Sunday, September 2, 2018

STOP: Townsend, Osienski in damage control mode

How ironic is it that Rep Osienski and Senator Townsend sent out letters to adjacent neighborhoods, that they are working on 'permission' from the new Orphanage Property owner and developer (Bob Sipple) to allow the building of public trails through the remains of the Orphanage Property woods?

Imagine if they had the foresight to send a letter in 2013? Imagine had they sent this before any of the development plans were even drawn up, to give residents and Advocates a chance to intervene? Beyond any shadow of a doubt, they would have begun working with the Felician Sisters and Tom Gordon for a regional park, and the odds of success overwhelming. But no, they did not, because as Advocates have so clearly demonstrated time and time again, they wanted this Chestnut Hill "Preserve" to happen.

The letter accuses Advocates of putting out "inaccurate information" No, they did not. They posted speculative information here and on social media pages about what could happen, in light of the fact that Gender Road access will likely be cut off, due to the Adverse Possession lawsuit pending. And don't be fooled; a connection to Todd II or Breezewood would still happen if it became a matter of building the development by code, or because safety demanded it. Remember, when needed, Emergency Services and Police will need to be able to get into the development quickly and safely. Right now there is only one access - the developer wanted two, and in the end, DelDOT will have the final say.

IF Townsend and Osienski have so much power to over-rule DelDOT and NCC in this matter, why didn't they intervene and demand Meyer make a good faith effort to Save The Orphanage Property? Even if they are correct, and they manage to stop any other connections, the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" is 269 Dwelling Units. The Unified Development Code calls for a bi-directional, signalized intersection for over 300 DUs, so we're looking at just under that number. It is a foregone conclusion that at some point in the future, DelDOT will upgrade Route 4 to better accommodate congestion and close-call issues at the CHP, using tax payer dollars.

Like so many other facts we've stated -- and not once have been disputed -- another glaring fact is how these two (and NCC's Diller, equally at fault) refuse to take one ounce of responsibility for the disaster unfolding. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that the region is completely disenfranchised because of them; that they held the only ever opportunity for a regional park in the palm of their hands, and threw it away. The time to save it was when they first learned of the smallest possibility of development - but instead, their inaction, disinterest, and lack of public engagement allowed the CHP to move forward to the point where it would be difficult, though not impossible, to stop it. So what did they do? Handed responsibility to newly elected NCC Exec Mat Meyer, himself bought off by construction interests and having zero vested interest in the region or a park.

So now it's election time, and they're in full damage control mode. Their folly is unfolding right here in front of us. We see it, and it's time for new leadership. Don't be taken; vote all 3 -- Diller, Osienski, and Townsend -- OUT of office on Nov. 6!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

STOP's Greatest Memes: Part 1

By wildly popular demand, here are the first half-dozen of our most poignant, revealing, and/or disturbing MEMEs published by STOP Advocates throughout the first 3 years of the campaign. Each has their own story to tell about failed leadership, hypocrisy, trashing democracy, and throwing constituents under the bus. There is so much shame to go around, we have to publish these in a series.

The Catholic Church is a self-proclaimed charitable organization, supposedly putting the greater good first, ahead of the wealthy few. They claim to uphold Christ's mission of peace and love, and of late, Pope Francis and his encyclical concerning environmental stewardship. Or so they say. Apparently, it never occurred to the Nuns to give, or even partially gift the land to their neighbors in the form of accepting Meyer's inadequate buyout offer. The church put maximizing profits first, and to hell with the people, planet, and wildlife.

With Councilwoman Diller
publicly stating that "she didn't own the property and couldn't make them sell it", she declared herself "DONE" and "FINISHED" on numerous occasions, unwilling to support STOP Advocate's efforts. It fell on NCC Executive Meyer, who had multiple opportunities to clinch a buyout with shared funding between the County and State, and as we know, he failed miserably.

It is far from clear why all 3 legislators -- Diller, Osienski, and Townsend -- trusted Exec Meyer to negotiate all by himself. Meyer was only elected in 2016. He isn't from the area, and took numerous campaign donations from developer and construction interests. Though he lies to the contrary, as quoted here in an email to us, he has no respect or regard for open space and the natural environment -- never mind quality of life in Ogletown-S. Newark.

Shortly after Diller leaked news of the Orphanage Property's impending doom in July 2015, Rep Ed Osienski admitted that he and the other legislators were following the Felician Sister's plans for at least 2 years prior. This came as a total shock to residents and Advocates, who were just now confronted with a completed exploratory plan and the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" marching forward, full steam ahead.

Like Diller being "done" and "finished", Osienski held nothing back in 2015, quoted at various meetings that the development "is going to happen" regardless. At the end of the STOP campaign, he played a very different tune, expressing sorrow, regret, and disappointment that STOP didn't "happen".

