enacted, the measure would do away with so-called '3.319'
hearings which are required only for plans that seek greater
building density in return for setting aside relatively large
amounts of open space. The number designation refers to the
paragraph in the Unified Development Code which sets forth the
told a meeting of Council's land use committee on Jul. 19 that
he had the proposed ordinance drafted as an alternative to a
measure which Councilman Robert Weiner is sponsoring. "I don't
believe that what we presently have on the table is the way to
go," Clark said.
not exactly clear what is on the proverbial legislative table.
Weiner, who has been working on the issue for many months,
recently presented three possible substitutes for the officially
pending ordinance to an advisory group he has convened. They
would provide for various combinations of hearings and community
meetings in the early stage of the approval process and apply to
all major development.
said at that meeting that he had not decided which version he
would move for Council action. But he did indicate that,
whichever it was, he would seek a vote at the Jul. 26 Council
and others contend that the code provision runs counter to the
county's policy to encourage open-space development in lieu of
what the councilman refers to as 'cookie-cutter' suburban
sprawl. Instead, they maintain, requiring an additional
hearing acts as a deterrent.
existing law, '3.319' hearings take place at a later stage of
the approval process, which means the developer has had to spend
a considerable amount of money to advance a plan with no
reasonable assurance of success. At the same time, the
fact that a project is that far along tends to minimize the
weight given to community views expressed at the hearing.
hearing is to determine if the proposed development is
compatible with surrounding communities, but in practice turns
out to be a forum for raising a myriad of other concerns,
such as drainage, traffic generation and the like.
associations support keeping the '3.319' hearing requirement;
developers and the business community want it eliminated.
Whether broadening the preliminary-stage hearing requirement
will be an acceptable compromise remains to be seen.
Planning Board recommendation on the pending version of Weiner's
proposed ordinance said such objections frequently are a cover
for an effort to block what are perceived to be nearby
developments lower on the economic ladder -- townhouses near
single-family residences, for instance. There is also a fear of
opening an opportunity for subsidized 'affordable' housing in
said Weiner asked him to take the issue to the committee
meeting to fulfill the requirement that his pending ordinance
receive an airing in order for it to be acted upon at the
next plenary session. Weiner is on an out-of-state trip.
Substitutions for pending measures are allowed between the
committee meeting and the Council session if they do not change
the substance of the original version. Often, substitutions are
used to incorporate points raised during committee discussion.
this case, Clark said, the changes he feels would be necessary
in the original version of Weiner's measure were too extensive
to be made by substitution.
said he had discussed that with Weiner by telephone, but
received no commitment one way or the other from Weiner. "I
believe [his measure] will accomplish what Mr. Weiner wants to
accomplish. But I do not know what he will want to do when he
gets back. He may choose to proceed on his own. ... I hope that
he will agree with me that this is a better way to go," Clark
Weiner agrees to withdraw his ordinance or leave it on the table
-- or if Council votes it down -- Clark's measure cannot be
acted upon on Jul. 26. It will have to the Planning Board and
Department of Land Use for a public hearing and recommendation.
Council will be in recess during August, so the earliest it
could come to a vote would be late September or October.
apparently would be all right with some Council members. "We are
discussing a major change to the Unified Development Code.
Council, and especially the new members of Council, need time to
study this," John Cartier said.
Penrose Hollins, however, questioned the unorthodox procedure
Clark was following. In actuality, Hollins said, the committee
was discussing a measure that is not yet before Council." All of
Council's standing committees are committees of the whole.
said he is acting because "'3.319' is not working." There have
been only a handful of open-space development plans requiring
that kind of hearing and none have been rejected. No one knows,
of course, how many potential open-space development plans have
been submitted as conventional plans because of the hearing
ordinance that Clark said he intends to introduce would
completely eliminate paragraph 3.319. In its stead would be a
new provision that all major land development plans "shall be
subject to public review." The hearing, he said, would be
conducted by a professional hearing officer so as not to impose
an additional responsibility on the Planning Board.
hearing would occur during what is known as the exploratory
phase of the development process right after land use department
professionals agree that the plan complies generally with the
development code. Its purpose, the proposed ordinance declares,
would be to consider "potential adverse impacts on adjoining
lands and the community."
hearing would not kill a development proposal. Developers could
modify their plans to address concerns raised at the hearing and
accepted as valid by the department and, thereby, proceed with
the approval process. Under existing law, a Planning Board
hearing and Council action would be required before approval is
Clark's proposed ordinance also contains a provision that would
require at least 200 feet of buffer along the perimeter of any
open-space development separating it from an existing
development with lots larger than an acre. Present law requires
a buffer if the adjacent development has lots larger than two
Councilman David Tackett cautioned that the ability of a
developer to change or modify a plan after the first hearing
could lead to a public perception of 'bait-and-switch' tactics.
other hand, "it is extremely important to have a hearing at the
grassroots level" early in the approval process, William Bell
said that it is intended that land use hearings involving
projects in the southern half of the county be held more
conveniently in the annex to the county's Government
Center in New Castle Corporate Commons. Projects in the northern
half will continue to be held in the Redding Building in