That got started on Oct. 7 with the
first of a series of open advisory meetings bringing together
developers, persons in supporting businesses and community
representatives -- groups which previously had been consulted in
private sessions.. And, as might be expected, a prominent part
of the discussion centered on how the management of
environmentally-protected open space in new major subdivisions
will be financed.
"The development community is willing
to provide the land. We don't support footing the cost of doing
so," said Rick Woodin, president of Home Builders Association of
Noting that the county's Unified
Development Code "had unanticipated effects on the economy of
the county," Mark Bowen, of Duffield Associates, an engineering
consulting firm, cautioned proponents of imposing
environmentally sensitive requirements on land development to
carefully weigh the benefits against cost.
"We can all help pay for it through
our taxes," said Marion Stewart, of the Civic League for New
George Haggerty, assistant general
manager, told the meeting that the land use department is open
to hearing a variety of opinions and ideas as it makes what he
described as "a fresh start" at drafting proposed amendments to
the development code.
thing that is not negotiable, Baker told Delaforum during an
earlier interview, is the basic
concept intended to shape the proposed changes.. Knowledgeable observers believe the ordinance
which emerges will result in
the most significant changes since the comprehensive code was
adopted nearly five years ago.
said that the purpose for wanting to change the
law is to establish a way to return cleaner water to streams and
more of it to the underground aquifer. "What we're trying to
accomplish is to treat our water in a more natural way," he
present, the code requires that stormwater runoff from developed
parcels be collected in basins designed to release it gradually,
instead of in a rush, to streams, primarily to prevent flooding.
But, Baker pointed out, that means that not only water but also
contaminants such as oil residue from parking lots and chemical
fertilizers and pesticides from lawns are washed into the
streams. Using natural channels to carry the water will course
it through such natural filters as vegetation as well as allow
as much as a third of it to be absorbed into the ground..
developing the updated comprehensive plan last year, the
department found that 86% of the streams in New Castle County
are polluted beyond the limits which make them unsafe for
fishing or swimming. Nationally, he said, the average is 59%.
developers of major projects, mainly residential but also
commercial, to design them in a way that provides for nature to
do its thing will significantly improve that situation,
conservationist and environmentalists agree.
Delaforum first reported, the mechanism would be to mandate
designs which provide for setting aside, in most cases, more
open space than is now required and designating some of it as
'natural resource areas' which would be permanently kept in a
natural state or as nearly so as possible. The rest of the open
space would be for active or passive recreation. A major
development is one which has 50 or more building units or
comprises 50 acres.
development code now requires that at least 30% to 50% of the developed
area, depending on the type of development, be deeded to
community-based maintenance associations as common areas. The
average that that is actually so designated is 46%. The proposal
is to require that it be at least 50% in all developments.
said that would not reduce the number of units that could be
built. In some cases, greater allowable density would actually
provide for more units.
said that there is no intention of requiring that existing
stormwater retention systems be remodeled. "This is all looking
to what happens in the future," he said.
initially purported to be draft legislation prepared by the
department has been selectively circulated and discussed at
by-invitation gatherings since late August.
garnered significant support as well as objections and
criticism, Baker said. "Nobody is against the idea itself, but
there are different views of how we should go about it," he
feature that has drawn considerable criticism is a provision
that the resources areas be deeded to and maintained by
recognized conservation groups which would be able to restrict
access to the land. "I'm pretty sure that'll be one of the
things that'll be out of there" as the proposal moves forward,
the department are now referring to the document as a 'first
draft'. He said he regrets having crafted it in legislative form
and language, but defended the process of submitting it first to
selected recipients and audiences. "We were trying to get some
ideas on the table before we got it out to the [general]
public," he said.
that, he maintained that it "made sense" to start with
presentations to developers, engineers, lawyers who specialize
in land-use matters, conservation organizations and officials of
umbrella civic associations.
memorandum to "interested parties," assistant general manager
George Haggerty catalogued "a lot of good and diverse comments
[that] have already been generated." Among those he listed were
a suggestion that conservation design be encouraged by incentive
rather than mandated; the possibility of financing maintenance
by a 'conservation tax'; providing for continuing government
oversight after developments are finished and parcels are sold;
requiring connections to adjacent land; and conducting extensive
education of the public.
said that all future presentations will be open to the general
public. The county also will use newspapers and other media to
get the word out. He said his record in dealing with major
public issues in the past "clearly shows that I favor a public
ordinance can be enacted by County Council it has to be the
subject of at least one public hearing by the Planning Board and
a subsequent recommendation from that panel. It also is likely
that Council would hold one or more public hearings.
tell [the public] what we're trying to accomplish and seek input
on how we might do it," Baker said.