One of the very first excuses from Senator Townsend. He did little or nothing to inform the public and Advocates of impending development for two years (2013-2015) because, well, he just didn't think it would happen. However, he insists that he told a few constituents in adjacent communities that were present at their local HOA meetings.

When 8 acres of prime habitat area in his district came under threat of development, Rep Kowalko not only notified his constituents, he went public, ensuring that Advocates were aware of the threat. Even those outside his district were well in the know, early in the game.

Friday, August 10, 2018

STOP price tag was 10% the cost of the Route 9 Library

Isn't it shocking
to think that the Legislators only needed to raise approx 1/10 the cost of the Rt.9 library (that's right ... 1/10) to save the Orphanage Property? All three -- Councilwoman Diller, Rep Osienski, and Senator Townsend were first aware of the Nun's intentions to sell and build low income housing in 2013. They should have known the grave threat that presented to the entire open space, especially given certain ordinances. These include "workforce housing", compliments of Penrose Hollins, where this vast buildout (Chestnut Hill "Preserve") was actually a condition of the Nuns receiving a tax credit. Is that crazy or what?

Instead of keeping this all a big secret, the legislators should have known that the most appropriate use of the land was for parkland, and immediately enlisted constituents and advocates to oppose it. A fight could have been led against NCC, demanding that they waive (they can do that) Hollins' ordinance. Instead, the legislators stayed mum, waiting until it was too late -- 2 years later in fact. Then Diller leaked it in 2015, leading to the bloodbath at Holy Family Church that July.

If the property appraised at $5.9M, less than 3M would have been required from the State side for an even 50/50 match with NCC. Instead, Townsend and Osienski go around taking credit for achieving $1.25M in the bond bill, with only their promise of a second installment a year later. That gave Meyer all the excuse he needed to throw the Orphanage Property away, at one point even saying that Townsend lied having promised $6M in the bond bill.

How much clearer can it be that they wanted the development to take place? That their developer friends and donors came first? 2013-14-15-16 -- the first three with Gordon -- and both Osienski and Townsend couldn't round up a $3M match for NCC funds. Yet they just love to blame NCC Exec Meyer (who arrived late in the game) for screwing the pooch. Had the alarm sounded in the 2013-14 time frame, Gordon would have jumped at the chance of State matching funds, and worked with the Nuns to rezone as necessary for the low income housing, and spin off the rest for a regional park. We know this because Gordon called us in the Summer of 2016 and we talked in person about it. He just needed to defeat Meyer in the primary and the rest would have been history we're sure. But that didn't happen; Meyer narrowly defeated Gordon.

In no way does this excuse Meyer, because he could have made STOP happen in the 11th hour. Obviously, his campaign donors dictated otherwise. But it never should have come down to Meyer in the first place; Both State Legislators and Diller had a clear opportunity to wrap this up years before he arrived at the scene.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

STOP: No word yet on the Adverse Possession Claim

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

There has been no official word yet on the Adverse Possession claim/lawsuit, which threatens to reduce the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" development to only one access point in one direction on Route 4. It is difficult to imagine everyone U-turning in or out and not effecting safety and congestion issues through Ogletown now, including existing LOS failures at intersections. That, and having to navigate through low income housing as a daily routine. Both of these issues, for every new resident's average 9 car trips per day, per household according to FHWA statistics. The McMansion people back in the woods are just going to love that, aren't they?

The question we are asked daily is this; how will Sipple (the developer) deal with this; will he simply accept the limited access and go forward with the full plan anyway? Or will he look to buy ROW from Holy Family Church, perhaps through their parking lot? An off-alignment connection, that can only use Gender Rd, is seen as a critical part of the plan -- not just to Sipple, but to DelDOT as well.

According to the Unified Development Code (UDC), a signalized 2-way intersection is compulsory when a development exceeds 300 dwelling units (DUs). The Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve" is 269. They seriously want this second connection out to Gender and that's why this lawsuit is taking place (supposedly it is; Advocates have heard nothing).

Assuming the case is genuine, and Mr Stranahan isn't bought off, our prediction here at STOP is that he -- the plaintiff -- wins his claim for Adverse Possession. Sipple's "Tree of Heaven Way" is now blocked from Gender. Sipple then goes to Holy Family Church; if they don't give up enough ROW for a through road segment, they will refer back to their original plan of connecting to Waverly Rd in Breezewood, making Skyview the through road out to Gender. Townsend has already insisted this won't happen, however, he and Osienski have proven time and time again that they are a joke; they are weak and ineffectual at stopping or standing up for anything, unless they or their minions profit from it, of course.

