County Executive Tom Gordon indicated
during the course of conversation that he feels some changes in
the county's Unified Development Code might be in order.
Baxter, executive director of the Committee of 100, a trade
organization, said that existing businesses and potential
newcomers are deterred from expanding or relocating because they
have to trod a long, costly and uncertain path to have their
plans approved. That applies to both commercial and residential
development, she said.
[neighboring] Pennsylvania and New Jersey they have a certain
process and you can get through it quickly. In New Castle County
it takes forever," she said. Expansion consultants are telling
corporate executives in the region, and even nationally, "don't
bother to look at New Castle County because you can't do it
there," he said.
Larry Tarabicos, who specializes in land-use matters, added that
downstate Delaware and several municipalities in New Castle are
aggressively seeking economic growth at the expense of
unincorporated areas of the northern county. "They embrace
development in Sussex County. Growth is welcome there and it's
not all for retirees," he said. "A Home Depot comes in and all
they say is, 'Where do you want to go?'"
pressure is mounting for that county to increase the amount of
land-use planning and regulation but predicted it will be a long
while before sentiment there favors emulating New Castle. "It is
clear to everyone that development is leaving New Castle County
and they don't want that," he said.
Gordon acknowledged that the county's efforts to
control and channel growth have led to a seemingly irresistible
pattern of expansion by Middletown, Newark and Odessa, and
Smyrna and Clayton in northern Kent County. Those towns have
their own ordinances to govern
land use within their borders, which are far less stringent than
the county's code. Most
annexations in recent years have been to accommodate proposed
[in state government] has the will to stop annexation," he said.
acknowledged that the county's comprehensive development code,
signature legislation of his administration, has had some
unanticipated and probably undesirable consequences. "Maybe
there are some places where we went too far," he said. "We've
got to say we had a good idea, but the rest of the state did not
embrace it.... Where we're too far ahead, we ought to go back."
was "not intended to stop growth," he said, adding that "no
growth means no jobs" and limited opportunity for the rising
generation. "If we keep the [development code] and no houses are
built and there are no [new] jobs and our children have to move
away, what have we accomplished?" he said.
said the development code appears to have fueled the classic
battle between the heres and the here-nots. "There is a certain
sense out there that I have my home and I have my job and I
don't care," she said.
Baker, general manager of the Department of Land Use, which
administers the law, was present but did not participate in that
part of the dialogue.
pro-development presentation before an assembly of officers of
umbrella civic organizations, which is convened on a regular
basis by Gordon and County Council president Christopher Coons,
did not take aim at the development code itself. The main thrust
was to seek modification of level-of-service traffic
requirements which predate the law but have been incorporated
essence, those requirements say that a major development plan
cannot proceed if the volume of traffic at key nearby
intersections causes supposedly unacceptable delays. If the wait
to get through an intersection while on a main road exceeds 80
seconds, the intersection is considered to be 'in failure'.
said traffic engineer Ted Williams, of Landmark Engineering, is
unrealistic. "It requires spending a lot of public and private
money [to improve the intersection] for a minor change," he
said. Providing an additional highway lane to bring a 'failed'
intersection up to an acceptable level, of instance, could mean
spending $20 million to shave 20 seconds off the wait time.
it is becoming commonplace for people to live greater distances
from where they work than they have in the past and therefore
are required to commute through those intersections, according
to Rick Woodson, president of Home Builders Association of
Delaware. As a result, the proposed development is stymied while
traffic volume that has nothing to do with the project produces
the same or probably more adverse traffic impact.. "They don't
live there or work there, but they still have to go through
there," he said.
people are already traveling from Smyrna or southern Chester
County (Pa.) or Cecil County (Md.) to Wilmington? If they can't
build in New Castle County, they're going to build in other
places and the congestion is going to increase and level of
service is going to get worse anyway," he said.
development away while not alleviating the need for highway and
other infrastructure improvements is simply going to mean more
demands on a tax base which will not grow proportionately.
plenty of space to develop but there is an infrastructure
issue," Tarabicos said, adding that it is economically
unrealistic to require that infrastructure be in place before
development can proceed. A more reasonable policy, he added,
would be, "Let's provide infrastructure so we can have
McGonigle, a commercial and industrial reality broker, said it
is impossible to track the extent to which New Castle County has
lost economic development. In most cases, the decision to avoid
the area is made before there are any approaches. Similarly,
existing businesses -- especially small- to medium-size firms --
eyeing expansion simply look elsewhere, he said.
without political and economic clout are willing to run the
gauntlet necessary to obtain approval of even apparently routine
proposals, he explained. "I wish I had clients like Astra
Zeneca, where everybody sits up and takes notice," he added.
'brownfields' development may appear attractive but requires
financial assistance and a degree of attention-attracting
support. The Christina Riverfront project in Wilmington is a
good example of redevelopment where former industrial use of the
property had become obsolete, but smaller redevelopment efforts
fall far short of mustering such interest and support, he said.
it involves development or redevelopment, a company is going to
weigh the investment of time and money required to get through
the process against the benefits, Baxter said. The sticking
point, she added, is inability to predict the outcome.
something is uncertain, they are not going to invest. We lose
development opportunities when we can't say [approval] is
likely," she said. "There is also a cost [involved] in delay.
They have to make a decision quickly -- and they can't do that