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  

4/7/2017
Plan to develop Brandywine Country Club development plan sets stage for rezoning debate - News Journal

[Note from New Castle County Land Use Department: Although no formal Exploratory Plan has yet to be submitted, we have assigned this project the application number 2017-0042.  Documents and information about this project will be available online for public review at http://www3.nccde.org/project/details/default.aspx?ProjectKey=569053 . New Castle County's planners and engineers will be thoroughly reviewing plans submitted by the applicant throughout the process.  Comments from the public will be included in the record and carefully considered as the process progresses.  Once a formal submission is made, the proposed plans will need to be reviewed by the State of Delaware's Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) who will issue comments and recommendations and will then be scheduled to be heard by the New Castle County Planning Board. Public comments are also welcomed by the Planning Board. 4/6/17]

Weiner said the Concord Pike corridor was developed in the post-World War II expansion of suburban development north of Wilmington where the village model was eventually cast aside for strip malls where motorists were the only "first-class citizens."

"It was developed in what was then the style of the day, which was a sea of asphalt parking lot that required an automobile to get to where you buy your milk and then drive somewhere else to do laundry, then somewhere else to get coffee," said Weiner, who emphasized his comments were addressing the commercial concepts of the plan, not his still-developing views on the suitability of the total country club development proposal.

"The demands of today are going back to the past, where people want a village with these mix of uses."

Weiner has for decades been working with planning groups to envision a series of walkable villages that will slowly take the place of the maze of curb cuts and strip malls along the pike. It's a slow process but one that will come to fruition with time, he said.

Added Weiner: "We as a community no longer desire to have silos of residential, commercial and office on our main street Concord Pike."

Weiner said government doesn't have the money to buy the course, even if it were for sale. And making such a purchase would create a pricey precedent.

"There is this pesky document known the U.S. constitution that ensures people life, liberty and property," Weiner said tongue-in-cheek. "So if you buy land that is zoned residential, you have a constitutional right to build homes."

While the traffic approval is based on a mathematical formula, Capano's concept will require County Council to approve a rezoning, which introduces some subjectivity into the equation.

Brewing battle over Brandywine Hundred


Xerxes Wilson , The News Journal
Published 11:45 p.m. ET April 7, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago

Plan to develop Brandywine Country Club development plan sets stage for rezoning debate

For decades, Brandywine Country Club stood as an island of open space wedged among thousands of single-family homes and the bustling retail corridor of Concord Pike.

But the country club lost members and money as the golf course industry floundered over the last decade. The 111-acre course was finally was sold to developer Louis Capano III in 2012, and ceased operations three years after.

Now, Capano wants to use the grounds to build 408 apartment units in 12 three-to-four story buildings, and 155 new homes ranging from small townhouses to larger single-family lots. The land's current zoning will allow less than half of that, so Capano plans to ask New Castle County Council to approve a rezoning in the coming year.

Neighbors accustomed to a relatively quiet place say they will fight to stop that rezoning in an effort to protect their piece of Brandywine Hundred, Delaware's oldest and most densely populated suburb.

They fear two-lane roads will be overloaded with traffic. They abhor the thought of losing open space that for 70 years was a golf course. And they worry the apartments will change the neighborhood's character with renters, who have less invested in their community.

Capano said Brandywine Hundred is overdue for new apartment construction, and maintains that the country club parcel is one of the last in the area where such a large project can meet booming demand from both millennials and older residents.

"Really there is no hole in the doughnut other than probably Brandywine Country Club and some redevelopments like Concord Plaza," Capano said. "It is just dead. There are no large pieces of land."


Neighboring homes can be seen by the old tennis courts at the former Brandywine Country Club property in Brandywine Hundred. 

Sheila Meara's back yard looks onto the golf course's 11th fairway. Over her 26 years living there, she became accustomed to the beauty in her backyard and even learned to play the game herself.

