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5/13/2007
Bob Weiner Addresses Proposed Commercial Strip Shopping Center at Concord Pike & Beaver Valley Rd May '07

Steven Faux, Planner
New Castle County Land Use Department
 
RE: Proposed Shops of Brandywine Valley, southwest corner of Routes 202 & Beaver Valley Road
 
Dear Mr. Faux,
 
It is my understanding that a division of Stoltz Realty Company has entered into an option contract with Woodlawn Trustees to develop the southwest corner of Route 92 aka Beaver Valley Road and Route 202, which parcel is owned by the Woodlawn Trustees. The current proposal seeks to rezone 41 of the 43 acres from residential to commercial use to accommodate a 62,000 square foot Whole Foods Market anchoring the intersection and surrounded by a 200,000 square foot commercial shopping center. (Two acres are already zoned commercial.) Currently, the Stoltz plan proposes that a Whole Foods supermarket hug the intersection with the rear loading dock facing Route 202. The new urbanist idea of bringing the building forward to be next to the planned sidewalk has been adopted by the applicant but misses the real point since the entire plan does not create a pedestrian friendly environment. The preliminary plan that was filed by the applicant is not acceptable. The proposed auto dominated Pre-Exploratory Sketch Plan slices up the parcel with crossing roadways, seas of asphalt, scattered multiple restaurant pads, a bank pad and a strip shopping center. The Woodlawn Trustees site, currently zoned residential, is appropriate for intense residential development so long as the development does not require modifications to the current direct left hand turning movements at the intersection of routes 202 and 92, as required by the applicant?s plan to address existing traffic constraints at the intersection. The site might be appropriate for a rezoning to allow a mix of uses, so long as there is no commercial component in the mix. Appropriate mixed uses with residential might include institutional uses and medical offices. The primary use ought to be mostly residential in the form of senior housing. The area is already inundated with commercial centers. Age restricted housing has virtually no impact on peak rush hour traffic. Office use lends itself to traffic mitigation. Medical offices are needed to serve our aging community. Residential use would counter-balance the existing commercial uses in the area to achieve the desired mix of uses in the Concord Pike corridor. This counterbalance can be achieved by permitting a critical mass of compact multi-story pedestrian friendly transit oriented residential use at this site. The site plan should be reworked to provide a pedestrian friendly transit oriented village with careful attention to architectural details and pedestrian oriented design guidelines. Although the parcel is zoned residential, the Comprehensive Plan denotes that the parcel as appropriate for development. This designation does not mean that the development ought to be commercial.
 
The public is not currently aware that the present proposal would ban the currently direct left turning movements at 3 of the 4 movements through the intersection to accommodate the extra traffic. The cost to DELDOT for this reconstruction would be exorbitant. The extra travel time to get through one or more of the 3 proposed new ?jug handles? surrounding the intersection would add as much as 10 to15 minutes of travel time at peak rush hour, on weekends and at holiday times. Even if DELDOT approved the funding, New Castle County is not duty bound to accept the plan with these (soon-to-be) unpopular proposed intersection modifications.
 
There is much more to consider than just the desires of those who wish to shop at a specialty Whole Foods supermarket. The community would be much better served and also more accepting of medical facilities and/or affordable age restricted housing so long as the additional traffic load would not detrimentally impact peak rush hour; such that the intersection would lose 3 of its 4 currently configured direct left hand turning movements as proposed by the applicant. The Woodlawn Trustees parcel is not served by adequate roadway capacity to manage the additional traffic load of single occupancy vehicles during peak rush hour since two of the left hand turning movements are already in failure (i.e. functioning below service level D).
 
When the Brandywine Town Center rezoning was first proposed in the mid 1980?s, the community represented by CCOBH countered with a mixed use plan dubbed the ?Devon Plan?, as it was first suggested by residents of Devon on Shipley Road. The counterproposal supported a commercial power center which would have fronted on Concord Pike, rather than it current configuration a distance away from Brandywine Hundred?s ?Main Street? on Concord Pike. The Devon Plan also called for a contiguous office component and then an outer ring of residential. In hind sight, the Devon Plan would have been a better use for the Brandywine Town Center and was also ahead of its time, in that it proposed compact mixed use at this major intersection. Ironically, the Brandywine Town Center has in many ways morphed into the Devon (mixed use) Plan, since much of the commercial space in the Brandywine Town Center has been converted to office use, the surrounding lands are now residential and also are now interconnected into the Brandywine Town Center. CCOBH had previously taken a balanced position which served the best interests of all and is again prepared to support intense residential use or mixed use at the Woodlawn Trustees parcel as long as it does not include a commercial component nor require the reconstruction of the intersection. I support the community?s responsible position as espoused by CCOBH leadership.
 

Thank you for your consideration.

