Residents: latest Stoltz proposal insults everyone’s intelligence - Community News
Developer: It aims to answer previous criticisms of four controversial development plans
By Adam Zewe
Posted Oct 21, 2008 @ 06:55 PM
Last update Oct 22, 2008 @ 08:45 AM
Greenville, Del. — Greenville residents and elected officials who attended the Kennett Pike Association’s (KPA) annual meeting expressed outrage over a letter sent by Stoltz Realty Partners proposing to combine and modify four major projects in return for community support.
The proposal was a response to issues raised by residents and civic leaders since the plans were unveiled starting last June, according to Stoltz spokesman Tom Gailey.
Few of the 50 residents who attended the Oct. 20 meeting at the Hagley Museum Soda House had heard of the revamped proposal beforehand, which KPA President Dick Beck said had been delivered by the Bryn Mawr, Pa., developer to his office shortly before 5 p.m. that day.
Among the modifications, it reduces the square footage of Stoltz’s Barley Mill mixed use plan, lowers the building heights in its Greenville Center plan and allows Stoltz to eliminate residential from its Shops at Brandywine Valley mixed use plan.
In return, the developer asks the community to support two rezonings, a deed restriction amendment, a scenic corridor variance and petition government officials to approve the plans as quickly as possible.
“We stand behind our initial proposals and believe they would have brought long-term benefits to New Castle County,” wrote Gailey in an e-mail to Community News. “But in talking with the community, we learned of some questions and concerns. We have tried to address those in our revised plans.”
The proposal is a package deal, according to its terms and conditions, and all affected civic groups must agree to accept all four projects in writing by Nov. 7 for Stoltz to submit the modified plans to New Castle County and DelDOT. All four of the original plans have been rejected by the New Castle County Land Use Department.
The deadline was a major sticking point with KPA members.
“We’ve only seen this material for the first time ourselves, so it’s really not enough time to study it,” said Beck.
Gailey wrote that the developer is hopeful the organizations will be able to respond by Nov. 7 and has not yet considered what to do if they do not.
The plan’s deadline also bothered New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner (R-Chatham), who called it a good first step in opening dialogue with the community but advised residents to reject it, as there are still many items residents should be concerned about.
For example, while the proposal halves the square footage of Stoltz’s Barley Mill plan to 1.5 million square feet, the proposed building will still be about the same size as the Christiana Mall, he said, a structure completely out of character with the area.
Gailey disagreed, saying the property already has 1 million square feet of office space, moreover it is in an area that the county Planning Board has identified for redevelopment. The parcel is zoned office regional, which permits the kind of uses proposed.
Weiner also said that traffic remains the major issue: the idea of a mixed use plan is that people who live in the residential units work in the office and commercial areas but this one will attract customers from throughout the region, clogging Greenville’s country roads.
He also accused The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) of refusing to conduct a regional traffic study to see the potential impacts of all the Stoltz projects, which he said is essential to seeing the big picture.
However, DelDOT Director of Public Relations Darrel Cole said that’s not true: per County Code, the department will review the Stoltz plans to see if a traffic study is necessary once New Castle County submits the plans to DelDOT, which has not happened yet.
The plans are still too premature to do a detailed analysis of how traffic will affect the areas, said Gailey.
Weiner remained adamant: if residents approve the proposal, the developments will destroy Greenville, he said.
“We need to be combative until we can sit down at an equal table and negotiate,” said Weiner.
Stoltz is holding an open house on Nov. 19 to give community members an opportunity to see the plans and talk to the development team, Gailey wrote. The developer welcomes reasonable discussion from residents, he wrote.
And while the developer is open to minor modifications suggested by the community, Stoltz will not negotiate specifics of each project individually, according to the proposal’s cover letter signed by Chief Operating Officer Brad Coburn.
The specifics of each plan are far too important to ignore because the types of developments and the scope of the projects will forever change the area, said State Representative Bob Valihura (R-Talleyville.)
The Stoltz projects are the greatest threats to quality of life in Greenville and Brandywine Hundred and the newest proposal is intended to pit residents on the east side of his district with residents on the west side, Valihura said, urging residents to band together to put pressure on the developer and government agencies so their voices are heard.
“This is an insult,” he said, holding up the 16-page proposal in the front of the room, which he also advised residents to reject.
Kennett Pike Association members have already begun to organize. It helped found Citizens for Responsible Growth in New Castle County, to collect donations that could be used to hire an attorney, a land use professional to study the plans, or an engineer to conduct a traffic study, said Beck.
He challenged everyone at the meeting to commit $300.
“What you have to decide, you, your friends and your neighbors, are you serious or not?” he asked the crowd.
The organization has already collected $50,000 towards its $300,000 goal, said KPA Board Member Ellie Maroney.
Beck said the KPA’s next step would be to meet with DelDOT and state and County legislators to raise concerns about traffic, but he refused to give an official position on the newest Stoltz proposal. However, many residents were quick to oppose it.
“The latest proposal from Stoltz to combine all four projects insults everyone’s intelligence,” said Greenville resident Bill Rowe.
The two-and-a-half week deadline was not surprising to Rowe, who said the developer has gone to great lengths to avoid input from the community.
The community will have a completely different character if the Stoltz projects are permitted, said Greenville resident Alan Runk, who is concerned the buildings will become vacant eyesores in the community.
Residents will fight back against irresponsible development, said Maroney of Centreville.
“We love this area. We love the community and the Brandywine Valley and we hate to see it wrecked,” she said.
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