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7/27/2011
NCC Council passes redevelopment ordinance with no assurances for traffic improvements - Community News

New Castle County Council passes redevelopment ordinance in contentious fashion 

By Antonio Prado 

Despite a contentious discussion, New Castle County Council passed an updated redevelopment ordinance unanimously Tuesday.

Council voted 11-0, with two absent, to revise the county’s land use code so that developers can no longer take advantage of so-called “paper redevelopments,” among other things. The term applies to developers seeking the perks that come with redevelopment under county law (exemption from traffic studies and impact fees) when in reality they were simply altering plans that had never been built in totality.

Councilman Joseph Reda (D-Elsmere) and Councilman David Tackett (D-Christiana) sponsored the bill, which was tweaked based on criticism County Council had received from the public and the Planning Board.

Before the vote, however, Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Brandywine Hundred West) reiterated his concern for the revised ordinance. Weiner has pushed to ensure that developers pay their fair share for traffic improvements that would ensue due to redevelopment and other impact fees.

“Because the Reda/Tackett ordinance is a step in the right direction with regard to ‘paper redevelopment’ I will be supporting the measure we are voting on tonight,” said Weiner, who sponsored his own version of the legislation. “However, consistent with council rules, I have pre-filed an oral amendment today to require a traffic impact study for all redevelopment projects.”

As Weiner read from his six-page statement, he drew the ire of Councilman Penrose Hollins (D-Wilmington South), who said Weiner was reiterating several points he had already shared with council members over the past few months.

“This is not fair to the public nor to council,” he said.

Councilman George Smiley (D-New Castle) and Reda called for a vote.

Weiner stood his ground, calling it his “legislative prerogative” to air his concerns.

Council President Tom Kovach (R-Brandywine Hundred East) reminded council members that they first had to hear public comment on the matter. He allowed Weiner to proceed, provided he focused solely on his amendment – not his ordinance in its entirety.

But Weiner’s motion to introduce an amendment that would have required all redevelopment plans with rezonings to conduct a traffic impact study failed when no one seconded his motion.

Weiner thanked Reda and Tackett for revising their ordinance after the New Castle County Planning Board voted to not give their original legislation a favorable recommendation. But he expressed concern that the Planning Board, an independent body of politically appointed volunteers, had not had a chance to comment on the revisions.

But Tackett responded that the Planning Board was free to still review the ordinance and make future suggestions to County Council. Smiley agreed, calling ordinances “living, breathing documents.”

During public comment, Planning Board Chairman Victor Singer indicated his panel would indeed proceed to review the revised Reda/Tackett ordinance. At a Planning Board hearing earlier this summer, Singer had said the board would take the best parts of the each of the ordinances that had been introduced to tweak the way the county handles redevelopment.

Tackett also took issue with Weiner’s amendment and the matrix he offered to compare his ordinance to the Reda/Tackett ordinance. Tackett said Weiner’s comparison was misleading on some issues, including traffic. For instance, a traffic operational analysis or traffic impact study can be requested by DelDOT or the NCCo Department of Land Use under the Reda/Tackett ordinance.

Redevelopment allows the county to obtain more favorable developments conducive to the quality of life for county residents, Clark administration officials have said.

In response to constituent concerns, Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick (R-Hockessin) pointed out that this ordinance will not be retroactive to redevelopment projects already in the works.

That is indeed the case, County Attorney/Acting Chief Administrative Officer Gregg Wilson said. Projects already in the pipeline will be dealt with under the old ordinance, he said.

Councilman John Cartier (D-Brandywine Hundred East) added that redevelopment had benefited several New Castle County communities, including his own. It not only transforms blighted properties, he said. It also comprises most of the construction occurring right now.

But Milltown-Limestone Civic Alliance President William Franey pointed out that constitutional rights of landowners is limited when what they do within their property lines affects property beyond those lines. Ultimately though, Franey was among those who expressed support for the Reda/Tackett ordinance.

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