well short of incorporation, the new section the ordinance would
insert into the Universal Development Code would give Council
the ability to create 'hometown overlays' granting communities
which were around before the county had any zoning laws a large
degree of control over future development and redevelopment.
amendment is being presented as a way for them to keep their
established identities apart from the general development
pattern and appearance of suburbia.
communities are considered 'traditional' and, in most cases,
predate the automobile with relatively dense neighborhoods with
a variety of nonresidential uses and ample sidewalks to travel
from place to place," the amendment notes. The development code,
on the other hand, was enacted to govern present-day development
within the suburban milieu and does not adequately recognize the
characteristics of older areas nor their more appropriate
development preference, it said.
land use planning principles now tout this form of development
as 'neotraditional' and 'new urbanism' as an alternative to
suburban sprawl that has consumed land and taxed
infrastructure," the amendment declares.
enabling ordinance, introduced without comment at Council's Nov.
18 session by Councilman William Tansey, is an outgrowth of
civic movements in Centreville, Hockessin and Claymont to come
up with effective 'village' or 'main street' plans as
revitalization tools. The proposed amendment indicates that the
purpose of separate treatment for such communities is to allow
for modification or replacement of existing properties to
conform to past patterns, which are still extant or being
who represents Centreville and Hockessin, was on vacation and
could not be reached for comment as this article was being
ordinance will go first to the Planning Board and Department of
Land Use, which will hold a joint public hearing in January
prior to making recommendations to Council, which could enact it
as soon as February.
draft of a Hockessin plan was introduced recently, Sherry
Freebery, the county's chief administrative officer, promised
the Greater Hockessin Area Development Association the
opportunity to give the plan the force of law after it was
polished through a consultation process involving interested
Councilman Robert Weiner, has long advocated a mechanism to
tailor potentially conflicting sections of the development code
to accommodate community 'design guidelines' which have been
promulgated in initial form for the Claymont Renaissance, which
he has spearheaded.
proposed amendment specifically calls for use of such
guidelines, a community plan or both to determine whether a
proposed development is in keeping with the character and
desires of the community. It declares that they would supercede
conflicting sections of the development code. Other sections of
the code, including existing zoning, would remain in force.
qualify for designation as an overlaid area, a community would
be required to produce a plan or guidelines. "At a minimum,
[they] shall include a purpose, goals, description of the land
uses, community character, architectural or design themes,
streetscape and landscape concepts, transportation objectives,
consideration for building envelope, mixed-use opportunities,
[and] parking, loading and accessory uses," the amendment said.
should ... encourage maintaining the rhythm of the existing
developed community by recognizing streetscape contexts
involving building, scale, mass, door and window openings and
spacing, building height, setbacks, materials, texture and
relief of facades." The term 'streetscape' refers to the
appearance of an urban area.
amendment envisions provision for various combinations of
residential, commercial, employment, recreational and
institution uses in the overlaid area. It does not spell out how
an area would be defined except to indicate that would be an
expected element of the plan. The plan itself must have
"broad-based support" achieved though an open process involving
"diverse community interests and bona fide community groups."
amendment provides for setting up advisory committee of between
five and nine members in each area granted a 'hometown overlay'
to judge development proposals against the guidelines or
public participatory process, the committee would issue a
recommendation to the land use department, which is designated
as the professional collaborator and reviewer. The department
would have final say about approving, modifying or rejecting the
proposal, but would have to give "due consideration" -- in
effect, substantial weight -- to the committee's recommendation.
The relationship appears to mirror what presently exists between
the department and the county Planning Board.
of the advisory committee would be drawn from among people
recommended by "community representatives" and appointed by the
county executive, upon nomination by the area's recognized civic
organization and subject to ratification by County Council. Two
members each would be drawn from among homeowners or renters and
from among local businesses. Everyone on the committee would
have to live in the community except for a registered architect
or landscape architect.
proposed amendment does not specify the terms of committee
members other than providing for their removal for
non-participation in committee meetings or other causes,
including moving out of the community. Nor does it say whether
committee members will be paid for their services.
committee may recommend deviation from development code
standards "to increase density, reduce landscaping, buffers or
open-space area, reduce parking [space], decrease or increase
building and paving setbacks, increase or decrease building
heights and to alter sign standards." It cannot, however, get
around preserving protect natural resources or historical
amendment would empower the land use department to initiate
"proactive zoning" to bring properties into conformity with the