Councilman Timothy Sheldon said waiting until Jan. 11 to act on
his ordinance to provide $17 million to buy out some houses
rendered uninhabitable by flooding and finance some short-term
flood-mitigation projects would allow time to arrange for more
financial participation by other public agencies.
Council that night will be able to consider an ordinance
introduced by Councilwoman Patty Powell which would impose a
moratorium on approvals of new development plans or rezonings
until county and state authorities "have concurred on a means to
resolve the recent flooding problems" or until the end of March,
whichever comes first.
took some rare-for-Council parliamentary maneuvering before
Powell was able to set aside until Jan. 25 her ordinance to
revise the county building code. She said she wanted to do so to
provide "one more opportunity" for the plumbers and laborers
unions to resolve the only unsettled issue in the proposed code.
Councilman John Cartier objected to further delay in acting on
the measure and forced a vote on Powell's motion to table, but
Council agreed to the tabling by an eight-to-five margin.
Councilwoman Karen Venezky also tabled, indefinitely and without
discussion, a measure which would restrict most personnel
actions by future county administrations as their tenures in
office come to an end.
other matters at the session on Dec. 21, Council:
Eased financial disclosure requirements for members of various
boards and commissions.
Agreed unanimously to spend an additional $900,000 on a paging
system for volunteer fire fighters, which will reduce the
available balance in the county's general fund by 8%.
Confirmed members of community review boards for Claymont and
Hockessin to advise the Department of Land Use in administering
Council agreed, in a resolution sponsored by Councilman Robert
Weiner, to give the Delaware chapter of the American Red Cross
$35,000 to provide "humanitarian assistance" to flood victims.
Weiner said that is understood to primarily involve meeting
their needs for emergency housng.
flooding mitigation ordinance "is not quite right and we don't
want to do something that is not quite right," Clark said.
others agreed that the proposal has come a long way since
Sheldon introduced it on Dec. 7. The changes have been enough
that County Executive-elect Christopher Coons declared at a
meeting of Council's special services committee that he will
sign the measure into law after its presumed enactment on Jan.
11. Coons takes office on Jan. 4.
Delaforum previously reported, Coons had warned Council against
ill-conceived and hasty action that would seriously erode the
county's financial position. In testimony at the afternoon
committee meeting before Council's evening session, he was still
on a cautious tack.
Enactment of Sheldon's measure will "set a precedent ... we will
be working with for quite some time," Coons said. "New Castle
County shouldn't accept this responsibility without a new
revenue stream. ... We can't spend this kind of money on
short-term projects unless we have a source of new money to pay
substitute to his original ordinance which Sheldon would have
brought before Council if the measure had not been tabled
divides a list of 30 proposed projects into four categories.
first and most immediate involves removal for debris from Red
Clay Creek and repairs to several stormwater control facilities
at an estimated cost of $3,150,000. That work falls within the
county's statutory responsibility.
Buyouts of properties in Glendale, Newkirk Estates and
miscellaneous other locations, at an estimated cost of $6.5
million, would be governed by a set of criteria. The houses
would have to be declared unsafe by the land use department and
constitute a "credible threat to public health or safety." Their
owners could not have voluntarily surrender flood insurance or
knowingly bought the properties in an area known to be flood
prone. The department also would have to certify that there is
"no reasonable [and] economically viable alternative" to the
disclosed at the committee meeting that several property owners
in Newkirk Estates have refused entry to county code-enforcement
inspectors. Only one house in that community has, so far, been
'condemned'. The committee was told that other owners most
likely fear that inspection would lead to immediate condemnation
and they would be left homeless.
said that applying "really strict standards" to determine
eligibility for buyouts would protect Council from an onslaught
of requests for such relief. On the other hand, he added, "maybe
there are other houses out there that need it." He pointed out
that buyout money is limited to acquiring properties and would
not be used to cover families' relocation expenses.
third category consists of four projects which have been
declared eligible for a total of $375,000 worth of financing
from the state's Twenty-first Century Fund.
remaining $6,975,000 of the $17 million appropriation would be
earmarked for 16 projects for which whole or partial financing
by state and other public agencies is being sought. The
substitute ordinance provides that work on those projects would
proceed only when a majority of the special services committee
decides that "suitable contributions" have been received or
evident that a desire to switch projects from the fourth
category to the third had a lot to do with postponing action on
Senator Karen Peterson told the committee meeting that she has
brought together 11 legislators who are "interested in being
part of the solution," indicating that they would support
providing some state financing after the General Assembly
convenes in January.
uncertain at this point what role a taskforce being set up by
Governor Ruth Ann Minner will play in all this. It will be
chaired by John Hughes, secretary of natural resources and
environmental control, whose department evidently is favorably
inclined toward establishing an autonomous stormwater utility.
