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7/28/2016
U.S. 202 CAMPUS: Wilmington University gets rare traffic waiver. News Journal

Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area, said he believes the mitigation efforts will make the university’s impact on traffic congestion minimal.

“The intersection has one failing turning movement, but because of the mitigation plan we are taking an intersection that is problematic but not really making it any worse,” Weiner said.

Weiner sponsored legislation that outlined the traffic mitigation and monitoring agreements. He said previous waivers were given out “on a political basis like candy.”

In 2000, AstraZeneca received a waiver to build its Fairfax headquarters larger than traffic rules would have allowed.

U.S. 202 CAMPUS: Wilmington University gets rare traffic waiver 

By XERXES WILSON THE NEWS JOURNAL 7/28/16

The New Castle County Council has approved a rare waiver around local government’s controversial traffic rules, allowing plans for a 200,000square-foot campus for Wilmington University on congested U.S. 202 to move forward.

Under county rules, developers have to pay for road improvements if traffic from their project would slow the flow of vehicles through nearby intersections beyond a certain level. That is unless the County Council approves a waiver to exempt a project from those rules.

The waiver granted by the County Council will allow the private school to move forward in its application to build three, three-story buildings on a 41-acre cornfield at Beaver Valley Road and Concord Pike in Brandywine Hundred.

Development plans are still awaiting final approval, but Wendie Stabler, attorney for the university, told the County Council last week that granting the waiver provides a “safety valve” through traffic rules that have stymied other developments, frustrating the local development community. When projected traffic from a development pushes traffic congestion beyond acceptable levels at a nearby intersection, the developer is typically required to pay for sometimes expensive road improvements to allow the project to move forward. An intersection is considered failing when it takes more than 55 seconds to pass through at peak traffic hours. Left-hand turns usually are the longest.

In the university’s case, the intersection of Naamans Road and Concord Pike will be congested beyond acceptable levels under county rules.

Stabler said the traffic problem could have been mitigated in the short term by converting one of the through lanes on Naamans Road across Concord Pike into a left-hand turn lane onto Concord Pike. She said state traffic planners didn’t like that solution because it would have caused additional congestion at the intersection in the coming years.

Another solution would have been widening Naamans Road to make room for the additional left-hand lane. She said state planners didn’t like that solution because it would have negatively impacted the entrances and exits to businesses near the intersection.

“They felt that because of the mitigation proposed which would address a lot of concern ... that on balance it was much better to approve the traffic waiver instead,” Stabler said. To receive the waiver, the university had to agree to take steps to lessen its traffic impact during rush-hour times in mornings and evenings by 15 percent. Stabler said 85 percent of the facility’s class times will be scheduled to avoid putting cars on the road during peak traffic hours.

“The beauty of this particular project is we are uniquely situated to manage traffic,” Stabler told the County Council’s Land Use Committee last week.

The school also will provide students and employees real-time information about bus routes and transportation options other than cars. Stabler said the university will provide other incentives for those who come to school together or take transit and provide opportunities for employees to work remotely.

The university also must pay a bond to the state that can be tapped if efforts to reduce traffic burdens are not taken.

Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area, said he believes the mitigation efforts will make the university’s impact on traffic congestion minimal.

“The intersection has one failing turning movement, but because of the mitigation plan we are taking an intersection that is problematic but not really making it any worse,” Weiner said.

Councilman John Cartier, who represents nearby portions of Brandywine Hundred, said the development is worthy of the waiver because it will contribute to the area.

“I’ve watched, for years, potential development at this intersection that would have had absolutely devastating impact,” Cartier said during a committee meeting last week. “This use, and their ability to shift demand with classroom time, is a perfect fit.”

The plot has been eyed by developers in the past as open space along Concord Pike becomes rarer. In 2007, Stoltz Real Estate Partners proposed a 237,000square-foot mixed-use shopping center with a Whole Foods, 86 residences and 120-room hotel site on the plot. That proposal was eventually torpedoed by traffic concerns.

The traffic rules are outlined in county building code and have been an ongoing source of friction with business leaders and developers.

Only three waivers have been granted since the county reformatted the process in 2000. Christiana Care Health System in 2002 received one to accommodate a 1.1 million-square-foot expansion of Christiana Hospital. Two years earlier, DuPont Co. was also granted a waiver for its Experimental Station in Alapocas.

Weiner sponsored legislation that outlined the traffic mitigation and monitoring agreements. He said previous waivers were given out “on a political basis like candy.”

In 2000, AstraZeneca received a waiver to build its Fairfax headquarters larger than traffic rules would have allowed.

The plans represent an eight- to nine year build-out that will likely be constructed in three phases. The timing of those phases will be dictated by the university’s growth, Stabler said.

Stabler said the school seeks to start construction by the end of the year.

The full designs dictate that buildings, parking lots, roadways and sidewalks will occupy about 12 acres of the property, with open space remaining on 29 acres of the 41-acre tract. Plans call for three buildings framing an existing wooded area and pond. The university wants to maintain that wooded and wet area as something pleasant for students to look at, officials have said. The university’s Du Pont Highway campus near New Castle will remain the main campus and host top administrative offices.

The campus is being planned on a parcel that was owned for decades by Woodlawn Trustees Inc. of Wilmington, in an area that has seen rapid growth and business development.

Local preservation groups have criticized Woodlawn for allowing the planned development of land in the nearby Beaver Valley and neighboring the First State National Historic Park.



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  Wilmington University will repair historic Red Barn on Concord Pike
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