Stoltz proposes largest real estate project in DE history...Bigger than King of Prussia Mall - News Journal
Barley Mill plan upsets Greenville residents
Developers seek OK at former DuPont complex in Greenville
BY MAUREEN MILFORD • THE NEWS JOURNAL • JULY 25, 2008
The blue blood is boiling in Greenville, home to some of Delaware's wealthiest and most powerful residents, over the proposed development of a former du Pont family property into what may be the largest real estate project in Delaware's history.
Residents of leafy communities along Barley Mill Road, Lancaster Pike and Kennett Pike, where houses can fetch more than $4 million, are rising up over plans for the Barley Mill Plaza office complex on Del. 141 and Lancaster Pike.
"Shocking is the word," said Ned Stinson, who lives across Del. 141 from Barley Mill Plaza. "The gall of these people. Just the scope, it's hard for me to imagine."
"We're concerned about the reasons we moved to Greenville changing," said Richard Calabro, president of the Westover Hills-Woods homeowners association.
The 96-acre property was bought by a Stoltz Real Estate Partners entity in September from the DuPont Co., which built the 24-building office complex beginning in 1978. The price was about $90 million, according to real estate agents. Six months later, Stoltz filed plans with New Castle County that called for about 2.9 million square feet of shops and restaurants, offices, housing and a hotel.
One building was proposed to be 11 stories and three buildings were proposed to be eight stories.
By comparison, the King of Prussia mall complex in Pennsylvania is about 2.8 million square feet. It is considered one of the largest in the world.
"It's absolutely not Greenville," said Kai Lassen, a du Pont family member who lives in a nearby estate off Kennett Pike.
To nearby residents, the immense Stoltz development would use local roads to draw workers and shoppers from the tri-state region. It would result in crippling traffic, disruptive noise levels and a loss of the bucolic character of the area.
"We're concerned about the changing of the landscape and beauty of the countryside. This landscape around here is some of the most beautiful in Delaware," Calabro said.
The levels of natural light for the homes bordering the project would also be affected, they said.
"Sure, I'm concerned about the value of our neighborhood and what's going to become of it. But it's going to have a devastating effect on all of New Castle County," said Chris McEvilly, a resident of Westover Hills. "I'm going to put a lot of faith into our elected officials and our land-use and transportation agencies to do due their diligence."
NCCo says plan unacceptable
Earlier this month, the plans Stoltz submitted in March were deemed unacceptable by the New Castle County Department of Land Use. The department expressed concerns over such issues as compatibility with community character, traffic, drainage, noise and lighting, said
Mark Veasey, spokesman for the Department of Land Use.
Most of the land is zoned for office use. The project doesn't need to go through the rezoning process, but it still requires a variety of land-use approvals from the county, Veasey said.
"This is the greatest challenge I've had since I began public service as a civic leader in 1985," said New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner, R-2nd District, which includes part of Greenville. "I'm sounding all the alarms to the state of Delaware and New Castle County that this is the make-or-break moment. Make the wrong decision and we will doom Delaware to no longer being a desirable place to live, shop, work and play."
Tom Gailey, spokesman for Stoltz, said the type of mixed-used development proposed for Barley Mill is consistent with the county's comprehensive plan. He said it was unfair to compare the project with King of Prussia or Christiana Mall because Barley Mill is mixed use, not a commercial shopping project.
Size conforms to county code
Stoltz will continue to have conversations with the county land-use department about the reasons the project was deemed unacceptable, Gailey said. But he emphasized that the proposed heights of the buildings "conform to county code, as does the amount of square footage."
"We're not even close to putting a shovel in the ground," Gailey said. "We're in the early stages of the process."
Stoltz said he will continue to explain the project to residents and listen to their concerns.
"Anybody living in any community has the right to ask questions and express their concerns," Gailey said. "They love their homes. We understand that and respect that."
Still, various homeowners are beginning to mobilize, hoping government officials will come to their aid. Westover Hills-Woods off Barley Mill Road, for example, recently presented a petition to New Castle asking that noise abatement barriers be constructed along Del. 141.
"I would characterize the mood as resolute," Calabro said. "We're totally against this, knowing full well we can't stop it. Our position is to make it amenable as we can to the surrounding area."
Mark Levy, a resident of Anglesey off Lancaster Pike who remembers when the Barley Mill property was a private airport, called the Stoltz development "a terrible thing."
'Not going to take this lying down'
Before its development by DuPont, the land had been the site of the DuPont Air Field, a private airport opened by Henry Belin du Pont in 1927. In October 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis there.
"We're not going to take this lying down," Levy said. "We're going to take every step we can."
Kevin O'Brien, who lives in Limerick off Lancaster Pike, said he would welcome an attractive mixed-used development similar to those on Kennett Pike in Greenville.
"But the scale of what's been proposed is way beyond what the neighborhood can sustain," O'Brien said. "The roads are already pretty maxed out."
Because it's not a rezoning, Weiner said residents must be knowledgeable about procedures and regulations at the state and county levels.
Weiner spent more than 15 years battling the late millionaire John W. Rollins over the redevelopment of the former Brandywine Raceway project on U.S. 202 and Naamans Road. His efforts and those of other civic activists succeeded in altering the scope of the project.
"This is not just a NIMBY objection. The very viability of the state Department of Transportation's infrastructure capabilities hangs in the balance. If DelDOT doesn't rise to the occasion to properly manage this colossal project, then Delaware will no longer be able to say no to any project."
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