If Capano has his way, her backyard view will be transformed from the bucolic green of a golf course to the hardscape of asphalt and concrete when a two-lane boulevard is built to bisect the new housing development.

"It is very sad to see it go. I understand it happens," Meara said. "But now it is being developed in a way that –– I don't want to say greedy — but it seems like overkill."

STORY: With land limited, builders target Delaware golf courses

STORY: Push to redevelop old Hercules golf course begins anew

Capano said he believes the plan is "harmonious" with the community because it transitions from the large, three- to four-story apartment buildings near Concord Pike, to the smaller homes in the middle of the property and the single-family homes closer to Shipley Road.

"Of course, it is a business decision and we are in the apartment business so that obviously lends itself to why we would like to build apartments,"  said Capano, whose company manages some 4,000 apartments throughout the county. "But we do think it fits into the community and it is a thoughtful plan — not just a plan to make money."


Louis Capano III listens as residents critique is plans to develop Brandywine Country Club last week. 

The plan also includes the commercial reconfiguration of Capano's 200,000-square-foot Concord Square shopping center next door to the course on Concord Pike, currently anchored by Giant grocery store and Marshalls.

A portion of the shopping center's main building would be torn down to make way for the new boulevard stretching from Concord Pike through the new development to Shipley Road. To replace that lost retail space, two 5,500 square-foot commercial buildings would be situated in center's expansive and underused parking lot off Concord Pike.

The plan also calls for construction of a new, 10,000-square-foot commercial building behind the existing shopping center near the planned apartments, and all of this would be wrapped together by sidewalks and special pedestrian crossings intended to make the center an attractive, walkable place for the apartment dwellers, homeowners inside the development and other nearby residents.


Renderings depict homes a developer wants to build on the Brandywine Country Club property. (Photo: CAPANO MANAGEMENT/SUBMITTED)

Capano's plans to cluster the apartments near the shopping center's commercial offerings is similar to the recently approved redevelopment of the Concord Plaza office complex just south Capano's property.

Developer Buccini/Pollin Group plans to reformat that underused office complex by building 340 luxury apartments in six new buildings ranging from four to five stories. Three of those buildings will feature ground-floor shops and restaurants with apartments on the floors above. The plan also includes new office space.

Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area, said Concord Plaza and the commercial aspect of the country club development harken back to village-like developments that predate the automobile-dominated area.

Weiner said the Concord Pike corridor was developed in the post-World War II expansion of suburban development north of Wilmington where the village model was eventually cast aside for strip malls where motorists were the only "first-class citizens."

"It was developed in what was then the style of the day, which was a sea of asphalt parking lot that required an automobile to get to where you buy your milk and then drive somewhere else to do laundry, then somewhere else to get coffee," said Weiner, who emphasized his comments were addressing the commercial concepts of the plan, not his still-developing views on the suitability of the total country club development proposal.

"The demands of today are going back to the past, where people want a village with these mix of uses."

Traffic is a concern

While final plans have not yet been filed with the county, some 200 concerned residents blistered Capano and his cadre of attorneys and engineers at a public meeting last week when they presented the plan.

Their complaints ranged from impact to local schools, fears about stormwater runoff and an unwillingness to see the open space built over. The primary fear vocalized was the "traffic nightmare" hundreds of new residents would bring to the densely-populated area off Shipley Road — a two-lane thoroughfare that runs roughly parallel to Concord Pike from Penny Hill to Naaman's Road, sandwiching the club property.

Paul Steiner lives in nearby Pierson Farms and said it can take two to three minutes just to wade through traffic to get on Shipley from his neighborhood.


Residents review the plan to develop Brandywine Country Club at a public meeting in April. (Photo: XERXES WILSON/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

"By the time the cars stop coming from the left now they are coming from the right," Steiner said. "That is before you put in 700 new residents that need to leave at rush hour in the morning. It is just not feasible."

