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January 4, 2006


New Castle County Planning Board and the Department of Land Use have recommended enlarging Claymont's 'hometown zoning' district to include the Brookview Apartments complex provided certain conditions are met.

An ordinance to bring the 65-acre property into the district to permit its planned redevelopment in 'traditional neighborhood' style to go forward is pending before County Council. Unlikely to generate any opposition, the measure could be acted upon as soon as Council's plenary session on Jan.10.

In their concurrent recommendations, the board and department acknowledge that "the redevelopment of the Brookview property has always been a key [for] the long-term improvement of Claymont."

It originally was not included in the 'hometown overlay' because the previous owners had no plans to redevelop and "were opposed to the overlay concept," the recommendation report states. Commonwealth group purchased the complex and formed a joint venture with Setting Properties to redevelop it.

The report does not mention that the previous county administration was strongly against county government involvement in the  redevelopment of Brookview as a private venture and insisted that it not be part of Claymont Renaissance planning.

"Once the overlay district was established and the framework for redevelopment was in place and successful, the Brookview property became a very desirable piece of real estate," the report said.

Most significant of 11 conditions attached to the recommendations has to do with 'affordable housing'. While noting that design guidelines under which the redevelopment will take place call for 10% of the units to be available for purchase by households with modest incomes, the recommendation goes further to say that those units should be included in at least two-thirds of the residential blocks in the new community.

"It is equally important that the guidelines state that these units be physically indistinguishable from the market-rate housing," the report said.

It notes that there is yet to be a definition of what is 'affordable' agreed upon by the county and the developer. That will be necessary before approval of the development plan, the report states.

It quotes land use general manager Charles Baker as commenting at the board's business meeting at which the recommendations were approved to the effect that "the 'affordable housing' component of the plan will be a number-one priority for the county."

'Affordable housing' is also referred to as 'workplace housing'.

A related condition attached to the recommendation is that the design guidelines "specify that development of the site will contribute to an increase in the overall homeownership rate in Claymont." It does not suggest how that might be done, but does note that 54% of the properties in Claymont are owner-occupied, compared to 70% countywide and 73% in Brandywine Hundred.

Other significant conditions attached to the recommendation are:

• That at least five different building types be included in the development with at least 5% and at most 40% of any one type employed  to achieve the kind of housing mix that the Claymont redevelopment plan envisions.

• That buffers be provided to separate the new community from adjacent Ashbourne Hills and that there be a maximum building height of three stories in the part of Brookview next to that community.

• That Commonwealth-Setting keep its relationship with Torti-Gallas & Partners, the nationally recognized planning firm it has been using, until at least half of the required building permits have been issued. "New Castle County would like the opportunity to avail itself of Torti-Gallas services at the developer's expense for assistance and advice to interpret design guidelines as needed," the report states.

© 2006. All rights reserved.

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Read related Delaforum article: Turnout sparse at first preliminary development hearings
Read previous Delaforum article:  'Hometown zoning' proposal will not include parkland swap

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