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6/22/2011
Planning board votes against Stoltz; Despite OK from land-use department, vote recommends denial of rezoning - News Journal

Despite OK from land-use department, vote recommends denial of rezoning
 
Jun. 22, 2011  Written by IRA PORTER News Journal 

The New Castle County Planning Board voted to recommend denial of a rezoning requested by a Pennsylvania developer that is needed to build a large shopping center at the Barley Mill Plaza office complex in Greenville.

While the county Land Use Department voted to recommend the plan to County Council on Tuesday night, the planning board's decision, in a 5-2 vote with two members abstaining, shows that the project isn't guaranteed to be approved by County Council when it votes in October.

"There is a difference in perception: The land-use department's analysis, the impression was given that [Del.] 141, a couple of miles in one direction there is shopping along Concord Pike and a few miles in the other direction there is shopping along Kirkwood Highway, and isn't terrible that there is no shopping a couple of miles," Planning Board Chairman Victor Singer, said of the area where the complex is.

"To the board, it was wonderful that there was no shopping. That would seem to be the character of the community. To rezone it, to allow retail in that area, the department thinks was a remarkable opportunity. The planning board thought the opposite, that it was a terrible opportunity, which was clearly stated in the vote," Singer said.

Whether to accept either recommendation will be up to New Castle County Council, which will vote in October.

"I think at this point it's up to the developer whether they wish to proceed," Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick said Tuesday. "Sometimes if the department goes one way and the planning board goes another, [developers] don't choose to proceed because that sends a mixed message to council."

Stoltz Real Estate Partners wants 37 of the 92 acres rezoned to a commercial designation, which would allow the shopping center on the site at Del. 141 and Lancaster Pike.

In 2008, Stoltz announced plans for a total of 2.8 million square feet of commercial, office and residential use. The size of that plan led to an outcry of opposition from the community and eventually forced then-County Executive Chris Coons to step in and forge the framework for a compromise last year while he was running for a U.S. Senate seat.

Citizens for Responsible Growth fine-tuned the deal, which now calls for a total of 1.6 million square feet of office and commercial space.

CRG says no one wants the site developed, but his group got important concessions from Stoltz, including no more expansion on the site and prohibitions on big-box stores, convenience stores, gas stations and a four-story cap on the height of office buildings.

They noted Stoltz has the right to build the bigger plan at any time. But opponents say they're willing to take that risk because they are so opposed to the project moving forward without a traffic-impact study, which was waived because the Stoltz plan was filed as a redevelopment project with the county.

Residents have questioned the decision by land-use general manger David Culver to grant the redevelopment status, seeing as how Culver is not a Delaware taxpayer and lives in Maryland.

"In my opinion they correctly applied the standards under the code, and I agree with the result that the planning board reached today," said Laurie Nicoli, a concerned resident who lives on Barley Mill Road.

Nicoli recommended that Stoltz take into consideration alternatives that were voiced at a meeting earlier this month when some suggested using the area to build a medical facility.


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