Concord Pike is a popular Pennsylvania-commuter thoroughfare and artery for its many shopping options. It sees about 50,000 trips up and down each day. For some of the 80,000 residents of Brandywine Hundred, Shipley Road is their path to avoid the traffic of the pike. That road sees around 10,000 vehicles along its busiest stretch each day.

John Tracey, Capano's attorney, said a preliminary traffic analysis showed the development would add some four percent to the traffic load on Concord Pike and 14 percent to Shipley Road. The development's traffic analysis has been blessed by state regulators and found none of the nearby intersections would be considered too clogged to block the project, he said.

He said the dense plan is favorable to a smaller plan that would concentrate traffic through one entrance and exit. He noted the traffic burden is being split between Concord Pike and Shipley and a less-dense development would not have the scale to make the cut-through to Concord Pike economically feasible.

"All that traffic would only be utilizing a single entrance and that would result in higher number of peak hour trips on Shipley Road," he said.

Tracey said the two-lane boulevard through the heart of the development to tie Concord Pike with Shipley, would be lined with "traffic calming" features to slow down vehicles.


Traffic moves along Shipley Road in front of the former Brandywine Country Club that is being planned for redevelopment. (Photo: JENNIFER CORBETT/THE NEWS JOURNA, The News Journal )

As a longtime resident, Meara said she knows and uses shortcuts to avoid Concord Pike traffic. She fears the planned boulevard will be a popular shortcut.

"I can't imagine I'm the only one doing that," Meara said. "That is the benefit of knowing your local roads –– at moments you can leave that huge traffic jam behind."

Tracey said residents are more cut through using Naaman's Road to the north or Silverside Road to the south of the new boulevard. Meara said the boulevard will be a more attractive shortcut because there will be fewer traffic lights to contend with.

"I think it opens up a much easier cut through in our backyards," Meara said.

Density and zoning

Some residents have called on government to end the debate and simply buy the property for open space. It's a common thread among other large developments of open space like the proposal to build nearly 300 new residences on a former orphanage property in Ogletown.

Weiner said government doesn't have the money to buy the course, even if it were for sale. And making such a purchase would create a pricey precedent.

"There is this pesky document known the U.S. constitution that ensures people life, liberty and property," Weiner said tongue-in-cheek. "So if you buy land that is zoned residential, you have a constitutional right to build homes."

While the traffic approval is based on a mathematical formula, Capano's concept will require County Council to approve a rezoning, which introduces some subjectivity into the equation.


John Culin poses for a portrait in the back yard of his home, which sits adjacent to the former Brandywine Country Club golf course, in Brandywine Hundred on Thursday evening. (Photo: KYLE GRANTHAM/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

Under the current zoning, Capano's firm would be able to build approximately 1.3 dwelling units for each of the property's 111 acres. There are some ways developers can boost that, but those would get the density nowhere close to the five-units-per-acre Capano is proposing.

Pragmatic residents predict the rezoning decision will dominate this development fight. John Culin, whose home backs up to the 11th hole, said their priority will be making sure the zoning change fails.

"It is a pipe dream to just leave it a park," Culin said. "I understand that is not going to happen. But in this area, every development is nice, normal single-family homes. Just make the development single family."

Capano said his firm is not attempting to maximize density, insisting that he is sensitive to community standards.

County standards for a zoning change weigh factors like the plan's consistency with the character of the surrounding area, the zoning of nearby parcels and effect on nearby properties.

Once a formal plan is submitted, it will be reviewed by a state board involving traffic, school and other public entities with opportunity for public comment.

Afterward, the proposal will go to the county's Planning Board, which will evaluate the application and again take public comment before the board and the county's planning professionals make a joint recommendation. Tracey said the earliest that could happen would be in the fall, and the plan is likely to be tweaked over the coming months.


Renderings depict homes a developer wants to build on the Brandywine Country Club property. (Photo: CAPANO MANAGEMENT/SUBMITTED)

Richard Hall, the general manager of the county's Land Use Department since February, said the department's recommendation will be based on some hard measures, but also more subjective judgments by the county's planning professionals. All decisions are not a "binary check box," he said.

