umbrella civic
organization of which Friends of Penny Hill is a component, to
support a state-initiated economic development proposal to
located a Bank One communications center on nearby Governor
Printz Boulevard, Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward
pledged to do what he could to support the community on the
Seven-Eleven issue. DelDOT later determined that the chain's
plan posed a serious safety hazard at the intersection.
Planning Board voted to table a motion to recommend an historic
overlay on just the Weldin House, at least a month to see how
the DelDOT acquisition works out. In the discussion leading up
to that vote, it was apparent that the rezoning had the support
of a majority of, if not the entire, board.
told members that their postponing action would still leave time
to make a recommendation before County Council is due to act on
rezonings -- which it now does only three times a year -- in
October. Weinberg noted that that could result in speeding up
the acquisition because "there is nothing like a deadline to
make things happen."
motion to table also drew seven votes, with Anderson being the
only member opposed. The land use department recommendation
favoring rezoning is not affected by the delay.
uncontested third case involving an historic overlay, both
the department and Planning Board recommended that Council grant
one on the Holloday house on Briars Lane off Kennett Pike in
Greenville. C.P.S. Investors plans to convert that structure
into offices while preserving its exterior.