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10/6/2007
Residents voice Concern about Traffic at Proposed Concord Pike shopping center - Community News

Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) said he was opposed to the project in his district, and compared the proposed traffic design to New Jersey-styled jug handles.

"The extra travel time to get through the proposed Jersey-style jug handles surrounding the intersection would add as much as 10 minutes of travel time at peak rush hour, on weekends and at holiday times,? he said. ?New Castle is not duty bound to accept the proposed commercial rezoning plan simply because the Department of Transportation has accepted it."

Weiner also said the community would be better served by the construction of a mixed-use senior housing and medical office use at the site, rather than another commercial center like so many others that line Concord Pike.

 
Residents voice concern about traffic at proposed Concord Pike shopping center

By Jesse Chadderdon
Staff Reporter


Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 at 9:16 a.m.
Brandywine Hundred residents are concerned about proposed changes to the traffic patterns at the intersection of Concord Pike and Beaver Valley Road that are central to the plan for a 200,000-square-foot shopping center there.

Woodlawn Trustees has agreed to sell the 43-acre site to a division of Stoltz Realty for development, provided it can successfully get it rezoned to allow commercial development there. It is currently zoned residential.

Woodlawn Trustees is known for maintaining open space throughout the county, but Land Use Attorney Pam Scott said they also provide low-income rental properties in areas where there is a need.

"In order to that they have to be able to develop some of their properties," she said.

The anchor store of the center would be a Whole Foods supermarket, which specializes in organic and health-conscious foods. A 100-space DART Park and Ride is also planned and would replace the one at the Brandywine Town Center.

But New Castle County Code dictates that the development of the site can only be done if the developer takes steps to improve traffic flow in the area, since the intersection has already been deemed as failing by transportation officials. And residents are not happy with the developer's strategy to address that issue - routing traffic through the shopping center.

Scott, who unveiled the plan at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting, said planners have proposed to eliminate the left turn from southbound Concord Pike onto Naamans Road and the left turn from northbound Concord Pike onto Beaver Valley Road. Instead motorists would turn into the shopping center several hundred feet south of the intersection and travel through the property to Beaver Valley Road. Drivers wishing to get to Naamans Road would then make a right on Beaver Valley and have to cross Concord Pike.

Planning Board Chairman Vic Singer was the first to question the wisdom of the traffic proposal.

"Your plan is to substitute 3 right turns for a left turn (for southbound traffic) and for people coming north, one left is now 2 lefts and a right," he said before asking whether engineers had calculated the expected travel time those movements would require.

Scott said planners had yet to calculate those drive times.

"Those are the details on which may hinge the feasibility of this," Singer responded.

Nearby businesses and residents alike doubted the proposed solution would be an improvement. Almost two dozen people spoke out about the plan.

AIG Marketing has more than 1000 employees at its 3 Beaver Valley Road office, and Spokeswoman Ginny Warner said the company opposed the plan. She said the plan would create bottlenecks within the AIG parking lot because of the new traffic using Beaver Valley Road.

ACE USA Insurance has another 700 employees at its 1 Beaver Valley Road claim center. Spokesman Bob Ryan said he was concerned that the ACE USA parking lot would become a shortcut for southbound Concord Pike motorists, which would see a cut through to Beaver Valley Road as faster than the three turn alternative described by Singer.

Several residents in the nearby communities of Brandywine Hunt, Devonshire, Stratford and Tavistock also spoke out about traffic concerns.

Mike Haas, the vice president of the Brandywine Hunt Maintenance Corporation, said the plan would only encourage drivers to cut through his neighborhood, which borders the Brandywine Town Center.

"To have a plan that encourages people to cut through the Town Center and Brandywine Hunt would be ludicrous in my opinion," he said.

Charles Landry, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, said the proposal was "fraught with problems" and "detached from reality."

"A detour through this shopping center would be more than three-quarters of a mile long," he said. "And a major federal highway will now be cutting through a private commercial property."

Landry also questioned the need for another supermarket, saying seven existed in the area including a Shop Rite just a few hundred feet south in the Brandywine Commons Shopping Center.

But two mothers with children requiring a gluten-free diet argued that Whole Foods was "not just another grocery store" and spoke in favor of the project.

In a joint statement, Trisha Gamella and Ellen Reed said the community needed a store like Whole Foods because they are the only grocery store to offer a complete gluten-free line of foods. Both have children with Celiac Disease, a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from gluten. Gluten is found in wheat flour, a prominent ingredient in most American-made grain-based products.

"It's not just another grocery store," Reed said. "It's one that meets the special dietary needs of our community."

The Beaver Valley Road site is the only one Whole Foods had interest in throughout New Castle County, Scott said.

Shop Rite Spokesman Dan Tanzer said his store also offered organic and gluten-free products, and said the proposed center would harm his store. He said new traffic would have to use Rocky Run Parkway at the south end of the center, which already serves his store.

Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) said he was opposed to the project in his district, and compared the proposed traffic design to New Jersey-styled jug handles.

"The extra travel time to get through the proposed Jersey-style jug handles surrounding the intersection would add as much as 10 minutes of travel time at peak rush hour, on weekends and at holiday times," he said. "New Castle is not duty bound to accept the proposed commercial rezoning plan simply because the Department of Transportation has accepted it."

Weiner also said the community would be better served by the construction of a mixed-use senior housing and medical office use at the site, rather than another commercial center like so many others that line Concord Pike.

 

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"Iíd like to express my appreciation to Councilman Bob Weiner who exhibits strength, determination and fortitude and is always on the side of the people. I followed Bobís actions when he was head of CCOBH's zoning committee and made strong efforts to try to stop the Brandywine Town Center construction. He has continued with energy and zeal in many pivotal positions in spite of enduring a lot of negative professional and personal attacks. I appreciate that he is never deterred."

Judy Magee

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