County Councilman William Tansey, chairman of the special
services committee, told Delaforum that he does not favor that
substitute ordinance and supporting resolution disclose publicly
the specific sources from which the $17 million in capital funds
would be drawn. Previously it was said they would come from
deferred parkland and other land acquisitions.
addition to $10 million now set aside for parkland acquisitions
to be determined by the Department of Special Services, there
would be $3 million drawn from planned upgrades to the Stoney
Creek sewer pump station; $1 million from development of Glasgow
regional park, $1 million from improvements to various county
facilities; $1 million from security-system upgrades; $950,000
from a paint spray booth at the Conner Building; and $50,000
from the county executive's capital-spending contingency fund.
In all cases, the amounts would be made available in fiscal year
said the moratorium measure she introduced is intended to apply
to all development in the county and not just in flood-prone
areas. It is based on the understanding that flooding conditions
are created as acerbated by development.
preamble, the ordinance declares that delaying the processing
and approval of development proposals "will enable the state,
county, applicable federal agencies and nearby jurisdictions to
meet and discuss problems and solutions" while affording the
land use department the opportunity to propose revisions to the
Uniform Development Code to address flooding and drainage
building code dispute hinges on one sentence in 66 pages of
closely spaced printing. It eliminates a provision in the
present code which said only licensed plumbers can connect
lateral sewer lines to commercial buildings to the county sewer
system. Anyone who is qualified to do the work can hook up
residential buildings. The restriction is said to be
unconstitutional and has not been enforced. The laborers' union
said its members have been doing this work routinely.
supporting Cartier's effort to prevent tabling the measure,
Councilman Penrose Hollins said said Council's role is not to
get involved in what amounts to a jurisdictional dispute between
about 75 people affected by the flooding issue and about 90
members of both unions attempting to crowd into the chamber,
Clark moved both matters to the head of the agenda, where
announcements of intentions to table items are made. He then
asked the union people to leave the chamber to make room for
those interested in the flooding matter. After that discussion,
he asked those people to leave and readmitted the union members.
county police officers were called in to assist in the
transitions, but there were no disorder in either the movements
or in response to Clark's ruling against allowing public comment
on the tabling motions.
avoid a repetition at the Jan. 11 meeting, he requested that
Powell agree not to bring the building code revision back until
the revision of a financial disclosure law that had been enacted
in September, disclosure of loans is now required only in
categories and not specific amounts. Interest rates and terms of
loans are required to be disclosed as a means for distinguishing
between actual loans and gifts tendered in the guise of loans.
key provision as the law applies to persons serving on boards
and commissions is the granting the Ethics Commission authority
to waive provisions of the law if it determines that "the
literal application of [its] requirements in a particular case
is not necessary to achieve the public purpose of [the law] or
would result in undue hardship on any official or employee."
Delaforum initially reported, Victor Singer, chairman and
long-time member of the Planning Board had threatened to resign
if he was required to go into detail about has personal
finances. Singer and John Brook, of the Historic Review Board,
testified at Council's session that they considered the previous
requirements to be an undue invasion of their privacy.
current budget provided $900,000 in grants to fire companies to
pay for the paging system, but, it was explained, the system
will require more transmission towers that originally
anticipated in order to be effective throughout the county. As a
result, bids for the system came in higher than expected and the
original amount had to be doubled. That the money will come from
the county's available surplus was disclosed in a fiscal note to
the ordinance and confirmed by chief financial officer Ronald
Morris. Most recent reports put the available surplus at $10.8
Confirmed as members of the Hockessin design review advisory
board were: Joseph Amon, Steve Borleske, Peg Castorani, Diane
Hagerty, Missy Lickle, Matt Minker, Ken Murphy, Robert Price and
Connie Toschlog. The Claymont appointees are: Thomas Comitta,
John DeCostanzo, Tom DiChristofaro, Vernalee Frey, Alyssa Krill,
George Lossé, Carolyn
Mercandante, Brett Saddler and Carol Sloan.