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10/5/2007
Whole Foods store wants to locate in Brandywine Hundred

The developers have offered to pay to redesign the intersection with New Jersey-style left turns.

By ANGIE BASIOUNY, The News Journal
Posted Friday, October 5, 2007

Whole Foods wants to come to Delaware, but not everyone is ready to welcome the upscale grocer with open arms.

New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner, for one, plans to try to stop a Brandywine Hundred development that would include Whole Foods.

Weiner thinks the property being eyed by the supermarket chain -- 43 acres at the corner of Concord Pike (U.S. 202) and Beaver Valley Road -- would be better suited for a mix of age-restricted housing, a medical facility and business offices.

Weiner also objects to the extra traffic another shopping center would bring to the heavily traveled retail corridor. The developers have offered to pay to redesign the intersection with New Jersey-style left turns -- known as "jug handles" -- to accommodate traffic.

"There is much more to consider than just the myopic desires of those who wish to shop at a specialty Whole Foods supermarket for gluten-free food items," said Weiner, R-2nd District. "I'm not just saying no; I've come up with an appropriate alternative."

The exploratory plan for the shopping center had its first public review during a county Planning Board meeting Tuesday night, where several residents and nearby businesses also voiced opposition.

Members of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred said the proposed redesign of the intersection is unacceptable.

"There are already seven supermarkets within three miles of the site that's proposed for Whole Foods," said Chuck Landry, the group's president.

The property is owned by Woodlawn Trustees Inc. of Wilmington, a nonprofit company that develops selected parcels to raise money for affordable rental housing in Wilmington and preservation of parkland along the Brandywine.

Woodlawn has entered a provisional contract with Stoltz Realty Co. to build a 199,950-square-foot shopping center at the southwest corner of the intersection. Whole Foods would take up 62,350 square feet of the space.

The plan requires a rezoning of 41 acres from suburban to commercial regional.

While council members must say yes to all development plans that are compliant with state and county laws, they have discretion on whether to approve rezonings. And rezonings must occur before the land-use process can move forward.

Pamela Scott, attorney for the project, said it's too soon to tell what will happen.

"We're very early in the process," she said. "Obviously, we want to get [council's] feedback and go from there."

A representative from Woodlawn could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Scott said Woodlawn worked with the Delaware Department of Transportation for about a year to come to an agreement on how to redesign the intersection. Although a traffic impact study has not been completed, DelDOT has signed off on the left-turn changes, she said.

Despite the opposition, there also is community support for bringing the upscale grocer to Delaware.

Earlier this year, one resident began collecting signatures on an Internet petition to champion the store. Scott said that petition has garnered more than 700 signatures.

"There definitely is support for it," she said.

Landry said his civic umbrella group is not opposed to development on the property, but would prefer to see something other than a shopping center. CCOBH members haven't taken a position on Weiner's proposal.

Landry said his group evaluates development plans by asking three questions: Is there infrastructure to support it? Does it provided needed services or products? And does it add to the quality of life?

He said the shopping center plan does none of the above.

"Their intentions and their motives are good and rational," Landry said. "But I think a proposal can be developed there that would meet our criteria."
Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2796 or abasiouny@delawareonline.com.

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