the department's favorable assessment of the proposed addition
to the Uniform Development Code, the county Planning Board voted
six-to-one on Jan. 20 to also recommend approval of the proposed ordinance. If
Council accepts the recommendations -- and it is almost certain
that it will -- a dozen or so older communities stand to be
given control over future development and redevelopment.
guidelines developed through a community consultation process
can be given the force of law and local review committees
granted power to pass on whether specific development proposals
adhere to the plans' provisions.
process, the department's recommendation said, will enable
long-established but unincorporated places to preserve their
"unique and diverse qualities."
groups in Hockessin, Claymont and Centreville are moving in that
direction. The department identified several others as having
the potential to follow suit, including Greenville, Stanton,
Marshallton, Red Lion, Port Penn and St. George's. But, it said
it does not expect a rush to hop on the bandwagon given the
apparent lack of any organizations in those places inclined to initiate
However, Arden, Ardentown and Ardencroft, which are adjacent
but separately incorporated villages, have asked to be included.
They would be eligible, according to land use general manager
Charles Baker, because they have chosen to bring themselves under the
development code and contract with the department to provide
department's recommendation was conditioned on the ordinance
providing that members of the review committee be appointed to
staggered three-year terms. The measure officially before
Council does not define the terms.
member June MacArtor voted against the Planning Board agreeing
with the department's recommendation because, she said, "I don't
think it is completely thought out yet."
normal procedure, the ordinance, which is sponsored by
Councilman William Tansey, could come before Council for
final action at its meeting on Feb. 17.
retrospect, it is curious that the old Levy Court ignored existing communities when, in 1954, it crafted the
county's first zoning law. That code "made no attempt to define
unincorporated hamlets and villages," the land use department
noted. For whatever reason now lost in antiquity, the county's
three-member governing body focused entirely on the new
communities being born at the height of the post-World War
II baby boom.
result, the older places have experienced "decades of
inappropriate zoning controls," the department's recommendation
meant buildings and other property features that are 'out of
character' with their surroundings and an untold number of
individually rendered and not always consistent zoning
adjustments. In a broader context, supporters of the relatively
recent effort to recapture traditional village and town
atmospheres contend, it has meant creeping suburbanization.
'hometown' ordinance is enacted, community organizations can
petition Council to grant an 'overlay' covering an area defined
as having stand-alone qualities. As a practical matter, Baker
told the board, the actual areas to be affected will be "the
main street or downtown section" of the designated area. "Nobody
wants to [include] residential areas," he said.
part of granting the overlay would involve acceptance of the
plan, which necessarily would have been developed with the
guidance of a professional planner, either from his department
or hired by the community, Baker added.
member Sandra Anderson asked if "just a group of people who get
together" could initiate the process. It might be used, she
said, to block an unwanted development proposal. Baker replied
that applying an overlay would require Council to follow
established zoning procedures, which include a public hearing
and Department of Land Use and Planning Board consideration.
the fact that the review committee's role is defined as
advisory, with Council having the final say on specific
development proposals, mitigates against abuse of the process.
"Not only is there a legal system involved, but [also] a
political system involved," he said. The process "is
community-driven but county-supported."
other hand, Baker said, the ordinance will force prospective
developers to work more closely with communities and resolve
differences at the local level rather than before County
Council, the Planning Board or the Board of Adjustment.
chairman Victor Singer said all that enacting the ordinance does
"is formalizing what already is ongoing."