Weiner: Growth doesn’t necessarily mean a loss in the county’s quality of life.
Brandywine Community News - February 18, 2005
By Jay Schalin
Special to the Community News
Population growth is inevitable, and it’s best to plan for it wisely, New County Councilman Robert Weiner told members of the Civic League For New Castle County on Tuesday night.
Weiner addressed about 50 people at the League’s monthly board meeting at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce on Churchman’s Road, on a variety of issues.
The Civic League is “a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ organization focused on County government” whose members are involved in many other community associations, according to Civic League literature.
Monthly meetings generally feature speakers with expertise on county politics, land use and environmental issues.
Growth doesn’t necessarily mean a loss in the county’s quality of life, Weiner said, though he did warn “If you look at the expected population growth, and we continue to build the way we are now, we’ll have no open space to pass on to future generations.”
He disclosed Brookings Institute estimates that the U.S. population will grow 376 million by 2030. Weiner is a former New Castle County Council Land Use Chairman and an advocate of “Smart Growth” principles that form a cornerstone of the state’s plans to combat sprawl.
The “Smart Growth” philosophy suggests mixing land uses, preserving undeveloped areas, employing advanced building design, providing bicycle paths, walkways, and alternative forms of transportation.
Weiner pointed to the county’s Hometown Overlay Ordinance as one initiative under way to provide economic incentives while promoting “village-like qualities.” “Economic Development is not the enemy of environmentalism,’he said. “We have to redirect industries to where we already have established infrastructure.” Two vastly different communities are participating in the program, Claymont and Hockessin, according to Weiner.
Prevailing attitudes about development favor “1 acre, 2 acre mini-mansions,” according to Weiner. He suggested that population density has an undeserved negative connotation, and that sprawling suburban communities lose both open space and the congenial downtown atmosphere offered by such towns as Newark. “There is a level of density that is critical to support a Main Street,” he said.
Along with making communities friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists, Weiner said he intends to lobby for public transportation. “When people say we (government) have to stop underwriting mass transit, they forget we also underwrite highways.”
Weiner also said he was urging a change in the approval process for land subdivisions so that public meetings are held earlier. He said Resolution 3.319 of the Unified Development Code allows public meetings to be moved to the end of the approval process, after large sums of money have already been expended for engineering studies.
The Second District Republican also briefly addressed the county’s fiscal situation. “We need to be fiscally responsible,” he said, while noting that the County’s budget has grown 33 percent since 2000, with revenues increasing eight percent in the same period.
He did say, however, that New Castle is “one of only 21 counties out of 3,000 with a Triple-A bond rating,” and that count-wide property taxes have seen far fewer increases than his early years in politics when increases occurred “every other year.” He also said that he had not heard whether New Castle County has stopped paying the legal bills of former Council members Sherry L.Freebery and Thomas P. Gordon, despite attempts to find out. Weiner said that he wanted to take a closer look at the process of “outsourcing attorneys” to conduct County business.
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