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NCCo planners back deed change for Stoltz; Developer intends to build bank on Greenville property - News Journal

NCCo planners back deed change for Stoltz
Developer intends to build bank on Greenville property

ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal Nov. 16, 2011 

Already on the 20-acre property at 20 Montchanin Road is this 135,000-square-foot office building, which was originally the headquarters of the Columbia Gas Co. More recently, it was an MBNA office building. / NEWS JOURNAL FILE

The New Castle County Planning Board and Land Use Department will recommend that County Council remove a 42-year-old deed restriction from a Greenville property so Stoltz Real Estate Partners can build a bank there, officials said Tuesday.

The bank is allowed under the office zoning designation at 20 Montchanin Road, but the deed restriction allows only one building on the property. There already is a 135,000-square-foot office building on the 20-acre site that was built as the headquarters for the Columbia Gas Company. More recently, MBNA used it as an office building.

Stoltz withdrew its request to rezone two of the 20 acres at 20 Montchanin Road to a commercial designation to use the 6,000-square-foot building it wants to build there for a restaurant or another commercial use.

"If the developer's negotiations with the bank fails, their intent would be to come back for the rezoning so the building could be used for something else," county Land Use General Manager David Culver said.

The Land Use Department's report says it recommends that council approve the removal of the deed restriction, because the property's current zoning allows office use, which includes banks. The report also says the bank would not be intrusive to neighboring properties.

The Planning Board voted 5-1 to recommend that council remove the restriction. Board member Robert Snowden voted against removing it, saying the deed restriction was placed on the property to preserve the character and integrity of the neighborhood.

"Those concerns are still valid today," Snowden said.

Richard Killingsworth, June MacArtor, Robert McDowell, Arthur Wilson and Ruth Visvardis voted in favor of the recommendation.

Board members William McGlinchey, Victor Udo and Sandra Anderson abstained from voting.

The Land Use Department's recommendation is contingent upon the council's agreeing to a set of new deed restrictions for the property that were suggested by the department and authored by Stoltz, Culver said. The restrictions would be enforceable by the county. They cap the new building's height at 25 feet and its size at 6,000 square feet, and require it to be 90 feet from Montchanin Road. They also forbid the building from being a drive-through restaurant, gas station or convenience store if the zoning is changed in the future.

The deed restrictions were presented to the Planning Board for the first time Tuesday, minutes before the vote was taken. At MacArtor's request, Killingsworth, the board chairman, gave the members about 10 minutes to read them.

The last-minute submission of the proposed restrictions irritated Save Our County members Walt McEvilly and Joe Kelly. The citizens group opposed the proposed rezoning, saying it was a "spot zoning" that is not compatible with the area, which includes St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic church, Hagley Museum and the Brecks Mill Area-Henry Clay Village Historic District.

"Commercial zoning there would literally stick out like a sore thumb," McEvilly said.

McEvilly said residents should have had a chance to review the proposed restrictions at a public hearing. There is no public comment portion of the 
Planning Board's monthly business meeting, which was where the vote took place Tuesday.

Kelly called the process "incredible."

"Five minutes for board members to read deed restrictions quite conveniently written by Stoltz's lawyers," Kelly said. "The end result could be OK, but certainly more time and public input was needed."

Culver said the proposed restrictions were not substantial enough to warrant a new public hearing. He said they mirror those that will be placed on 
Stoltz's redevelopment plan for Barley Mill Plaza, part of which was recently rezoned for commercial use. They also mirror a set of restrictions privately negotiated between Stoltz and the community group Citizens for Responsible Growth.

"The new restrictions would provide an additional safety net in the event the private group would not be able to enforce the private agreement," Culver said.

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