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5/18/2008
Councilman Bob Weiner to Sponsor Deed Restriction Changes for Brandywine Town Center

After more than a year of meetings with the community and Acadia Realty, the current owners of Brandywine Town Center [BTC], I have conveyed my willingness to Acadia Realty to sponsor a resolution to amend the BTC deed restrictions. The attached documents represent a compromise which are either supported, or not objected to, by the immediate community. The proposed deed restriction modifications are also consistent with specific principles established by CCOBH which are also attached.

For over a year, I have worked closely with Chuck Landry, current CCOBH President, Dan Bockover, past CCOBH President and Mel Monzack, legal counsel for Acadia Realty. This compromise would not have been possible without their good will, guidance and leadership.

We have collectively worked closely with the most directly affected residents, including those represented by the Brandywine Hunt Maintenance Corporation, whose President at the time of negotiations was Charlie Oberley and whose current President is Chris Sarafian. I have worked with the residents of State Line Road whose community does not have a civic association. I have kept the new residents of the nearby Village at Brandywine Village [along Concord Pike], Londonderry, Devon, Devonshire and other nearby community leaders apprised at each step by meetings and via my community email list serve.

These restrictions, if approved by New Castle County Council, will more efficiently utilize the existing BTC structures and allow better development and use of the undeveloped areas. Here are specific changes which would be facilitated by the adoption of this proposed deed restriction change:

Two of the 3 previously approved restaurant pads along the perimeter of the pond on the south side of BTC will never be constructed. The land where these 2 restaurants would have been built will instead be preserved as open space in perpetuity. A playground will be constructed on one of the two previously designated restaurant pads. The playground will be connected by sidewalk to the existing network of frequently used sidewalks which interlace around and throughout BTC.

The removal of the “gross leasible area” deed restriction will enable Acadia Realty to lease the vacant space in the BTC under the largest glass dome, which area has not previously been leased because of this “GLA cap”. The approximate 6000 square feet of unutilized empty space under the largest glass dome detracts from the center’s appearance by creating the impression that the center is partially blighted. Use of this space will benefit the center’s owners, nearby businesses and the residential community. This space was originally conceived as a restaurant court.

Starting in 1985, when I was CCOBH Zoning Chairman and continuing after 1996, when I was elected as Brandywine Hundred’s County Councilman, I helped lead the community’s almost 20 year long battle against the proposal by the Rollins Organization to rezone the old Brandywine Racetrack for a large commercial shopping center. Brandywine Hundred residents fought against this rezoning which proposed a large commercial shopping center. What is not often recalled is that CCOBH, with community support, instead counter-proposed the “Devon Plan”: a mix of residential, commercial and office uses. The Devon Plan was so named because the plan was first proposed by residents of the near-by subdivision of Devon. The plan also called for a down sizing of the commercial component and the relocation of a smaller commercial component to front along Concord Pike, rather than along Naamans and Shipley Road. It is interesting to note that although the community lost the battle to stop the commercial rezoning, the test of time has ultimately proven that the reasons the community objected were correct and our alternate concepts were correct. Acadia Realty, the current owners of BTC now concede that the current BTC design has been “challenging” to lease because of the ill-conceived layout and the lack of mix of uses. Acadia has worked hard to overcome the poor design to fill the empty spaces in the center with tenants. Acadia has also worked hard to overcome the negative stigma felt by many in the community relating to the perception of many broken promises for a predominantly pedestrian friendly “upscale mall” made by the prior owners. Acadia would have been better served by the Devon Plan. The Devon Plan made more sense then and now; and is more in keeping with progressive land use planning principles. Current New Castle County Unified Development Code and Comprehensive Plan now encourages “mixed use” plans which have less auto dominated seas of asphalt and instead encourage pedestrian friendly residentially oriented mix of uses with transit orientation. Ironically, the center has morphed in part into a mixed use center with a portion of the previously designated commercial space having been retrofitted for offices. The addition of a ring of residential communities on lands once coveted by the Rollins Organization [previous owners] for even more expansive commercial use, have become residential, where residents now enjoy the close proximity to the center; even if they feel compelled to drive there most of the time due to the BTC’s auto-dominated design.

The existence of the Brandywine Town Center is now a reality. This modern-day “Battle of the Brandywine” is over. The empty store windows in the BTC, along with other empty shops along the Concord Pike Corridor, hurt our existing local businesses. The poorly designed entire south side of BTC has always suffered from a lack of customers which has resulted in a “merry-go-round” of ever changing tenants followed by a disturbing pattern of “going-out-of-business” sales. 

The addition of the playground next to the pond on the south side of BTC, linked into the walking paths, will help draw children, parents and grandparents to the BTC’s south side to help support the commercial viability of these shops and restaurants. More pedestrians using the playground and paths increases the likelihood that they will frequent the shops and restaurants along BTC’s south side which have been challenged over the years by the BTC’s attractive but flawed design from a business perspective. Most of the parking is not conveniently close to the shops on the south side. Customers shy away from using the south side’s underground parking.

The Brandywine Town Center Community Center, which is owned by BTC but dedicated to New Castle County for community use will be sound-proofed by Acadia Realty to remove the “echo-effect” of its poorly designed main room. Acadia Realty has also agreed to clarify its responsibility for major maintenance and repairs. 

The deed restriction change will permit BTC to construct a 2 story structure on the underutlized Commuter Services Plaza on the north end of BTC. An area of underutilized parking near the BTC Community Center [on the south side near Shipley and Naamans Roads] will be designated as the new park and ride area. The Rollins Organization had originally touted the current Commuter Services Plaza as a reason to support the commercial rezoning since Rollins’ representatives claimed that morning commuter traffic coming from PA would utilize the Commuter Services Plaza for a park and ride; thereby lessoning the traffic on Concord Pike. In fact, as predicted by the communtity, the park and ride has totally ineffective in this respect. “Park and rides” are only effective if located on the side of the road where cars drive by on their morning commute to work.

Over a year ago, I conveyed to Acadia Realty that I would pre-condition my support for any deed restriction amendments upon community non-opposition. That non-opposition has now been formally conveyed to me by CCOBH in a set of land use principles, and by Brandywine Hunt. Brandywine Hunt requested various concessions for its support and Acadia has made a commitment in writing to these immediate community requests. State Line Road residents were not able to reach consensus on any particular requests but will benefit from a gratuitous commitment by Acadia to extend sewer lines to the property line of State Line Road residents so that residents who so chose can tie into the BTC’s sewer lines.

These amendatory documents represent the “final chapter in the book” of the most controversial land use rezoning in the history of Brandywine Hundred. These documents are the product of the good will and collective intense efforts of community leaders and Acadia Realty [BTC’s current owners] to reach consensus and compromise which benefit all parties.

Click here to view the deed restriction files.

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