of county development code
Castle County Chamber of Commerce called for a comprehensive
overhaul of the Unified Development Code to make it more
receptive to commercial development and stave off what its
president charged is "a very uncertain economic future."
told a meeting of County Council's economic development
committee that a downturn in the county's ability to attract
job-creating businesses and expand what is here "can be traced
back to 1997 when the [development code] came into effect."
From 1980 until
then, he said, county government policy was "pro-growth." Since
then, he charged, it has tilted to favoring a "no-growth, nimby"
attitude furthered by so-called 'umbrella' civic organizations.
'Nimby' is an acronym for 'not in my back yard'.
"We need to move to
a sense of balance" between 'business concerns' and 'community
concerns', he said. "We need to look at some updates to [the
general manager of the Department of Land Use, which administers
the development code, said the department is currently in the
process of producing "a series of ordinances that address a lot
of concerns about it."
It has, for
instance, engaged Thomas Comitta Associates, a planning
consultant firm, to help produce mixed-use development
regulations, he said.
cited the just-enacted ordinance which reduces approval of
proposed rezonings and major development plans to a two-step
rather than a three-step process as an example of efforts to
address concerns about the code. He pointed out that there have
been many changes made over the years.
At the committee meeting on Oct. 27, Kleinschmidt said the
chamber of commerce wants to see seven specific "updates" made
to the development code:
Promote mixed-use development by amending the definition of what
is acceptable, allowing as few as two uses to be considered
'Update' density standards by reducing the open-space
requirement and increasing floor-area ratios in areas other than
those zoned residential.
Expand redevelopment of marginal and blighted sites by more
"reasonable" renovation and demolition ratios.
• Shorten the approval process for development plans by
eliminating the "uncertain timetable" for approvals by
participating regulatory agencies. Shorten the approval process
for rezonings by not limiting County Council approval votes to
just three times a year. (That proposal appears to have been
satisfied by some of the provisions of the two-step process
ordinance which Culver cited.)
Standardize interpretations of the development code and provide
that, when there is uncertainty about code provisions, the
Department of Land Use interpret it "in favor of the applicant."
'Update' definitions of steep slopes and riparian buffers to
make the requirements more liberal.
Include economic-impact statements in plans for major commercial
development and rezoning proposals.
Absent efforts to bring about such changes, Kleinschmidt said,
the chamber, which claims to have more than 1,700 members --
mostly small- and medium-size businesses -- will actively oppose
any increases in taxes or fees and regulations changes "that
increase costs to business" during the coming year.
indicated that the business organization will push for speedy
support for its proposals. "We don't have a lot of time," he
said. "We'll be coming out of the 'Great Recession' some time in
2010 and we need to support business growth." Otherwise, he
added, "when recovery comes we'll fall further behind."
Looking further into the future, he said, "we're going to be
doing a lot of driving to see our children and grandchildren
because they are not going to be working here."
time allotted for the committee meeting running short, Council
members had limited reactions to Kleinschmidt's presentation.
Penrose Hollins said some of his unfavorable comparisons of
county government's jurisdiction with some municipal
governments, such as Middletown, were the result of their
ability to annex territory without having to overcome
state-imposed restrictions which apply only to Wilmington. And,
he said, "you can't blame the [development code] for things like
Du Pont [company] exporting jobs."
Council President Paul Clark acknowledged that "we often pass
legislation without knowing the cost-benefit impact of that