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Clark ousts "independent thinker" from Planning Board, as described by Weiner - News Journal

Clark ousts foe from panel
Planning Board member has openly jousted with NCCo executive

Jul. 19, 2011  |  Written by ADAM TAYLOR News Journal 

New Castle  County Executive Paul Clark will not reappoint a longtime member of the county Planning Board with whom he has openly sparred over land-use issues.

Mark Weinberg, who has served on the board for 16 years, said he was disappointed by Clark's decision and thinks that his disagreements with the county executive played a role in the decision.

"I can't read his mind, but I do find it odd that I wasn't reappointed," Weinberg said. "We've had some philosophical differences, such as him wanting to use more land for retail space, which I think provides lower-paying jobs. I would prefer to keep more land for industrial and office uses."

When Clark was County Council president, he was admonished by the county Ethics Commission after making a comment that Weinberg had "a prejudice" against retail jobs. Clark spoke during the meeting even though he had recused himself because the law firm his wife, Pam Scott, worked for represented the developer in question. The admonition came because the commission said Clark should have vacated the president's seat for the meeting.

Clark's policy director, Nicole Majeski, said Weinberg is not being reappointed because he has served on the board long enough and for no other reason.

"The county executive has stated numerous times that he does not feel that these appointments should be for a lifetime," Majeski said.

Greenville resident Tom Dewson said he is "apoplectic" about Weinberg's not being reappointed. Dewson has been a vocal critic of the proposed Stoltz Real Estate Partners' developments at Greenville Place and Barley Mill Plaza. He's not happy that the county Land Use Department recommended approval to rezone Barley Mill, while the Planning Board voted to not recommend council approve the rezoning.

Scott used to represent Stoltz, but the developer got a new attorney after she resigned in March after the county Ethics Commission said she or Clark had to leave their post to eliminate a conflict of interest.

"In my mind, the issue is much broader than Mr. Weinberg not getting reappointed," Dewson said. "It comes at a critical juncture when it comes to county government, when Land Use Department employees, who work for Clark, are approving things the Planning Board is not. The integrity of the entire county government hangs in the balance."

Civic League of New Castle  County Vice President Bill Dunn, a longtime Clark critic, is a Weinberg fan as well.

"He clearly is somebody that shows concern for existing residents of New Castle County, which flies in the face of how the county executive carries out his responsibilities."

Shortly after Clark took office in November, some residents feared he would purge the boards and commissions of anyone who didn't agree with him on land-use and other issues. But Majeski noted that Weinberg has been allowed to serve until now, even though his term expired nearly a year ago.

The person Clark has chosen to replace Weinberg, Ruth Visvardis of the 7 & 40 Civic  Alliance, isn't a pro-development person, Majeski said. County Council must approve Clark's appointment. Weinberg will continue to serve until that happens.

"Ruth is a local business owner and I think she will be very nonpartisan," Councilman George Smiley said. "She doesn't have her own agenda, which I think will be a breath of fresh air on the Planning Board."

Visvardis was an environmental chemist at DuPont Co. and now owns the Maryland Avenue Sub Shop.

Councilman Robert Weiner said it's "worrisome" that Weinberg won't continue to serve on the board. He called Weinberg "an independent thinker." Weiner said he thinks too many Planning Board members give the Land Use Department's opinions too much weight.

Clark did reappoint Victor Udo, the other member on the nine-person Planning Board whose term had expired. Udo has been on the board since 2008.

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