The other thing we should look for -- assuming all these second connection ideas fail -- is DelDOT reconstructing Route 4 at that location and adding a signalized intersection. If not now, then inevitably down the road. That would come at taxpayer expense, of course. But then hey, why not, right? They keep raising taxes to pay for all of the services that these new DUs require, that NCC cannot afford. The Legislators and County Council have already lowered property values on area residents by allowing Section 8 housing, and stripping any notion of a regional park -- which would have enhanced quality of life and increased property values. They're just batting a thousand, aren't they?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Flashback 7/17: Legislators blow off final chance to STOP

By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly

Memories of 1 year ago, and the colossal failure on the part of our "legislators" to save the Orphanage Property, and the last chance ever for a regional park in Ogletown/Rt.4.

NCC Exec Meyer offers to buy the land on behalf of the County and the State, at appraised value only, despite close to a million dollars in developer planning, engineering and labor that would have to be absorbed. The Sisters offered to "meet halfway" on that, as long as Meyer produced a buyout agreement containing basic conditions (i.e. who's going to plow the snow at the entry road, etc) that they previously agreed upon in prior meetings. But Meyer wouldn't budge, instead producing a buyout agreement that doesn't address said conditions. District 5 Councilwoman Lisa Diller supported Meyer's stance, saying that paying above appraised value would be unfair and unacceptable to taxpayers, even though Diller herself endorsed paying over appraised value for the land required for the $30M Library on Rt.9. On the other hand, saving the Orphange Property -- in Diller's own district -- would have cost NCC a mere 10% of that!

Wow; they knew EXACTLY how their constituents felt, in that they would rather have the "Chestnut Hill Preserve" than spend a little over appraised value!

WNJ: "In an interview Saturday, Meyer declined to directly address his correspondence with the Sisters or say whether negotiation ends with this rejection. He did indicate his administration is done making offers for now and it is up to the Sisters to counter".
  • Where was Diller, Rep Ed Osienski and Sen Bryan Townsend during these negotiations? Since they were absent, why didn't they insert themselves during and after, and demand that Meyer write a fair and viable buyout offer with the conditions he had already promised the Sisters?
  • Why was it incumbent on the Sisters to "counter", when they already had a much better offer from the Developer with a finished plan? They were agreeable to a park, but it was the Legislators that SHOULD have wanted it most on behalf of their constituents, and thus fervently pursued it.
  • Two months passed while Meyer waited for the Sisters to "counter", and with that, the final buyout opportunity expired. During that time, he came on a tour of the Orphanage Property with area residents, resolute that he would save the land if his apprenticeship reform bill was passed by NCC Council -- of which a modified version did.
  • Townsend was having "nightly phone calls" with the Nuns over this period. Why wasn't HE and Osienski livid, insisting that Meyer accept the slight over-appraised cost and include the conditions he promised them, or they would call on Gov Carney to act? The State has ultimate veto authority, and can invoke Eminent Domain if called upon.
The whole thing is foul, wretched, stinking of collusion between each of the NCC and State legislators. They knew that development was coming all the way back to 2013, and now they had to cover themselves -- that they were actually trying to stop it. But from Osienski's very words alone ("it [the development] is going to happen, it's going to happen"), we knew they weren't trying; not even close.

If the Legislators truly made a mistake by waiting until July 2015 to spring the completed exploratory plan on the public -- too late for residents and advocates to stop it -- they would have been an overwhelming presence at Meyer's negotiations and demanded he complete a fair purchase of the Orphanage Property. That or involve the Governor and overrule Meyer and NCC from the State side. Instead, they stood idly by, trusting Meyer to go it alone; a man who was just elected, isn't from the area, took numerous campaign contributions from developer and construction interests, and has no respect or regard for quality of life in Ogletown-S. Newark.

November can't come soon enough, folks. Let's boot these cretinous profitmongers from elected office; please help by spreading the word, sharing our posts, and joining in future action calls and alerts.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ogletown Park: Setting the record straight

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock, STOP

Senator Bryan Townsend and Representative Ed Osienski, in this Timeline, attempt to defend their actions in their failure to succeed in saving the Orphanage Property for parkland. They want you to believe that they did everything that they could to save the land. THEY DID NOT. Here, after our careful review, is a list, which summarizes our findings, to give you an idea of the inconsistencies that we uncovered. Their "timeline" has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

Here are those key points...

1) Senator Townsend and Rep. Osienski, from the time that they claim to have been made aware of the possibility of development in 2013, over two years before the July 2015 Public Meeting at Holy Family Church, FAILED to notify their Constituents, in writing to each and every household, especially engaging those who would be directly affected, such as those homeowners immediately bordering the property, in time for them to voice their concerns and to participate with Legislators, the Felician Sisters, and their neighbors in finding an acceptable alternative to the massive and devastating development that we are now facing. They failed to hold early public meetings, which should have been advertised and specifically addressing the possibility of development. Indeed, Rep. Osienski on his FB page, arrogantly stated that he "didn't think that a four year grassroots campaign, as opposed to a two year one" would have made a difference. WRONG; it would have made all the difference!

2) Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski FAILED to communicate with the Felician Sisters in a manner where they would have been made aware of how the Sisters were progressing in their plans for development. Their Timeline shows large portions of time gone by where they failed to reach out to the Sisters to check on the progress of the tax credit that the Sisters intended to keep applying for.

3) In spite of the strong photographic and other evidence presented by homeowners, Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski FAILED to address, and fight for, the very real drainage/flooding concerns of their constituents in Todd Estates 2 and Breezewood, who may now suffer devastating personal and financial consequences as this development goes through as planned. Although they did visit some neighbors who had flooding issues, it was reported to us by those neighbors (who are willing to be identified if necessary) that these concerns were not taken seriously.

4) Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski FAILED to object to the appointment of Joseph Setting (Orphanage Property developer) and Michael Hoffman (from the legal firm representing the Sisters) to Chairmanship positions in County Exec. Meyer's Parks Transition Team. They were both aware that Setting in particular had a strongly vested interest in developing the Orphanage Property, and so they were morally and ethically bound to raise an objection, protect their Constituents, and cite these appointments as a conflict of interest. However, they did not. With the Campaign over, and the land forever lost, Senator Townsend recently went one cruel step further, by claiming that these appointments were indeed NOT a conflict, because the Parks Team did prioritize the need for Ogletown parkland as #3 most important. He never once realized that, at #3, saving the Orphanage Property would never become a reality from Meyer's budget restraints alone, never mind stop the bulldozers. Setting, in a sneaky, crafty way, made sure of that.

5) Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski FAILED  to respond to, or investigate, the legality of the Traffic Impact Study (TIS). Although Sen Townsend said that he read the County Law, and from his perspective, he felt the study was inconclusive, knowledgeable Advocates -- one of whom contributed to writing the UDC -- brought forth claims that the TIS was flawed and incorrectly recorded to exclude failed signalized intersections that, by law, are required to be included. This means that, by law, building over 50 units in total would be illegal - and so the development can be, and should be halted. Despite numerous pleas from Advocates, imploring them to investigate this claim and object to the project on that basis, both refuse to address this issue. Senator Townsend also stated to Advocates that he didn't think that the development would impact Rt.4 traffic congestion, despite the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) studies that show an average of 9 car trips per day per household in the U.S. (x 270 new housing units).

We hope that you will consider all of the points presented here, and that you will re-read their Timeline and conclude for yourself what we have already concluded - that, NO MATTER what they say otherwise, these two Legislators FAILED their Constituents by not acting at an earlier date, in time for the development (the Chestnut Hill "Preserve") to be halted before it was too late. We believe that their failure to do so ultimately contributed to this development progressing to a point where it was too late to stop it from happening. Their efforts came too late, and contributed to the loss. For this, they must take responsibility.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Where's the Rt.4 Park? A Conversation With Senator Bryan Townsend

Well, folks, we had a fascinating Facebook conversation with Senator Bryan Townsend today, started off by one of his constituents asking simply "Where's the Route 4 park?". We have repeated on numerous occasions, and in articles on this website, that both State Legislators (including Rep Ed Osienski) are equally at fault for the loss of the Orphanage Property.
Unlike other States, most of Delaware does not have local jurisdiction, like a city, township or borough. Nor do we have the ability to draft and put up referendums on the ballot, i.e. open space funding via a minuscule sin tax as commonly seen in most other States. This is something that, like 10-9 funding (failed) and Open Space as a Democrat Party Plank (failed), we would have worked very hard on to secure funding. Therefore, our County and State Legislators are given a significantly elevated responsibility to act in the people's best interests, throughout the districts they serve.

We knew from very early on that Councilwoman Lisa Diller was completely useless; a colossal failure who did virtually nothing for STOP. Exec Meyer arrived late on the scene with his election in 2016, and with no State Legislator oversight, simply threw away this one time-only opportunity. But along with Diller, both Rep Ed Osienski and Sen Bryan Townsend knew way back in 2013 that the property was under the threat of development, and did not act in the manner one would expect if you're trying to save it.

BT (Bryan Townsend):  As I’ve said before, I’m crushed that we didn’t acquire that land. I did everything I could do. Please read this link, and let me know if you have any questions about what happened:

AC (Ange Connolly, STOP):  Unfortunately, you did not ... starting with keeping it from the public for several years when that precious time would certainly have made a difference.

BT:  Ange, no one kept anything from the public. In particular, residents who attend their community meetings heard from us about what limited information we did have.

FW (Frank Warnock, STOP):  Please stop lying, Bryan. How come everyone in Kowalko's district -- and those beyond like us -- knew immediately when 8 acres of habitat came under threat? You and Ed did virtually nothing to inform the public and notify advocates and community leaders from 2013-2015.

