true," Mike Walsh crisply replied when board member John Brook
asked point blank if there was any connection between the facts
that Roy Jackson, a Paladin resident, had asked the board at a
previous meeting to consider an historical zoning overlay for
the structure and that "you got your bulldozer out and the
wall came down" two days later.
telling us, then, that it was all just a coincidence," Brook
shot back. Walsh did not comment further on that point.
in a hearing on May 12, Edward Heite, identified as a consultant
on historical and archaeological matters, testified on behalf of
Edgewood Village L.l.c., that the stone wall is not, in itself,
historic. At most, he said, it "is a very small element in a
property that would be historic if it were still there."
later in the hearing disputed that. "The wall was an integral
part of a 100-year-old esthetic landscape -- a masterpiece of
stone masons' work," he testified.
review board reserved decision on what to do about the issue.
The question officially before it is whether to seek an historic
zoning overlay over the rest of the wall and, possibly, nearby
structures dating back to when the site was part of iron company
executive William Sellers' estate. About half of the wall was
left standing after a county inspector issued a stop-work order
pertaining to the demolition.
presented several photographs which depicted the wall in various
configurations over a period of time going back to the late
1800s. They showed, he said, that "this wall has been through
many hands -- some skilled, some not so skilled -- over the
significance in the context of the Sellers Family estate, he
said, was as a functioning retaining wall along a driveway at
the rear of the estate connecting it with a working farm.
Wendy Danner said there was nothing illegal in removing the
structure, but added that the company "has agreed to save the rest of
acknowledging that only a former carriage house, which has been
converted into a clubhouse for the condominium community, and a
vacant stone house which evidently was occupied by employees of
the estate, are all that remain, Jackson characterized the
Sellers estate as a landmark reminder of Delaware's social and
industrial history. He spoke of a "web of connections" involving
such disparate elements as author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the
Brooklyn Bridge and Wilmington's official timekeeper.
is related to a development plan now pending in the Department
of Land Use involving the proposed building of 35 townhouses an
the empty hillside behind the wall.
was essentially his first public comments on the dispute over
partial destruction of the wall, Walsh
testified that their construction has "always been part of what
we intended [to do]" after Edgewood Village acquired the
property 1993 in proceedings related to the bankruptcy of the
former developer, Tall Trees Associates. Tall Trees had acquired
what formerly was Clifton Park Manor, an apartment community
built in the early 1950s, with a view toward renovating the 92
apartment buildings, which had fallen into disrepair, for the
upscale condominium market. Edgewood Village is still doing
Discussion at the hearing touched on whether taking down part of
the wall violated land use regulations because doing so is an
element of a development plan which has not yet received
Travalini disputed Walsh's claim that future 'in-fill'
development of the property was a long-standing and known part
of Edgewood Village's intentions. She testified that she was not
told that when she bought her condominium in 2000. In fact, she
said, she was specifically told by a sales representative that
the wall was part of the historic ambiance she would enjoy while
living there and was assured that the developer intended to
preserve the 'historic integrity' of the community. "Those of us
who grew up on Delaware take such things -- small things, maybe
-- seriously," she said.
said later that he never told a prospective buyer, nor anyone
else, anything of that sort.
Cartiere, of the Fox Point Association, an areawide civic
organization in the Bellefonte-Edgemoor area, said the community
is pleased with and supportive of the contribution Pettinaro
interests have made toward the revitalization of the area. But,
he added, the development firm "forced this kind of
confrontation [by] preemptively destroying the wall." Edgewood
Village is an affiliate of Pettinaro Construction.
Keller, whose father was a caretaker and chauffeur for the
Sellers and who was born there and lived on the estate as a
child, drew applause from the 24 Paladin residents who attended
the hearing when she said the best solution to the controversy
is "put back the wall." No one on the board speculated on
whether the panel or the land use department have the authority
to order that to be done.