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Weiner Redevelopment Proposal gets hearing before Planning Board; Board will vote recommendation July 18 - News Journal

New Castle County rezoning request draws opposition
Proposed shopping center not needed, opponents say
Jul. 6, 2011  Written by ADAM TAYLOR

Nearly 200 people attended a New Castle County Planning Board hearing Tuesday to oppose a rezoning request that would allow a shopping center to be built on the Stopyra property on Capitol Trail near Newark .

In another matter, the board also heard testimony on Councilman Robert Weiner's proposal to change the county's controversial redevelopment law.

In the Stopyra case, developer Frank Acierno wants to build a 340,000-square-foot shopping center that would include a Target, a grocery store and smaller commercial sites, his attorney Richard Abbott said.

Abbott said the proposal meets all the requirements needed for approval, including being in harmony with existing properties, creating jobs and improving traffic at failed intersections by making improvements such as new signals and turning lanes.

No one in the audience supported the proposal, however. Several in the crowd opposed it, and a show of hands pointed out that those in attendance unanimously supported those who spoke against it.

State lawmaker Mike Ramone said the community would support single-family homes on the 54 acres of the 170-acre property Acierno wants to develop, but rejects a change in use.

"He bought it as that," Ramone said. "Let him develop it as that."

Resident David Onn said the proposed shopping center would be an intrusion on the community, which includes Holy Angels School and Church on Possum Park Road. He noted there are several shopping centers within a few miles of the Newark Town Center Acierno wants to build.

"This shopping center is not needed," Onn said.

The Planning Board will make a recommendation to County Council on the rezoning request next month, board Chairman Victor Singer said. The county's Land Use Department will do the same, department General Manager David Culver said.

The Stopyra hearing took more than two hours. Councilman Weiner began his testimony on his redevelopment ordinance around 9:30 p.m.

Weiner said his ordinance would end "paper redevelopment," which allows builders to get redevelopment status from the county, which brings with it waivers from conducting traffic-impact studies and having to pay development-impact fees.

Councilmen Joe Reda and Dave Tackett have a competing proposal on the table. In May, the Planning Board voted 8-1 against recommending that County Council approve it, but the county Land Use Department supports it.

Weiner said his ordinance would be tougher on developers than the current law, while the Reda-Tackett plan would be more lenient.

"My ordinance meets these goals where the current law or its implementation fails," Weiner said. "The competing ordinance goes in the other direction on these crucial issues."

As one of only three Republicans on the council, Weiner said he realizes it will be politically impossible to get his ordinance passed, but hopes Reda and Tackett will incorporate the bulk of his proposal into theirs.

He then blasted several of his colleagues on the council for not reading land-use documents and for not understanding the issues in the redevelopment controversy. He didn't say which members.

The Planning Board will vote on whether to recommend that County Council approve Weiner's ordinance at the board's July 18 business meeting, Singer said.

The Reda-Tackett ordinance was supposed to get a public airing at the council's Land Use Committee earlier Tuesday, but it was pulled from the agenda because there wasn't time last week for the sponsors to make changes, Tackett said.

The Reda-Tackett ordinance has support from County Executive Paul Clark's administration, the Committee of 100 business group and some land-use attorneys. William Franey, president of the Milltown-Limestone Civic Alliance, said his group favors Weiner's proposal. Past amendments to the redevelopment law, first passed in 2002, have hurt communities, he said.

"It is the opinion of many that these changes benefitted developers and came at the aggravation of the public," Franey said.

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