Councilman Weiner spearheads preservation of open space at the Channin School site...
...when threatened with development, while providing needed sports fields for the Concord Soccer Association (at the "mothballed" Channin School site) & Talleyville Girls Softball League (at the "mothballed" Old Mill Lane School site)
Excerpted and edited from article by By MICHELE BESSO / The News Journal
Two years ago, the Delaware Economic Development Office launched an effort to have an office complex, Access Corp., locate on the 10-acre Channin School site on Naamans Road, but its plan was met with a petition drive organized by Councilman Robert S. (Bob) Weiner and by neighbors who wanted the land turned into a park.
State and county lawmakers who represent the area, including County Councilman Bob Weiner, supported the community's opposition to the plan. Councilman Weiner countered it with a proposal to preserve the site as open space and provide much-needed soccer fields.
"I conceived of the idea to place Concord Soccer Association at Channin School site and Talleyville Girls Softball League at the Old Mill Lane School site. I first sought support from area State legislators and the Brandywine School district and then identified a steering group of the area civic association presidents and the two league's leaders," Weiner said. "We held extensive public meetings and conducted public surveys of area residents preferences. Support for the plan was overwhelming. I was able to empower the community to make this project their own. I'm really happy about this. It's a win-win for the entire community."
Demolition of the former Channin Elementary School on Naamans Road in Brandywine Hundred began Monday and is expected to take roughly four to five weeks. The space will become the home field for the Concord Soccer Association.
Demolition of another former district school, the Old Mill Lane School in Brandywine Hundred, should begin in another two weeks, with the property to become a home site for the Talleyville Girls Softball League.
The schools have been vacant for more than 20 years, following the decline of the baby boom enrollment and consolidation of the school districts, Read said. The district did not have the money to tear them down.
The three level, 54,000-square-foot Channin site has become an eyesore over the years, with kids loitering on the site and spray-painting graffiti on the buildings.
The demolition of that site became possible when the General Assembly agreed last year to earmark $1 million in the capital spending budget to cover the cost of tearing down the two old schools.
Included in the legislation were provisions that the school district lease the sites to New Castle County to be subleased to the soccer association and softball league. Details of the long-term lease are being worked out, county officials said.
Mary Bramble, a Channin resident and former secretary of the Channin Civic Association, said the school had become dilapidated, filled with surplus items from the district, and unsafe.
"When I first moved there, I used to walk my daughter in her stroller around the school," she said. "I saw kids throwing pebbles from the roof, and all the windows were broken out. Kids would come in and out of the building. Lately, there have been problems with motorcycles racing around. Now that the school's coming down, it's great. Everybody is happy with that solution."
Especially Dan Hammond, with the Concord Soccer Association. About 2,000 children ages 4 to 19 participate in his soccer programs each year. The children practice on county and school district fields.
"It's a great credit to our elected officials who have listened to us over the years," he said. "We'll actually have more grass on the location than there is today. And there will be self-contained parking."
Hammond said he hopes the fields will be ready for play by fall 2007. After the demolition, it will take some time to plant the grass, rip up the asphalt and regrade the site, he said.
The district will keep ownership of the property. The leagues and county will be responsible for the costs of developing and maintaining the fields. To learn more about the Concord Soccer Association, go to www.concordsoccer.com.
Contact Michele Besso at 324-2386 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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