Robert S. Weiner, Councilman, Council District 2

Woodlawn development plan links Whole Foods to Delaware
By MAUREEN MILFORD, The News Journal
Posted Friday, May 4, 2007
Woodlawn Trustees Inc. of Wilmington, one of the most influential Brandywine Valley landowners for more than 100 years, is moving forward with a plan to develop nearly 43 acres at U.S. 202 and Beaver Valley Road as an upscale shopping center. Whole Foods Market Inc. in Austin, Texas, a natural and organic foods supermarket, has expressed serious interest in leasing a more than 62,000-square-foot free-standing store in the center, said Pamela J. Scott, the lawyer on the project. Whole Foods would anchor the 200,000-square-foot center. It would be the chain's first supermarket in Delaware.
Amy Schaefer, spokeswoman for Whole Foods, said because of competitive pressures the company doesn't discuss potential sites. No other retailers have been named for the center. The project, which would require rezoning of the parcel, is expected to face an uphill battle from the community in getting the necessary land approvals. Most of the parcel is zoned high-density residential, Scott said. A pre-exploratory sketch plan was filed Wednesday with the New Castle County Department of Land Use. Woodlawn, a not-for-profit company that develops selected parcels to raise money to preserve parkland along the Brandywine and provide affordable rental housing in Wilmington, said the income from the project would be used to fund its mission. The land is located on the high-traffic Concord Pike corridor at a busy intersection between Concord Mall and Brandywine Town Center.
"I'm skeptical of developing that intersection," said Chuck Landry, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, or CCOBH. "The intersection is failing and anything you build there will add additional traffic. I'm not at all hostile to Woodlawn Trustees -- they're good stewards. It's a worthwhile cause. It puts Woodlawn in an unfortunate position because it's a very bad intersection, and it's getting worse."
Phil Lavelle, chairman of CCOBH's zoning committee, said Woodlawn has a "tough nut to crack."

New Castle County Councilman Robert S. Weiner, R-Brandywine Hundred West, said the community's first choice would for the parcel to remain open space for sports fields and other recreational uses. "Based upon the strong objections heard from the community, I anticipate opposing a commercial strip. First of all, we already have two supermarkets plus Trader Joe's. We know from our history that three supermarkets can't survive," Weiner said.
Weiner said he had less of an objection to Woodlawn building housing.

Officials at Trader Joe's could not be reached for comment. Working with the community But another group has signed an Internet petition started by Tricia Gomella of Chadds Ford, Pa., to bring Whole Foods to the area. The 493 signatures are mostly from Delaware residents, Gomella said. "That whole area is built up. I'm not against building on that site," Gomella said. "I am a physician, and I also have a child that needs gluten-free products. If you're looking for any special dietary needs products you can't find enough of them. That's why we need this grocery store. This is a different grocery store. If fulfills a unique niche." Ellen Reid, of Centreville, said she has to drive over an hour to Main Line Philadelphia to get gluten-free foods for her daughter at the Whole Foods store there. "Nobody sells consistently good, gluten-free, wheat-free food that tastes good," Reid. "I think there's enough business to keep all the supermarkets happy. I don't think they are in competition." But even if the land-use approvals go through without a hitch, it could be three years before a store is opened, Scott said. "Every land use project in New Castle County is challenging. Like with most projects, we expect to encounter differences of opinion. Our goal is to work with the community to try and make this a good project," Scott said. To construct the center, Woodlawn has reached an agreement with an affiliate of Stoltz Real Estate Partners in Greenville to build, lease and manage the center, pending land-use approvals. The standard Woodlawn land lease runs for 60 years with two 10-year options, according to Woodlawn's lawyer, John M. Bloxom IV. Plans for the project call for the center to be 45 percent open space. It will have five free-standing buildings and a striplike shopping center at the corner of Beaver Valley Road and Ramsey Road. The design calls for two boulevards to run through the project.

History of helping less-fortunate
Woodlawn has owned the site for the proposed shopping center since 1925. During that time, it has been farmed or left as meadow. Woodlawn, founded in 1901 by William Poole Bancroft, has been credited with preserving the natural beauty of the east bank of the Brandywine from Wilmington into Delaware County, Pa. Bancroft, whose family owned a textile mill on the river, predicted growth would move north from Wilmington. He was interested in good city planning with an emphasis on providing public parks, parkways and well-planned development. In 1906, Bancroft began acquiring land along the Brandywine outside Wilmington city limits with the idea of preserving the hills and valleys. To generate income for those activities, Woodlawn developed por- tions of its property removed from the river along the U.S. 202 corridor, including planned residential communities on the west side of U.S. 202, such as Woodbrook, Edenridge and Tavistock. The second aspect of Woodlawn's mission is to provide affordable, quality rental housing to people of modest means. Today, it owns more than 600 properties in the city. The substantial income that would result from the shopping center development on U.S. 202 would be used to further the company's affordable housing and open space activities, Bloxom said. Bancroft family members still serve on the board.

But Weiner said the Whole Foods shopping center doesn't fit Bancroft's mission. "If you were to talk to the founder of Woodlawn Trustees, he would say, 'Why are you building all this commercial?' ?Weiner said.

Contact Maureen Milford at 324-2881 or mmilford@delawareonline.com.
 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Delaforum May 12, 2007

REQUESTED REZONING:
"It's all right," Robert Weiner said sarcastically, "if you want another strip shopping center and supermarket." The county councilman referred recently to a bid to rezone 40.1 acres southwest of the Concord Pike-Naamans Road intersection for regional-scale commercial development. A preliminary filing by Woodlawn Trustees with the Department of Land Use gives only sketchy information about what is planned. It does say that three adjoining parcels would be combined to provide space for a 200,000 square foot shopping center. A recent publicity 'release' referred to a supermarket chain not presently doing business in the area.

The last remaining large parcel along Concord Pike, the site was considered for possible commercial development several years ago during the long rezoning battle over turning the former Brandywine Raceway property into what is now Brandywine Town Center. At that time, Woodlawn -- which has a long-held reputation for combining conservation with controlled development in the area between the highway and the Brandywine -- backed away from that proposal because road traffic it would generate would overtax the intersection. A department spokesman said major development now would require a new traffic survey.

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