The recent New Castle County Council vote to rezone Barley Mill to “commercial regional” zoning (i.e. very large stores with enormous parking lots) suggests that the 5 year comprehensive land use plan has little relevance to County land use decisions. Chris McEvilly, who lives in Westover Hills Woods near Barley Mill Plaza noted that “if the code can’t protect the community on a grand scale like this project, it can’t protect the community on any level.”
Bike Delaware executed an action alert, urgently requesting our members and constituent organizations to attend a series of meetings throughout the first half of 2011. A re-occurring theme heard among the clear majority centered around building more sustainable, village-like communities that were walkable and bikeable and served with public transportation. Places with strategic connections designed to alleviate congestion and the stress related to sitting in traffic. Places integrated with dedicated open space, with an eye on wildlife and the protection of natural and scenic corridors. Places similar to what we grew up with, that we respected, took lots of pride in, and could identify with.
The Stoltz company’s priorities are different. They have now received County Council’s go ahead to build a mega mall on property that will negatively affect all county citizens regardless of travel mode. The impact on the city of Wilmington – already struggling in this recession – could be catastrophic. There is no finer example of “business as usual” where land use is concerned, and is very discouraging for those who participated in the 5 year plan workshops. It is obvious that corporate interests are worth more than livability, quality of life, even the lives of those who will be killed or injured trying to navigate the surrounding arterial highways built strictly around high speed driving.
With no obvious recourse, where do we go from here? Neither Citizens for Responsible Growth (which testified in favor of rezoning to commercial regional as a better alternative to Stoltz’s original plan) nor Save Our County (an ad hoc and possibly temporary coalition which failed to persuade the Council to vote against commercial regional rezoning) appear ready to lead Delaware to better land use decisions in the future. Perhaps we need something else? Maybe we need a group like Oregon’s “1,000 Friends?” in Delaware?