FW:  You also did not even float the idea of eminent domain, or getting the governor involved. You also stood idly by and allowed a huge window to close while Meyer farted around even coming on a tour of the property with us.

BT:  Frank, we did lobby the Governor, whose team did speak with County officials. We did not allow a window to close; we secured State funding at a time when County had indicated funding was the threshold issue. I was keeping you posted throughout that whole time period, with a consistent combo of phone calls, emails, and in-person meetings. In my grief over failing to save the property, I remember vividly who fought for the property and who didn’t; in your grief, you seem to have forgotten.

FW:  Why didn't the Governor, and you, and Ed, and Sen Sokola, and Rep. Paul Baumbach, and a host of others that were supposedly on board override Meyer? The State has the ultimate authority and can do so -- even if it requires Eminent Domain. You could have demanded this, and/or threatened to resign over it. Your constituents should come first, above your own self-interests.

BT:  Frank, it wasn't possible to "override" Meyer or the County, particularly once state legislative session was over. Remember, everyone thought it was a 50-50 partnership, and the key step was getting enough funding to have the Sisters take the State/County seriously and finalize an agreement. We were able to get State funding, and that should have started the dominoes falling in a positive direction. But when it didn't (because of County tactics and decisions), it wasn't possible for the State to go back and re-do the framework. We were done with legislative session until January 2018. Now, of course, in hindsight, we wish we had seen what might happen with the County, and tried to come up with a work-around where the State would be the 100% purchaser. But we never thought the County would so dramatically fail on this project. Four other quick points: (1) the State may have the ultimate legal authority **generally**, but it would take a long time, if at all, to somehow change the law and take parks/land-use power back from the County... it simply does not work that way, especially snap-of-the-finger timing and especially when the legislature is not in session; (2) Eminent Domain has never been used in the way you are suggestion, and in fact DNREC's own law in the Delaware Code forbids this kind of acquisition via eminent domain; (3) you keep saying that we should have "threatened to resign" when County wasn't cooperating --- that is entirely childish behavior, and no one, no one, no one at County would have cared if two state legislators were threatening to resign for not getting what we wanted... in fact, resigning (or losing re-election) would be what those individuals might want to see, because then they would not have to worry about disagreeing with us anymore; (4) I put my constituents first, always, including on this project... there were no "self-interests" for me that distracted me from 100% supporting this project, including convincing my State colleagues to allocate funding... and I clearly remember the many, many times you and I communicated about this issue in real-time, and the times I literally handed my newborn son back to my exhausted wife so I could hop on yet another phone call to try and broker a successful deal here, to try and do everything possible to make that land a regional park for a hard-working community that deserves it... in those final weeks, you and I coordinated frequently, and it is unfortunate that we were not successful, and that you now are on a path where you lump those of who stepped up into the same categories as those who did not.

FW:  You will never, ever convince us, Bryan. If a giant sinkhole opened up on Rt.4 in front of the Orphanage Property, the State would have immediately found $7+M to fix it. Ditto with a bridge collapse, or an emergency need for land in any other situation. They found $30M to buy out Glenville. The money is always there when something is this important, as this was, and there is lots of precedent for it. The Bond Bill can be amended in any emergency, or sought after for emergency funding if required. The point is, this wasn't an emergency to you or Ed. To us it was. That is the difference between us and that will never change.

And no, I would have told my colleagues on the bond committee and in Leg Hall that this is of incredible importance and that your political career is on the line (we obviously hope it is now). You could have stated you would be forced to consider resignation given the political fallout, because yes, the constituents come first. You never once told us you spoke with Gov Carney and what actions he was taking, so as far as STOP is concerned, that is hearsay, but we'll gladly look at any emails between you two if you have them.

The fact -- if true -- that eminent domain wouldn't work, and that overruling the County would take too long; that's not our problem. You're the State Senator and speak for the State, as does Ed, and again, if true, that is a colossal failure on the part of State Govt. Again, in virtually any other emergency funding situation, your excuses would have no merit -- the money would be there.

BT:  Frank, I’m sorry that you seem to forget that State money was there, and that our previously announced County partner decided not to prioritize the project in the final critical days and weeks. In your anger, you’re pointing to inapplicable or untimely theories (like eminent domain against a willing seller) and blaming all officials, even those who actually fought for the project. It’s your right to do so, and your right to advocate for other candidates at election time, but it’s unfortunate to see you ignore the clear record of advocacy, the fellowship that had been built, and the need to hold accountable those people who did not try their best.

FW:  The money wasn't there. Only $1.25M is not $6M. Many even believe that the 1.25 was only put there as a decoy; a CYA. Something for you and Ed to be able to point to, and say "see? we tried".

