for the first time an opportunity to comment on
major development proposals at the beginning of the
approval process, the public stayed away in droves.
Only five people had anything to say about two
applications before the county Planning Board
Richard Davis, president of
the Bear-Glasgow Council of Civic Organizations, complained
that there hadn't been time to come up with any meaningful
comments. "You need to look at the time frame and allow
umbrella civic associations to meet with the developer ...
if you want us to come in and present constructive
comments," he said.
The board on Jan. 3 held
public hearings on the first applications to be considered
since County Council narrowly approved an ordinance in
October which did away with so-called '3.319 hearings' for
proposed open-space developments while requiring hearings
for all major developments during the preliminary-plan
stage. Its stated purpose was to provide a mechanism for
public 'input' before a plan was too far along in the
process for that to have a significant effect while doing
away with the double standard that was considered a
disincentive for some projects.
Before the board was a plan
by D.M. Peoples Investments to develop a 235-house second
section of Mansion House on 190 acres in Pencader Hundred
and the first version of the plan for extensive mixed-use
redevelopment of the Brookview Apartments complex in
Testifying about the Peoples
proposal, Davis said it was too involved to consider in the
little more than a month which had elapsed between Nov. 29,
the date the preliminary plan was filed with the Department
of Land Use, and the hearing on Jan. 3. The public, he said,
first learned that the plan was under review in a newspaper
advertisement on Dec. 10 and found out a week later
that it was on the board's agenda. The Christmas-New Year
holidays then intervened.
Board member Joseph Maloney
took issue with Davis, saying that Davis did not appreciate
the purpose of the hearing. "We can't seem to be getting
through to the public to explain why the hearing is being
held," Maloney said. "The board is not going to take a vote
[on the plans before it]. We're here to listen to the
"Two weeks notice would have
given you plenty of time to organize your comments," he
The civic council, Davis
said, had intended after seeing the initial notice to invite
theS developer to its next meeting, which will be held on
Jan. 18. As things stand, it has had no contact with the
"We can't require [them] by
law, but they make it much easier for developers," board
member June MacArtor said referring to informal explanatory
Peoples lawyer John Tracey
said the developer did meet with civic associations in the
immediate vicinity of the proposed development, but had not
"looked beyond that" to go before the area-wide association.
He said the firm had no objection to doing so.
Two residents of the
adjoining first section of Mansion House testified generally
in favor of the proposal while expressing some concern about
the effect the new development will have on the level of
service on roads in the area.
The Brookview proposal drew
support from Brett Saddler, president of Claymont
Renaissance Development Corp., and a renewed request from
Mary-Anne Mason, of the Brookview Tenants Council, that that
organization be kept involved as the planning process goes
"There are plenty of meetings
going on, but we're not welcome at them," Mason said.
William Rhodunda, lawyer for
the Commonwealth Group-Setting Properties joint venture,
said the developer "is working closely with the county
executive" to identify several properties in the Claymont
area that would "make other options available to [Brookview]
tenants" who are displaced.
Board chairman Victor Singer
noted that the plan in its present form is difficult to
evaluate. That can't be done, he said, "until we have
a plan with specificity the [development] code requires."
Also lacking from the plan is information about the nature
and extent of rezoning that it will require.
"What we have now is an
exploratory plan proposing a rezoning that is not yet ripe,"
said land use general manager Charles Baker.