legislation, a draft of which has been quietly circulating among
key people in the development business and other interested
parties since late August, would require that builders not only
reserve recreational space in major subdivisions but also set
aside land which would constitute "natural resource areas."
latter would be deeded to "a county-approved conservation
organization" to be permanently maintained in a natural state or
something as close to that as possible. The builder would have
to establish an escrow account to finance the preservation,
presumably from the proceeds from the sale of properties in the
key feature of the proposed ordinance would be elimination of
the requirement to install stormwater drainage ponds in favor of
controlling such runoff by employing natural features of the
requirements are contained in a 70-page appendix to an enacting
ordinance, which Councilwoman Karen Venezky reportedly is
prepared to introduce. The appendix lists just the additions to
and deletions from the development code and much of it is
written in technical language.
has obtained a copy of the documents, but the land use
department's public information office has so far refused to
provide an official to discuss the proposal, which appears to
provide for the most significant change in the Unified
Development Code since enactment of that comprehensive law
nearly five years ago.
reading of the proposal, however, provides a broad-brush view of
what the ordinance is intended to accomplish. As stated in the
preamble of draft enactment ordinance: "The New Castle County
Department of Land Use has determined that utilization [sic] of
conservation design methods are the most effective means to
address adverse impacts by preservation of natural resources and
wildlife habitats in open space corridors that may be linked
together, simulating the natural hydrology (water balance) in
the after-development conditions, [and] incorporating unique
natural, scenic and historic features into the subdivision
approach seems directed primarily at the southern portion of
the county, particularly the area south of the Chesapeake &
Delaware Canal, but, as written, the ordinance would apply to
any project which meets the definition of a major subdivision.
The proposed upscale residential development off Naamans Road on
a portion of the old Brandywine Raceway property, for instance,
is a major subdivision.
the provisions of the proposed changes in the land-use code
appear to affect primarily residential development, but a
portion of the ordinance specifically addresses their
application to commercial development.
the proposal links the new conservation areas to the
long-existing open space set-aside -- which it refers to as
"community areas" -- it appears to draw a sharp distinction
between them. The latter are intended "to provide a benefit to
residents" as places for passive or active recreation or both.
It would be up to the conservation organization to decide
whether natural resource areas would even be open to access by
community residents or the general public.
areas would continue to be maintained and administered by
"homeowner organizations," a new term which the proposed
ordinance would substitute for the presently used "maintenance
organizations" throughout the development code. Those are
established by developers and all property owners become members
when they buy into the community. After the development is
nearly finished, the running of the organization is turned over
to elected volunteers. Its activities are financed by mandatory
annual assessments levied on all property owners.
proposed ordinance does not spell out how a "a county-approved
conservation organization" would be selected, but said that it
would have to be bona fide chartered organization with a track
record in the field of conservation. It would own the natural
resource area, which would be deed-restricted to remain
permanently undeveloped. The wording indicates that it is
believed proceeds from the builder-established escrow fund would
be sufficient to finance the relatively limited maintenance
necessary in natural areas. It does not specify what would
happen if that money runs out, but does refer to the
organization as one having resources to sustain its obligation.
subdivisions with 30 or more dwelling units, at least one acre
of usable open space for each 100 dwelling units would have to
be deeded to the homeowner organization.
paragraph states: "Within a subdivision involving 50 acres or
more, a certain portion of the open space shall be classified as
natural resource area open space; generally no more than five
percent of the base site shall be established as community areas
open space. In smaller subdivisions, the classification of the
type of open space parcels shall be determined by the [land use]
department during the review of the subdivision plan."
stormwaer drainage, the ordinance requires "the application of
Stormwater Green Technologies." That term is defined as
"applying the principles of filtration, infiltration and storage
most often associated with natural vegetation and undisturbed
soils." The ordinance specifies use of "the most effective
low-impact nonstructural stormwater drainage practices."
A plan for complying with the
preservation requirements would have to be approved as part of
the subdivision review process, with the county retaining the
right to compel compliance with the plan after it is approved.