houses which the New Castle County Department of Special
Services plans to make available on that basis are fixer-uppers
-- big time fixer-uppers. But they also are properties that both
the county and interested community and historically oriented
groups have declared worthy of fixing up and preserving.
county's quarterly activities brochure circulated as an
advertising supplement in the News Journal newspaper as an
unusual vehicle to do so, the county, in the names of County
Executive Tom Gordon and chief administrative officer Sherry
Freebery, 'announced' that it is ready to go ahead with a
resident curator program which has been under consideration for
about two years.
proposed as a way to prevent demolition of the farmhouse, barn
and an outbuilding in Jester Park, the program, which is modeled
on a reportedly successful one in Maryland, will initially
include that property and a house in Bechtel Park. The parks are
off Grubb Road and Naamans Road, respectively.
emerging into public view as a fully defined program after a
relatively long hibernation caught two of the early proponents
of a curatorship in Jester Park off guard. They reacted with
are cheered by the fact that a resident curatorship has been
announced, it is apparent that this program has a number of
serious shortcomings and these will need to be addressed," said
Tod Baseden, who organized and chairs the Jester Park
prepared public statement, he cited opposition to imposing
historic zoning to at least the part of Jester Park where the
buildings are by Special Services. "The county administration
has resisted [such zoning] for a long time despite Councilman
Bob Weiner's efforts to have them implement it," he said.
zoning would impose significant safeguards, although not an
absolute provision, against altering, moving or demolishing the
structures. County officials contend that it could hamper plans
to eventually develop the park.
still thinks the concept is a good one, but said that the
program proposal "sat on [Freebery's] desk for over a year [and]
no member of the public -- especially me -- was allowed to
review or comment on the program." Weiner contends that he
originated the idea of emulating the program in Maryland and
said he went so far as to get a dozen applicants to submit
proposals to participate.
resident curator agrees to restore and maintain an historic
property and use it as a primary residence. In return, he or she
and his or her spouse, are given a rent-free lease which lasts
until they die, move or fail to properly maintain the property.
The county retains ownership, which exempts the property from
its taxes and forestalls such things as the curator willing it
Gehouskey, who will manage the program, confirmed that the
selection of who will get that role will be made by a Special
Services committee, which also will include an historic planner
from Land Use. Prospective applicants, she said, will have to
demonstrate their interest in historic preservation, experience
in property renovation and financial ability to undertake the
result, according to the county's 'announcement', the properties
will be restored "at practically no cost to the taxpayers ...
[and] preserved for future generations."
told Delaforum that the application process will begin with
'open houses' and that it is hoped the selections can be made in
time for the restorations to begin as early as spring, 2005.
the successful applicants will not be required to immediately
move into the houses because neither is now considered fit for
habitation. They will, however, have to submit a schedule for
doing the work, which would include a move-in date. There is no
objection to their hiring a contractor to actually do some or
all of the work, she added.
statement, Baseden criticized Special Services general manager
Joseph Freebery for not involving the public in development of
the program. "There appears to have been no contact by him or
his department with [private] county experts on this subject,"
criticized the idea of leaving the selection and other elements
of administrating the program to an entirely internal committee
"although there are many people in our county with records of
public service who have high levels of expertise in the
restoration and preserving of historic buildings." He added that
setting up a partnership with an organization such as
Preservation Delaware would work to the county's advantage.
now stand, Baseden said, "there is no transparency in the
program; the public will be effectively excluded from knowing
what is going on."