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Report from Councilman Bob Weiner: Pilot School site status report and path forward

Dear civic leaders and residents,

The New Castle County Board of Adjustment granted the requested 6 ½ foot height variance to the Reybold Group at last night’s Board of Adjustment Hearing. The Board approved variance # 2009-0523 by a vote of 4-0.

As per my standard practice, I have posted extensive documentation regarding the Pilot School application at . You will also find more detailed explanation of the applicable procedural and substantive law.

The New Castle County Planning Board/Land Use Department Business Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday November 17 at 9 AM at the County Government Center in the main conference room on the 1st floor. 87 Reads Way in New Castle. The Land Use Department will present its recommendation to the citizen Planning Board. The Planning Board will then discuss and vote as to what its recommendation should be to New Castle County Council. New Castle County Council gives great deference to the Land Use Department and Planning Board’s separate written recommendations. Both recommendations will be available to the public to review.

Members of the public do have the opportunity to speak at Planning Board business meetings.  Comments from the Public is the last agenda item before adjournment(see attached minutes from the 09/15/09 business meeting for reference).  However, during the Board's discussion of a particular application, no further comments are permitted - either from the public or the applicant.  Additional comments during the Board's discussion would amount to new testimony where the official record has already been closed. 

Redevelopment plans are an exception to the “triennial” rule. Under “Review Process” Chapter 40.08.130B6d, all major development plans follow Article 31 procedures, except that a redevelopment plan may be acted upon by County Council at any time and is not subject to the triennial rezoning dates.

The 13 members of New Castle County Council will have the ultimate say as to whether or not the rezoning is passed when the body votes. County Council will discuss the Pilot School plan twice: first at our County Council Land Use Committee meeting and second at our County Council meeting when we will vote. Both meetings are advertised in the Saturday Legal Notices in the News Journal and notice is also posted. Both are open to the public to listen and to speak on the record. At this juncture the public record is closed. Occasionally the Planning Board Chairman may permit comments, but his practice is not consistent with the procedure. Should the Land Use Department recommend in favor of the applicant, a supermajority of 9 of the 13 members of County Council is required to vote against the application. Normally, only a simple majority is required in support of an application.

The Pilot School plan could be scheduled by the applicant [Reybold Group] on the County Council Land Use Committee meeting as early as the Tuesday Jan 5, 2010 [3 PM] meeting date. County Council meets as a “committee of the whole”. The Pilot School plan could be scheduled before the New Castle County Council as early as the Jan 12, 2010 [7 PM ] County Council meeting.

Because of the upcoming holidays, I will ask the applicant to wait to schedule the Pilot School application until the County Council Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday January 19, 2010 at 3 PM and until the New Castle County Council meeting on Tuesday Jan 26 [7pm] for final discussion and the vote. Each member of County Council will be polled and asked to state his or her reasons for his or her vote on the record.

As the sponsoring Councilperson, I could move to table the Ordinance a maximum of two times but only for the specific purpose of referring the application back to County Land Use Department to opine on specific inquires relating to code compliance. I would be pleased to move to table if there is such a specific question or questions. 

Bob Weiner, your County Councilman
“Making County Government Work for Us”
Robert S. Weiner
Council District 2, New Castle County, DE
Louis Hinkle, aide to Councilman Weiner 302-395-8362

v  Neighbors blast plan for Pilot School site
A well-programmed presentation by residents of Edenridge and Tavistock sought to convince the Planning Board that a proposal to build an age-restricted community in their back yards is a perversion of efforts to renew blighted areas.
At issue at a board hearing on Nov. 3 was a plan by Reybold Group to build a 149-unit community of mixed housing types on the 15-acre site of Pilot School on Garden of Eden Road. The plan was filed under the county redevelopment ordinance. The school intends to relocate to a site on nearby Woodlawn Road. Summarizing the opposition's positions, Nancy Hannigan said the school is a "vibrant functioning" entity, not a problem property the law was intended to rehabilitate. Moreover, she and others argued that it would be the first time that redevelopment of a residential site has been proposed. The rub is that the ordinance provides a significant density bonus as an incentive to developers. The residents said 60 units would be more in keeping with the 'character' of the neighborhood.
Kathy Craven, director of the highly-rated private elementary school for children with developmental needs, said sale of the present property to a developer who can make a profit on it is necessary in order to replace an educationally outmoded 45-year-old building. Reybold executive Jerome Heisler said the density the firm seeks is what makes the project viable in the current real estate market. Building to such standards "is what the [county] comprehensive plan tells us to do," he said. Both proponents said they are mindful of community interests and that the new neighborhood will not adversely affect them. Craven said the school rejected alternate bids for the property which would have resulted in putting a strip shopping center or Brandywine School District's replacement bus depot there.

Among those testifying in opposition to the project were state Senator Michael Katz, Representative Dennis Williams and county Councilman Robert Weiner. No one from the general public supported the proposal.



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