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NCCo redevelopment proposal to go to vote; however many residents prefer Weiner's proposal - News Journal

NCCo redevelopment proposal to go to vote
Reda-Tackett ordinance heads to council

July 20, 2011  Written by ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal 

WILMINGTON -- It appears as though New Castle County Councilmen Joe Reda and Dave Tackett have beaten their colleague Robert Weiner in the battle of ordinances to reform the county's redevelopment law.

Many residents thought the first version of the Reda-Tackett ordinance was too pro-development and preferred Weiner's proposal, which would place tougher restrictions on builders. But some of those residents supported the latest version of the Reda-Tackett ordinance at Tuesday's council Land Use Committee meeting.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Bill Dunn, vice president of the Civic League for New Castle County. County Council will vote on the ordinance Aug. 2, Tackett said.

The redevelopment law has been under scrutiny for more than a year. Designed to provide incentives to developers so they would demolish old or dilapidated buildings instead of building on virgin farmland, many thought the county was overly generous in giving projects redevelopment status. The perks include waivers from traffic studies and exemptions from paying project-impact fees to the county.

Delle Donne & Associates got the status for the proposed Governor's Square III Shopping Center in Bear, even though the only building on the 37-acre property was a small bank. The status was granted in part because the property had long ago been approved for hundreds of thousands of square feet of offices, and the current law allows developers to get credit for approved but unbuilt plans. After a public outcry, the developers withdrew their plan as a redevelopment project.

Stoltz Real Estate Partners got the status for their proposed mixed-use plan for the Barley Mill Plaza office complex in Greenville, which means a 1.6-million-square-foot project would be built without a full-blown traffic-impact study.

The Reda-Tackett ordinance removes a developer's ability to get credit for approved but unbuilt square footage, which they said would spell an end to "paper redevelopment," a phrase coined to describe the Governor's Square III project.

The ordinance also would require that intersections near a large new development not be made more congested by a new project.

"We really feel like we have an ordinance that does not kill development and still adequately protects the residents," Tackett said.

County Planning Board Chairman Victor Singer said he is disappointed by council's plan to vote on the Reda-Tackett ordinance so soon. Earlier Tuesday, the Planning Board reviewed Weiner's ordinance, which Singer said has merits. Unlike the Reda-Tackett plan, Weiner's would require traffic-impact studies for all large redevelopment projects and include an additional public hearing process.

The county land use department's report on the Weiner ordinance blasted it, saying it is so restrictive it would essentially kill redevelopment. County Executive Paul Clark's administration prefers the Reda-Tackett ordinance as well. Clark's wife, Pam Scott, used to represent Stoltz before the county on the Barley Mill project.

Singer wanted council to table the Reda-Tackett ordinance so the Planning Board could take the best parts of each proposal and craft a hybrid ordinance.

"What's the rush?" Singer said.

Resident Nancy Willing, of Newark, asked the council to table the ordinance as well, but Tackett said developers are eager to proceed with projects and residents deserve to have the protections included in the ordinance in place.

Council President Tom Kovach questioned whether council can legally pass the Reda-Tackett ordinance on Aug. 2. He said the changes in the latest version are significant enough to require that it go before the Planning Board again.

But Council Attorney Carol Dulin and Deputy County Attorney Wendy Danner disagreed, saying the rule cited by Kovach is intended to require that an ordinance start at the beginning of the legislative process only when a late addition to it isn't represented in the ordinance's title.

For example, if a lawmaker tried to place language about a housing policy into the annual budget, the ordinance should not be passed.

Resident Michael McDermott said he'd like to see the Planning Board review the latest version of the Reda-Tackett ordinance to make sure it actually makes the changes the sponsor says it will.

"The ball has been moved considerably," McDermott said. "Getting the ball over the goal line will come with the comments from the Planning Board, which will inspire public confidence in the process."

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