"Everything is driven by the code but we are not robots, either," Hall said. "Our staff looks at what makes sense, uses experience and precedence and what we are hearing from the community and staff members. All that rolls together."

That recommendation is important because it motivates the decisions of County Council members who have no ties to the country club area. If the recommendation is negative, it takes a ten-member majority of council to approve the rezoning instead of a simple, seven-member majority.

The plan also will require a much smaller commercial rezoning to accommodate the reworking of the shopping center and one new commercial building.

Tracey said he will argue the plan is consistent with the county's longterm plans for growth and introduces density in a responsible way with the apartments closest to Concord Pike and the larger, single-family units closer to the neighborhoods off Shipley.


John Tracey, attorney for developer Louis Capano III, discusses the plan to develop Brandywine Country Club at a public meeting in April. (Photo: XERXES WILSON/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

"We believe the plan as presented, and will be modified, is absolutely consistent with the goals and desires of the (county's) comprehensive development plan," Tracey said.

Meara argued the rezoning will change resident's "quality of life" and tank local property values.

"It begs the question of who does that benefit," Meara said. "The zoning was put in place for the protection of residents. When the request comes it to change that, it put the needs of the developer ahead of the community."

The future of the Pike

The proposal to develop the club and rework the adjacent shopping center comes alongside several, big-ticket and smaller development projects that seek to introduce better walkability to Concord Pike.

Wilmington University recently won approval — along with a rare waiver from county traffic rules — to build a new campus at the intersection of Beaver Valley Road and Concord Pike. Construction is set to begin on the apartments and retail shops in Concord Plaza later this year.

Mike Hare, executive vice president for the Buccini-Pollin Group that owns the former DuPont Co. and AstraZeneca office complex, said his company saw an opportunity to "kick off" the mixed-use theme in Brandywine Hundred. He said his company is banking on the area's "dormant need" for modern-apartment living as well as job expansion happening at places like J.P. Morgan Chase's technology campus further down the pike.

"I think it is a trend that is sustainable and you will see more of," Hare said.

Capano described Concord Pike as the best real estate in Delaware, adding that its evolution into a more pedestrian-oriented setting is "just a matter of time." It's a slow process because of the layout and the multitude of small parcels that make up the commercial stretch.

"It is hard to redesign smaller parcels on Concord Pike," Capano said. "You are sort of limited by land. People will take advantage of it where they can, but it is difficult."

Weiner has for decades been working with planning groups to envision a series of walkable villages that will slowly take the place of the maze of curb cuts and strip malls along the pike. It's a slow process but one that will come to fruition with time, he said.

Added Weiner: "We as a community no longer desire to have silos of residential, commercial and office on our main street Concord Pike."

Weiner has for decades been working with planning groups to envision a series of walkable villages that will slowly take the place of the maze of curb cuts and strip malls along the pike. It's a slow process but one that will come to fruition with time, he said.

Added Weiner: "We as a community no longer desire to have silos of residential, commercial and office on our main street Concord Pike."

Back to the News Summary

Have news? Please contact me!

HOT TOPICS:
Important Safety Tips
File a Property Complaint
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:
7/24/2017
  DuPont Country Club sale worries neighbors. News Journal
7/11/2017
  Open Checkbook portal seeks to make New Castle Co. government more transparent
7/10/2017
  How New Castle County spends your tax dollars; Weiner has long supported openness and transparency

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:
7/24/2017
  DuPont Country Club sale worries neighbors. News Journal
7/11/2017
  Open Checkbook portal seeks to make New Castle Co. government more transparent
7/10/2017
  How New Castle County spends your tax dollars; Weiner has long supported openness and transparency
Upcoming events:
County Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings of each month
"In 70+ years I have never experienced such speedy action, professional courtesy and genuine interest from any elected official! New Castle County and the people therein are fortunate to have Bob Weiner and his staff working for them."

J. Mark Attix

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