Again, had this been any other pressing need for State land acquisition, the money would have been there. It always is. Just give the word and we will start researching the vast amounts of precedent for emergency bond/budget funding and start posting on it. STOP more than qualified.

You can blame Exec Meyer and NCC, but with plenty of recourse at your disposal, you and Rep. Ed Osienski failed. Period. Either your donors came first, or it just wasn't important enough. You had yourself convinced that even if it was hot button, you would survive the fallout -- and you just might given your ability to deflect blame and put it on others very convincingly.

The Sisters were the willing seller. Sipple acquiring it was the point it was presumed not [for sale]. There is tons of precedent for eminent domain being used in numerous contexts. It would have been very appropriate at the point that Meyer failed and the land was presumed locked in for development. You should know this; you are an attorney.

FW:  Have you even spoken with Sipple, to ask if a price tag may just exist for buying it now? Nothing is built yet; it appears the land is being prepped and they might just start the low income housing first. Is there a price -- say, $9+M, that Sipple would accept to halt work and sell beyond the low income housing? The State discovered hundreds of millions in surplus this year. The price difference would be virtually negligible in comparison.

Oh wait, we forgot -- it's going to be spent on men taking months off from work on maternal leave. That is just soooo much more important than saving our natural environment and quality of life, right there with fighting lead paint chips. Nice!

FW:  BT said: "It wasn't possible to "override" Meyer or the County, particularly once state legislative session was over."

This is completely absurd, and if true, then the State needs to re-write its laws of governance. What happens when other crisis' arise, and "the legislative session is over?" What happens when any other emergency funding authorization is needed during this time? What if there was any other emergency, and they had to vote on something during this time? Is everyone just SOL, even left to die in an extreme case, just because "the legislative session is over?" That argument is a complete non-starter, Bryan.

And yes, Meyer could have been over-ridden, if from no one else, the Gov's office. If he can't, then NCC is autonomous and what's the point in having the State? What good are you, then? NCC's laws of governance are even written and applied from the State's code, and that tells anyone with a brain who has ultimate authority and veto power in extreme circumstances at least.

FW:  BT said: "DNREC's own law in the Delaware Code forbids this kind of acquisition via eminent domain"

Again, fail. True -- for conservation or open space protection. Under the context of public use, eminent domain for the purpose of a regional park facility -- for a region that does not have one and now never will -- is allowable and right in line with what's permitted. [DE Title 29]

BT:  Frank, your legal analysis is incorrect, as are the conclusions you are drawing about what happened. I appreciate your passion, I enjoyed working with you on this project, and I regret deeply that we were not successful and regret that you have decided to take the slash-and-burn approach

We sincerely appreciate Sen Townsend's polite decorum in this discussion and on his page in general. However, his acute ignorance and denial of how the Govt operates (and/or should operate) in terms of priority and jurisdiction is sad and troubling. Saving the Orphanage Property was anything but impossible from the State side -- either through emergency legislative intervention in Exec Meyer's flubbing of the buyout, or the State going it alone via eminent domain or emergency provisions in the Bond Bill. None of this is without precedent. Yet there is nothing more Townsend would like right now than to "move on" from STOP and hope it fades from memory. That simply isn't possible and Advocates and Constituents alike will continue to remind him of that for the duration of his political career.

Monday, July 9, 2018

STOP: State Legislators Must Go. Here's Why

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

How ironic is it
that Sen Townsend and Rep Osienski go around telling everyone that blame for losing the Orphanage Property falls squarely on New Castle County. We hope that anyone listening to them sees this for what it is; a LIE. Not only does the State of Delaware have the ultimate authority and veto power, but the laws of County governance all come from the State, i.e.

§ 1166 Election of County Executive and officials of the county governing body.

(a) County Executives shall serve a term of 4 years and shall be elected in even-numbered and presidential election years.

(b) The officials elected to district 13 shall serve a term of 4 years and shall be elected in even-numbered presidential election years. (more)

See it all here, pages upon pages of strict laws for how the Counties are to operate:

Yet Osienski and Townsend
actually tell their constituents that they couldn't attend the buyout negotiations between Exec Meyer and the Felician Sisters -- even with the State half stakeholder? That from early on, the two couldn't pull Diller aside, and with the ultra-critical nature of STOP, demand that she take charge and/or be a champion? That they couldn't investigate the many serious allegations brought forward by STOP Advocates, including the breach of NCC Code with the failed traffic impact study? What about Meyer's ethics scandal with the developers and the Parks Team, that was dismissed by the so-called NCC "Ethics" Commission? That the buyout couldn't be made solely from the State side, of which there is plenty of precedent? That they couldn't pursue Eminent Domain? Shall we go on?

