Contact - Volunteer - Contribute - (302) 468-6024

Bob Weiner
Home About Bob Legislation & Essays 2nd District News Articles Calendar Photo & Video Gallery 2018 Campaign Contact Bob
Bob Weiner News  

12/28/2011
Group sues county over Barley Mill vote; Councilman Bob Weiner said the group's case is "legally correct." - News Journal

Councilman Bob Weiner said the group's case is "legally correct." 

Councilman Bob Weiner, who was one of seven members who voted to rezone the property, said the group has a good case.

"They are legally correct. It's not a novel position; it's an argument that I made early on myself," Weiner said. "But the county attorney and the Paul Clark administration gave the council legal advice that said the position had no validity, so I was forced into making a decision based on the lesser of two evils, which was the compromise plan."
 
Group sues county over Barley Mill vote
Save Our County claims lack of traffic study violates law
Dec. 28, 2011   Written by ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal
 

The Save Our County coalition filed suit against New Castle County on Tuesday, saying County Council's vote in October to rezone part of the Barley Mill Plaza office complex violated state law because the vote was taken when traffic data were incomplete.

The suit, filed in Chancery Court, seeks to overturn the Oct. 25 rezoning of 40 percent of the 92-acre site at Del. 141 and Del. 48 in Greenville from office to commercial. It seeks to compel the council to vote again after the Delaware Department of Transportation has analyzed all the traffic-study data and shared it with the council and the public.

State law mandates that the council consider the effects of projected traffic growth before a rezoning vote, the suit contends. The traffic operational analysis being performed by DelDOT isn't finished yet.

"That mandate was not followed here," the suit says. "In fact, it was deliberately and erroneously ignored."

The suit notes that traffic is already clogged at the intersection.

"Simple common sense is that putting a regional shopping mall at that location will greatly and adversely impact traffic congestion and flow in the area -- an area which is the central path for tens of thousands of commuters already," the suit says.

County Attorney Gregg Wilson said Tuesday he hadn't seen the suit, so it was difficult for him to comment in detail. But Wilson said the intersection has been sufficiently studied by DelDOT for years.

"There is certainly no shortage of traffic analysis for that site, from when DuPont owned it all the way up to the present plan," Wilson said. "Now this group wants more. How do you answer that?"

DelDOT spokeswoman Sandy Roumillat said the county is in compliance with the state law referenced in the suit.

In addition to the county government, the suit names County Council, the county Land Use Department, Land Use Department General Manager David Culver and Barley Mill LLC, the owner and developer of the site, as defendants. The suit identifies Keith Stoltz of Stoltz Real Estate Partners as a member of Barley Mill LLC.

Stoltz spokesman Tom Gailey declined to comment on the suit.

Barbara Furbeck, Lawrence Giordano, James Graves and Thomas S. Neuberger -- four residents who live near Barley Mill Plaza -- joined Save Our County as plaintiffs. Save Our County was created to oppose the Barley Mill rezoning and three other Stoltz development proposals on the edge of Delaware's Chateau Country.

"It was irrational and arbitrary to rezone property bigger than five football fields, found along two major highways and in our home neighborhoods, without first requiring a completed traffic study, as state law requires," Neuberger said in a statement. "But instead the county narrowly gave in to the big bucks pressure and threats of the Stoltz machine which never saw a quiet residential neighborhood it did not want to destroy."

Neuberger added county politicians were "bullied or outsmarted" by Stoltz, and that he doesn't think the court will react the same way.

"The other plaintiffs and I will never give up and will fight Stoltz to the end on this new battlefield where the law and not politics will decide this David and Goliath battle," Neuberger said.

Another chapter

The three-year effort by Stoltz to get the Barley Mill property rezoned was decided by a single vote on Oct. 25. The council approved the rezoning, 7-6.

The protracted battle in Greenville pitted neighbors against neighbors, even though they shared the same goal -- to keep development in their beloved community to a minimum.

Stoltz bought the property for $94 million. In 2008, Stoltz announced plans to demolish the office park and triple its density with shops, condominiums and office towers.

Nearby residents were horrified by the 2.8-million-square-foot plan, which didn't require a rezoning.

The Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG) group formed to fight the plan, but eventually concluded it had no legal recourse to stop it.

Shortly after The News Journal published a series of stories on the plan, then-County Executive Chris Coons privately negotiated a compromise plan with Keith Stoltz that included the rezoning of 37 acres.

The 1.6-million-square-foot plan was announced in September 2010. CRG fine-tuned the agreement, which capped building heights at four stories at Barley Mill, limited density and provided other protections.

CRG lobbied County Council to pass the smaller compromise plan because it feared Stoltz would build the larger plan if the rezoning failed.
Save Our County was created around the time the compromise was announced. The group opposed both plans and wants Stoltz to come up with a third option.

