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10/19/2009
Councilman Weiner Co-sponsors Village Hamlet Ordinance; Enacted by NCC Council - Community News

Community News, Jesse Chadderdon
Posted Oct 19, 2009 @ 03:43 PM

New Castle County Council approved two major changes to its land use regulations Tuesday, both of which faced opposition from critics saying they went too far.

One ordinance changes the land use approval process, moving from two public hearings per plan to just one held later in the process once most agency reviews are complete.

The second bill overhauls the Unified Development Code's Village and Hamlet provisions, enticing developers to build mixed-use communities with varying layers of density instead of the traditional suburban subdivision that is so common. The old code required far larger parcels for village-style development than the 50-100 acres now allowed.

Villages and hamlets

The legislation only allows village- and hamlet-style development in what is commonly called the "central core," the geographic area south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and between S.R. 1 and U.S. 301. That's because land use officials say that is the area already targeted for new growth.

But critics say the area is growing so quickly that the Appoquinimink School District can't build schools fast enough. Councilman William Powers (D-Townsend) voted against the legislation because he said the high density encouraged at the center of villages could overburden the school district.

Christine Whitehead, representing the Civic League for New Castle County, said she suspected the council had other motivations for targeting higher densities.

"The only reason we need this ordinance, I suspect, is to try to build enough units to pay for sewer capacity purchased from Middletown," she said.

But proponents said their only motivation is to make sure the growth that is sure to come anyway is done wisely -- with residential, commercial, recreational and civic uses co-mingled.

"Hopefully this will lead to more integrated communities being built, where people who don't have a car can get some of their essential needs [by walking]," said Councilman John Cartier (D-Penny Hill), who sponsored the legislation.

Review process

Whitehead and other civic leaders also took issue with changes to the land use review process.

Bill Dunn, vice-president of the Milltown Limestone Civic Alliance, said cutting out a public hearing would curtail public input during the approval process.

"This benefits the development community at the expense of the homeowner," Dunn told council.
Councilman George Smiley (D-New Castle) said that's not the case.

"Too many times I've watched people take time away from their families and come to a meeting where the information they were seeking was not readily available," he explained.

Moving the public hearing back would allow more governmental agencies to review the plan, in turn allowing officials to answer more questions the public may have about whether or not a plan passes muster, he said.


THE VOTES

Enhanced Review
Yes (8): Bell, Cartier, Clark, Hollins, Reda, Sheldon, Smiley, Weiner
No (3): Diller, Powers, Tackett
Absent (2): Street, Tansey

Village & Hamlet
Yes (9): Cartier, Clark, Dilller, Hollins, Reda, Sheldon, Smiley, Tackett, Weiner
No (2): Powers, Street
Not Voting (1): Bell
Absent (1): Tansey

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