We sincerely hope you're not believing them, folks, because they are going to go around to meetings, canvasing, attending events, and denying everything in order to stay competitive come November. The facts are very transparent; both Legislators could have made STOP happen, and they chose not to. They chose to leave our fate up to an incompetent Councilwoman Diller, and a newly elected NCC Exec Meyer, after keeping it a secret for 2+ precious years from 2013-2015. News of the Nun's intentions (and by then the full exploratory plan) was leaked in 2015, but that was too late for past Exec Gordon; had citizens and Advocates known sooner -- while he was still in office for a time -- he surely would have committed to saving the land as a regional park.

Don't believe them, folks. Sad as it is, former STOP Advocates are putting their own 3rd party loyalty aside in this election cycle, to actively advertise and campaign for viable opposition candidates in the 2-party system. That is a major sacrifice for us/them, but it's time to clean house, regardless. Stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead for events and opportunities to attend and/or volunteer!

Se Also:  STOP holds State legislators equally accountable. Here's why

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

STOP Advocates to meet with opposing candidates

Advocates from the Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) campaign will be meeting with candidates from opposing political parties -- regardless of affiliation -- to discuss how they can assist in their campaign(s). As we approach November, they will be organizing events along Rt.4 in front of the Orphanage Property, near Shop Rite, and other strategic locations. Large signs, painted bed sheets, banners, etc are planned, and volunteers will be waving to passing motorists during weekend days (and possibly a few weekdays during rush hour traffic).

The focus of this effort will be to remind voters about this horrible travesty, and that "We The People" and Majority Rule (aka Democracy) were blatantly violated by those currently in office. Councilwoman Diller, Rep Osienski, Sen Townsend .... any one of them could have been a champion. They could have demanded action to save this land, putting their job on the line if necessary. They did not; instead, they gave free pass to special interests, giving them a generous return on their campaign contributions. This is completely unacceptable and we hope you will join us in reminding the voters of this as we approach election time.

You can message STOP any time if you are interested in joining this effort, which will combine with whatever campaign help the candidates can rally. Two candidates representing the Republican Party are working volunteer development at the present time, and a list is being compiled. We expect there to be plenty of support, even by those from opposing parties that have simply said "enough is enough" to the corruption now on full display throughout NCC and State Government.

REMINDER: There are now less than 4 WEEKS for someone to step up and challenge Lisa Diller for NCC Dist. 5. Please keep your eyes and ears open for anyone willing to run, even as an independent. Failure here and the region will find itself stuck with her for another term. For information on how you can help, email:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

NCC Ethics Commission letter of dismissal

Our many followers have been asking us for the details of this complaint's outcome, so we are posting the letter (though listed as "confidential") by the New Castle County Ethics Commission formally dismissing STOP's complaint against Executive Matthew Meyer. An email to the representing attorney for approval, dated June 21, went unanswered -- so we take that as confirmation that there are no objections that the letter be posted here. Because this complaint was filed on behalf of the entire Community, our neighbors, and STOP followers, we feel obligated to share the letter in its entirety.

The complaint was lodged because when Meyer took office in 2016, he set up a "Parks Transition Team" whose Chair and members would  have direct involvement in the prioritization of regional parks for those without one. We alleged that a serious conflict of interest occurred when Meyer assigned Chair and other positions on the team to both the developer of the Orphanage Property, and an attorney from Tarabicos-Grosso, the law firm representing the Felician Sisters in their effort to sell the land.

We completely disagree with the outcome regardless of how it came through. No one looks at our situation and doesn't immediately call "conflict of interest!" We were approached numerous times by Community members, who questioned how this could not be a conflict of interest. We were encouraged by everyone who knew about it to lodge a formal complaint, which we did. The fact that the NCC Ethics Commission would dismiss such a blatant conflict of interest raises serious questions as to their true purpose. It makes one wonder if they are even perhaps provided instructions to ignore infractions committed by the region's legislators and others with a vested interest in development.

We have come to the absolute, undeniable conclusion that from Day 1, the STOP fix was in. The evidence is overwhelming. The region's Legislators (County & State) were already in the pockets of developer interests as far back as 2011, when it was first apparent that the Sisters wanted to sell and/or develop the land. They knew that by July 2015, when hundreds showed up at Holy Family Church in protest, it was too late for any citizen advocacy effort to stop it.

What they failed to grasp was that the community wasn't stupid, and wasn't going to roll over and just go away. Once they realized the strength of the STOP movement, and the in-depth knowledge that folks now had about their filthy land-use laundry, they moved quickly to shore up everyone and everything that could be used against them and the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". As we're seeing now, this also included the NCC Ethics Commission, members of which were appointed by Exec Meyer himself (conflict of interest #2).

