February 20, 2004

New Castle County government endorses its efforts and will finance drafting a community plan for Claymont and completing work on design standards for future development, the Claymont Renaissance steering committee was told.

Charles Baker, general manager of the Department of Land Use, said that County Executive Tom Gordon has approved a proposal prepared by Thomas Comitta Associates which lists the steps needed to accomplish those objectives at an estimated cost of about $58,000.

"The Executive believes it's time to stop the planning stuff and start the building stuff," Baker saida the committee's meeting on Feb. 19.

There is an interim step, however. Comitta Associates, which has been the Renaissance's professional town planner since 2001, must be successful in a 'request for proposal' bidding process. Although separate plans were submitted, they are so closely related they must be treated as a single proposal and, because the combined total cost is more than $50,000, the work is required by law to be put out to bid, Baker explained.

After the committee indicated by a show of hands unanimous support for Comitta and his West Chester, Pa.-based firm in recognition of his past and continuing relationship with the overall project, Baker said the contract will not be awarded solely on the basis of low bid. Reputation, familiarity with the community and details of the proposal will count strongly in the evaluation, he said, adding that that is normal practice in contracting for professional services.

Baker said the county has no problem with Comitta's continuing as Claymont's planner and apologized for an extended delay last year -- "which had to do with our client relationship" -- in giving him a green light to proceed. As a result, the community grant the county gave the Claymont Coalition, one of the sponsors of the Renaissance, financed only past work. This time, Baker said, the agreed-upon final cost will be specifically budgeted for payment in the fiscal year which begins July 1.

"The County Executive said, 'Go'," Baker said. "We want to get this done as badly as you do."

He asked that Gordon be included in the agenda for the committee's March meeting with the expectation that he will be in a position then to personally announce awarding of the contract.

Comitta's proposal included a timetable which has the community plan completed by September if the authorization to proceed comes in April. That would put Claymont in line, along with Hockessin, as the first communities to have their plans given force of law under the 'hometown overlay' which County Council is expected to enact in March.

Further indications that the Renaissance effort is moving toward reality came at the meeting.

It was announced that, along with the Claymont Business Owners Association, one of the other sponsors, it will be housed in office space rented from the Claymont Community Center.

Acquiring quarters is the start of the process of establishing a development corporation to promote "the good business climate in Claymont," according to Brett Saddler, president of the business organization. The business development effort and the Renaissance movement will be intertwined, he added.

Even before the new corporation is formed, it has been decided to accept a suggestion from Beverly Baxter, executive director of the Committee of 100, a pro-development trade organization, and 'piggyback' on the $1 million directional-and-identity sign program in Wilmington. Although still low key, that has been previewed by inclusion of a stylized 'W' as part of the decor on the recently renovated Interstate 95 bridge over the Brandywine and earlier on the I-95 viaduct om south Wilmington.

The stylized 'C'-for-Claymont will begin to show up on directional signs leading visitors to the community  by the end of 2004, Saddler said. "We'll have our signs up a full year before Wilmington" and at a cost of about $14,000, matched 20-80 by Delaware Department of Transportation, he said.

2004. All rights reserved.

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