Reaction to Save Our County's chances to reverse the rezoning were mixed Tuesday.

Councilman Bob Weiner, who was one of seven members who voted to rezone the property, said the group has a good case.

"They are legally correct. It's not a novel position; it's an argument that I made early on myself," Weiner said. "But the county attorney and the Paul Clark administration gave the council legal advice that said the position had no validity, so I was forced into making a decision based on the lesser of two evils, which was the compromise plan."

Land-use attorney Rich Abbott, who is not involved in the Barley Mill project, said the group could be successful.

Abbott said state law requires that council not vote on rezonings without information on traffic, but the state and county have a Memorandum of Agreement that contradicts the state law.

It basically says the county must abide by its Unified Development Code, which doesn't include a provision that mirrors state requirements about requiring complete traffic data for rezoning votes, Abbott said.

"They might be on the right track with a pretty good, substantive argument to overturn the rezoning," he said.

Two leaders of CRG disagree. CRG President John Danzeisen said one of his group's first arguments was that a full-blown traffic-impact study was required for a Barley Mill expansion.

"But, quite frankly, the more we looked into it the more it looked like there was enough room for the county and state to maneuver around it, which is exactly what they did," Danzeisen said. "Our conclusion was they were within the law, but probably not within the spirit of what the residents would really like to see."

CRG's Bob Valihura, an attorney and Widener Law School professor, said that County Council simply took the legal advice it was given.

"I don't think they should be voting on rezonings without traffic data, but anyone who looked at the issue and advised the council said it doesn't have to be considered," Valihura said. "It will be interesting to see if that is upheld by the court."

Conflict of interest?

The suit also alleges other "procedural irregularities," such as adding 10 deed restrictions late in the process that the suit says "turned the tide" of the Oct. 25 council vote. The restrictions were added about midnight two weeks earlier, minutes before the vote was supposed to be taken, but the vote was then tabled until the 25th.

The legal action also slams the Land Use Department's recommendation that council approve the rezoning.

The suit claims that the report, and by extension the council's vote, could have been influenced by the fact that Pam Scott, Clark's wife, was Stoltz's attorney for three years, until March. Scott resigned from the Saul Ewing firm after the county Ethics Commission said either Scott or Clark would have to step down from their positions to prevent a conflict of interest on Clark's part.

Because Scott was Stoltz's attorney for so long, the suit claims that the "orientation and mind-set" of the Land Use Department officials who authored the report was skewed because of Scott's former role as Stoltz's attorney.

"The departmental review should be conducted and then reported with total impartiality," the suit says.

The Land Use Department's report said the compromise plan, which includes a 450,000-square-foot shopping center, is in character with the neighborhood and consistent with nearby zoning.

Save Our County member Joe Kelly said that conclusion can't be taken seriously by any reasonable person who knows the neighborhood.

Traffic, however, is the major issue that could destroy the neighborhood, Kelly said.

"I am convinced that once a full traffic analysis is presented, it will show that this project or any alternative project must be significantly downsized or scrapped altogether," Kelly said. 

Back to the News Summary

Have news? Please contact me!

HOT TOPICS:
Important Safety Tips
File a Property Complaint
Report a Pothole to DelDOT
NCC Open Checkbook
Presentations to Council
Redevelopment
NCC Council Video
New Castle County Finances
NCC Public Safety
Stoltz Developments
Other Development Proposals
NCC Clearwater Disconnect Program
Brandywine 100 History
Anti-Graffiti Brigade
Talley Day Bark Park
Claymont
Search BobWeiner.com:

Latest News:
3/26/2018
  Wilmington University will repair historic Red Barn on Concord Pike
3/19/2018
  Wilmington University agrees to fix red barn on Concord Pike sooner than previously stated
3/9/2018
  New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner: 'I feel duped' over Wilmington University's treatment of historic barn

New Castle County Comprehensive Plan
How to Attend a County Council Meeting
Info on Planning Board Public Hearings
Time Limits For Speakers And
Standards For Review Of Applications
Directions to Reads Way

 

 

Give Bob a "like" on Facebook:


   
Latest News:
3/26/2018
  Wilmington University will repair historic Red Barn on Concord Pike
3/19/2018
  Wilmington University agrees to fix red barn on Concord Pike sooner than previously stated
3/9/2018
  New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner: 'I feel duped' over Wilmington University's treatment of historic barn
Upcoming events:
County Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings of each month
"I can't thank Bob enough for his prompt response to even the smallest insignificant issues. I am truly thankful that he is is our County Councilman."

Nancy Stone
Concord Hills Civic Association

Paid for by Friends of Bob Weiner - www.BobWeiner.com - (302) 468-6024 - Volunteer - Contribute
Friends of Bob Weiner is the political candidate committee that accepts contributions on behalf of New Castle County Councilman Robert S. Weiner.

Facebook Twitter Youtube