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3/4/2009
Residents voice displeasure over Greenville plans - Community News

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News
Posted Mar 04, 2009 @ 01:25 PM

New Castle, Del. —
Some made complex and technical arguments while others spoke more plainly. In the end however, residents' message was the same: two development projects proposed for Greenville are too large to fit the surrounding community.

A cavalcade of three dozen speakers, a sampling of the 150 residents that packed a standing-room-only March 4 Planning Board hearing, were united in their message that the Stoltz Real Estate Partners ought to scale back its plans for Greenville Center and Barley Mill Plaza.

As it is currently conceived, the 92-acre, 2.9-million-square-foot redevelopment project at the former DuPont Barley Mill site would be the largest redevelopment project in New Castle County History. Retail shops, restaurants and even a movie theatre and hotel are planned for part of the site that fronts Rt. 141, with office buildings and residential towers up to 10 stories on Lancaster Pike and reaching back toward Westhaven, West Park and Westover Hills.

A 1.5-million-square-foot alternative for Barley Mill is being discussed with the newly-formed Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), organized to work with Stoltz on downsizing their plans. That alternative plan has not been filed with the county.

The changes proposed at Greenville Center – 78,000-square-feet of new floor area – amount to a few bricks and a bit of mortar. But it comes in the form of a 12-story tower, eight floors taller than the town’s highest buildings and that’s got neighbors worried.

Both plans would literally cast a shadow on some of the most desirable addresses in Delaware, and that’s a big problem.

Westhaven resident Richard Cross went so far as to use data from the U.S. Naval Observatory regarding sun heights and angles. A seven-story office building planned 120-feet from the border of his neighborhood would cast a shadow as long as 566-feet long, he said (backing it up with diagrams and geometric models he submitted to the board).

An attorney, Cross also argued that the residential component of the Barley Mill Plaza plan – 700 units totaling 713,750-square-feet – was insufficient to qualify it as a mixed-use redevelopment plan under county code, which requires a minimum of 25 percent of such a project to be residential. Cross said the gross floor area of planned parking garages ought to be included in the calculation, which Stoltz has not included.

Land Use General Manager Dave Culver refuted that interpretation.

“If we had to count parking as part of the gross floor area, then they’d have to provide more parking to accommodate parking lots,” he said. “That’s not the way we interpret the code.”

Richard Beck, also an attorney and president of the Kennett Pike Association, said he believed the county’s Unified Development Code calls for developers to meet a higher standard than technical architectural and design requirements. He points to sections of the code that refer to preserving lifestyles of an area and maintaining visual aspects.

“Clearly, development proposals that frustrate rather than carry out this stated intent of the UDC should be disapproved,” he said.
Beck, like many others who spoke, is a member of CRG.

Mark Chura, the Stoltz Steering Committee Chairman for CRG, said neighbors realize something is going to be built at Barley Mill and Greenville Center.
He said they’d welcome scaled back projects that are more contoured to the area.

“We…recognize the need for developers to make a profit and for new development to be economically viable and attractive,” he said. “However, we also believe strongly that these goals are best accomplished through projects which are thoughtfully and deliberately designed so as to complement and enhance community character and not overwhelm it.”

Gail Van Gilder said the county should pay special attention to the fact that Kennett Pike, where Greenville Center is located, is a nationally recognized Scenic and Historic Byway.

“The Brandywine Valley is the premier tourist destination in Delaware – other than its beaches,” she said. “It therefore deserves special consideration when you review land use proposals that could seriously jeopardize its appeal as a tourist destination.”

Pam Scott, the attorney representing Stoltz, said dialogue would continue between her client and the community in search of ways the plans can be revamped. As talks continue, however, the county’s land development process has deadlines, so Stoltz is working toward ensuring the current plans meet all the technical specifications of county code, she said.

The Planning Board has discretion to comment on technical aspects of these plans to the Land Use Department, but will not make formal recommendations to the county council.

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