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Opponents line up against Stoltz development plans; Councilman Weiner recommends litigation. - Community News

Opponents line up against Stoltz development plans
Murmurs of litigation abound

By Jesse Chadderdon, Community News
Posted Jan 07, 2010 @ 03:07 PM
Greenville, Del. —

The pitched battle between a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., developer and residents of Greenville and Brandywine Hundred raged on in its latest installment.

Two weeks ago Stoltz Real Estate Partners formally filed a massive 2.8-million-square-foot town center-style redevelopment plan at Barley Mill Plaza, which has sparked talk among opponents of legal action.

Then Tuesday, a plan to add a 12-story residential tower at Kennett Pike's Greenville Center was pitched to the New Castle County Planning Board, and more than 150 residents were on hand to make their disapproval known.

At issue there is the height of the tower, which although allowed by code is out of scale with the type of buildings indigenous to Greenville, critics say. Traffic and pedestrian safety concerns also abound.

The raucous applause greeting the two-dozen residents who testified against the plan is not uncommon to these oft-contentious hearings.

But what sets this group of folks apart is its level of organization -- and financial solvency. They won't open their books, but countless checks have been cut to Citizens for Responsible Growth, an organization of lawyers, preservationists and local civic leaders determined to fight for scaled-down versions of these proposals all the way to the end.

Last year, CRG took the unprecedented step of hiring its own design firm, Torti Gallas, to revisit Stoltz' plans and make them more palatable to the community.

At Greenville Center, CRG has countered with a proposal for a four-story building it says will give Stoltz the same square-footage, all while making the site safer for pedestrians and drivers.

But Stoltz attorney Pam Scott scoffed at the proposal.

"It's not their place to dictate how my client designs their property," she said.
Indeed, Stoltz Managing Director Brad Coburn said a four-story building wouldn't work financially for the company.

"The bottom line is four stories don't work," he said. "People aren't going to want to buy a housing unit that looks out directly over the air conditioning units of the other buildings. They want the viewscapes."

At Barley Mill, residents have said they'll support a scaled down 1.7-million-square-foot plan that Stoltz said it was exploring. At this point, however, it’s only conceptual. Only the larger plan has been filed, though Coburn said that was only done because a county-imposed deadline was looming that would have derailed the entire process.

"We had to adhere to county code, so we had to carry forth with the process," he said. "But that doesn't mean we stop talking."

Both Greenville Center and Barley Mill Plaza will wind their way through the county's land use process over the next year. Barring the ability of the public to convince officials the sites are not code-compliant, both look destined for approval.

And that could lead CRG to take the fight outside, so to speak.

"At the center of our questions is how have the county's mixed-use and redevelopment ordinances been interpreted," said Mark Chura, a founder of CRG. "So we're looking at all our options...but I'm not in a position to comment on where we are as it relates to legal action."

But Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham), who has advised the group, said CRG ought to consider its legal options. And that could mean suing the very county he represents.

"In my opinion, the community leadership, which had been awaiting Stoltz’ response to its...alternative [Barley Mill] plan, now must consider filing suit to challenge the county’s interpretation as applied to the Stoltz plan."
Square Footage of Stoltz Plans
Barley Mill Plaza: 2.85M
Shops at Brandywine Valley: 364,000
Montchanin Corporate Center: 138,000
Greenville Center: 77,923


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