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5/13/2011
Stoltz projects knock down a big obstacle; NCCo Board of Adjustment approves all requested zoning variances - News Journal

Stoltz projects knock down a big obstacle
NCCo board approves all requested zoning variances

May 13, 2011   Written by ADAM TAYLOR  The News Journal 

Developer Keith Stoltz was successful Thursday in clearing the first government hurdle for two of his controversial projects in Wilmington's most affluent suburbs along Del. 141.

The New Castle County Board of Adjustment unanimously granted all the zoning variances Stoltz requested for his plans for Greenville Center and for the former Kirkwood Fitness Club on Kennett Pike.

The major variance for Greenville Center was to allow the shopping center to have 570 parking spaces, even though county code requires 715. Another was permission to build a drive-in business without a required extra traffic lane. At the old fitness center site, the main variance was permission to build 19 new parking spaces.

In addition to receiving the variances, Stoltz received most of a series of conditions that it asked the Board of Adjustment to approve as well. Most of the conditions, which ranged from limits on building heights to how much landscaping must go on the properties, were approved by the board.

"We requested that the conditions be approved in exchange for community support on the zoning variances," Stoltz attorney John Tracey said.

Even though the board granted most of the conditions, Citizens for Responsible Growth founder Patty Hobbs expressed disappointment after the hearing.

"I don't see why they could have granted all the conditions," Hobbs said. "I just hate to see this happening to our community."

Citizens for Responsible Growth brokered a compromise deal with Stoltz in February. The scaled-down plan spared Greenville Center a 12-story residential tower where the existing Wells Fargo building is -- and plans for a multilevel parking garage were also scrapped. Instead, that structure will be replaced with a two-story building for commercial and office space. There also will be a new, 4,000-square-foot building at the corner of Buck Road and Kennett Pike.

The conditions on building heights, building usage and other items are already included in the compromise agreement CRG signed with Stoltz.

But Kennett Pike Association representative Richard Beck said the community wanted the board to include the conditions along with the variances' approvals for two reasons: The compromise agreement doesn't go into effect until Stoltz actually files its plans, so the community wanted a sense of "interim comfort." And if Stoltz's lenders were to foreclose on the properties, the agreements would lose all the protections included in the agreement.

Some residents objected to the variances. Tom Dewson, Bill Rowe and Bob Williams asked the board to deny them. Dewson said Greenville Center is already too crowded.

"I'm shocked at the board's decision," Dewson said. "They essentially told the developer to jam as much as they want in there with no regard for the expansion's off-site impact."

The Board of Adjustment did not deal with Stoltz's Barley Mill Plaza plans. That will be the subject of a county rezoning hearing in June. Stoltz wants to develop Barley Mill into a 1.6 million-square-foot commercial and office complex.

The original Stoltz plan called for a 2.8 million-square-foot complex of offices, restaurants, shops and residential condominiums.

CRG leader John Danzeisen noted that the group doesn't like the scaled-down plans and would prefer nothing be built. But the group testified in favor of Stoltz's plan Thursday anyway, because the developer still has the hammer of reverting back to the original, larger plans at any time.

"Those original plans haven't gone away," Danzeisen said. "They have the right to build them and could be brought back at any time."

The compromise is CRG's effort to minimize the impact on Kennett Pike, Delaware's only national Scenic Byway.

"This is the biggest threat to the byway we've ever seen," Danzeisen said.

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