audience dwindled as the board completed consideration of
five land-use proposals and only one person remained when
chairman Victor Singer solicited comment from the general public
on an ordinance which would establish a 'hometown' zoning
classification for a few selected communities. George Lossé,
president of the Claymont Community Coalition, said he thinks
that is a good idea.
provided the impetus for an effort dating back to mid-2000 to
"find a way to recognize [places] that have a special character
without creating another layer of government," Councilman Robert
Weiner, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, told the board at a
public hearing on Jan. 6.
neighboring states where areas not incorporated as
municipalities are blanketed by townships with local
governments, Delaware consigns them to countywide jurisdictions.
That works when it comes to regulating development in suburbia,
but not in the handful of enclaves which predate the post-World
War II migration from cities. In those places, it falls to a
cumbersome and frequently unpredictable variance process to
allow deviation on a case-by-case basis from present-day
standards, said Charles Baker, general manager of the county
Department of Land Use.
give weight within our [Unified Development] Code to what we do
n those areas," Baker said. "This will establish different
standards and review process for what happens [there]."
example, the code requires new buildings to have front and side
set-backs, In older communities, building to the property line
was common practice. Applying the code in those places would
produce a result that did not conform to the general appearance
of the community.
proposed ordinance would amend the code to allow County Council
to create 'overlays' that would trump some provisions of the
code in pre-defined geographic districts, such as Claymont. With
support from professional planners and the department, they
would be able to produce community plans, which would be given
the force of law and be enforced by a local 'design review
would, among other things, establish local design standards and,
in a general way, define acceptable uses for properties.
said Weiner, would "get the process out of the way and give
developers a green light to come in" to rejuvenate properties in
the areas while actually "enhanc[ing] neighborhood patterns
developed before the coming of the car."
has a 'renaissance' movement that, working with an outside
consultant, is close to completing a community plan. Hockessin
is now considering a draft plan, produced in conjunction with a
planner on the land use department's staff. Centreville also has
a planning process underway.
element in the Claymont movement is to encourage economic
redevelopment, Weiner said, adding that is not likely to happen
if potential developers have to battle a process largely focused
on suburban-type conformity. "Newark's Main Street
[redevelopment] would have been illegal under the [county]
development code," he said. As an incorporated city, Newark
regulates its own land use.
said there are, at most, a dozen places in the county that
potentially would fit into a 'hometown overlay' arrangement,
but, except for Stanton where some preliminary interest has been
expressed, others presently lack a recognized mechanism to
qualify for what he termed "special recognition."
really want to be different, they could form their own
incorporated town," board member June MacArtor suggested. Baker
replied that the proposed ordinance confers only an extremely
limited municipal function. "It wouldn't be much of a town if
that (reviewing development proposals) is all they want to do,"
testified that proposals to incorporate come up in Claymont
"roughly every two years or so," but are rejected in the face of
the specter of additional taxes. As recently as last summer,
state Representative Wayne Smith floated such a proposal, but
nothing more has been heard of it since attenders at a Claymont
Coalition meeting gave it no support.
questioned whether the land use department would be able to
comply with the ordinance's requirement that the designated
communities pass on proposed development plans within a month of
their formal submission. Baker said it did not anticipate being
overwhelmed by such plans and said that three staff members have
been designated to work with interested communities.
agree that the proposed ordinance has to be changed to define
the length of terms on the local review boards. Singer pointed
out that, in its present form, the measure implies that persons
appointed to them would have lifetime tenure.
board member Joseph Maloney said it also should be changed to
provide for inclusion of a representative of the development or
building businesses on the review boards.
planning board and the department make formal recommendations
concerning the proposed ordinance, it will be ready for County
Council action as soon as early February.