As written in a previous article, we remain hopeful that no one who supported STOP will be taken in by the region's 3 elected Legislators and Meyer himself -- the 4 of whom caused this travesty. Each is highly skilled at defense of the indefensible, and turning an argument completely around until it implicates the innocent or what's justifiable. Nothing about throwing away the Orphanage Property -- forever -- is justified, nor are the years of inaction on the part of the Legislators and keeping it from the public (and then Exec Gordon for a chance to save it). The evidence is clear that these "leaders" never once had the community and their constituents in mind and at heart; It would appear that the bottom line is much more important. And the end result is a massive tragedy that will impact Ogletown, and its surrounding communities, forever.

See Also:

Conflict of Interest is not enough for Ethics Commission

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meyer's deceit on full display at Glasgow Park

By Angela Connolly

New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer spent part of Friday, June 8th on WDEL's Susan Monday show, attending the Pets In The Park event at Glasgow Park. He was speaking on air about the virtues of county and regional parks, and how valuable they are. He said they are a source of healthy physical activity, and that NCC's focus is to now make connections between different parks so that people can walk and bike to them. He spoke very enthusiastically of parks, almost convincing one that he actually supports them.

What a colossal joke Meyer is, and what a slap in the face to the people of Ogletown.

Meyer, himself a cyclist -- or so he claims -- willingly sacrificed the Orphanage Property in Ogletown-S.Newark, which was the region's last chance to have walkable and bikeable access to such a facility. The nearest access is, and always will be a ~20 min car drive away in either Glasgow or Pike Creek. Meanwhile, Meyer continued on -- talking about the benefits of Rockwood Park, the Delaware Greenway in Wilmington, possibilities for parks in Middletown, etc. He will need the votes of N. Wilmington (and Middletown, the Parks Transition Team's #1 priority for parks) for re-election, and seemingly, has them locked up.

Meyer will not be getting votes from the humble people in Ogletown-South Newark and beyond, unless they enjoy losing open space, more noise, more light pollution, dirtier air, and sitting longer in traffic -- yet he seems accepting of that fact. Before the actual construction takes place, we in the Ogletown region are condemned to the huge dump trucks and heavy machinery, and the dead animals that line the roadway are the region's new reality. There will be no beautiful park for us to enjoy, unless we drive to one that isn't ours. And having to drive to a park is contrary to the Liveable Delaware initiative that former Governor Ruth Ann Minner wanted for us, one where everyone would have access to clean, healthy spaces, and be protected from excess development.

Meyer knowingly threw away saving the Orphanage Property. He had a STOP buyout deal in the palm of his hands, but simply wouldn't close it, which is a crime in its own right. But had Senator Townsend, Rep Osienski and NCC's Diller engaged the Community when they first learned the Sisters wanted to build (as far back as 2011), and had they engaged the then County Executive Tom Gordon, who had a stellar record of obtaining parkland (including Glasgow park!), our outcome could have been entirely different. Instead, those three local Legislators were secretive about the Sister's plans, when going public could have made all the difference in the world.

So the public didn't know that the Orphanage Property was facing destruction until it was already committed, but the Legislators sure did. They knew of the project as early as 2013, over two full years before the public gathered at Holy Family Church in July 2015 to learn about the plans, already well underway. When confronted by Advocates and trying to defend himself, Rep Ed Osienski even arrogantly stated on Facebook "Many feel more public notice and a four-year, instead of a two year, community grassroots campaign would have made the difference. I don’t believe that." Additionally, long periods of time went by where Townsend and Osienski failed to touch base with the Sisters, to check on the progress of their plans. And so this is why we hold ALL four Legislators accountable. The Chestnut Hill "Preserve" should NEVER have got to the advanced stage that it did. Steps to save it should have been taken years earlier, with Legislators putting their jobs on the line if necessary. That is the mark of true leadership; putting the greater good ahead of your own political aspirations, which we now know is a foreign concept to Townsend, Osienski, Meyer and Diller. The focus now must be replacing these Legislators with leaders who will truly look out for the citizens that they are supposed to protect.

Friday, June 1, 2018

ChangeLab: Creating an Equitable Parks System

Cross-posted from, on what could have been for Ogletown-S. Newark. Too bad the region's Legislators didn't think and act likewise. 

No matter where you live, there should be an appealing park nearby. A Complete Parks system ensures that all people can enjoy a great local park. As common venues for sports games, farmers markets, and festivals, parks are important places to gather, exercise, and relax, whether to socialize or to have time for ourselves. Parks enhance communities, promoting health and relationships. The Complete Parks approach is a way to make the benefits of parks available for everyone in your neighborhood, town, city, or county.

Start improving your parks system, using this suite of Complete Parks tools:
  • Complete Parks Overview introduces the Complete Parks approach, the goals of a Complete Parks system, and the 7 Complete Parks elements. Examples from Houston and Philadelphia illustrate key features of the Complete Parks approach. This document is written for people who are interested in improving parks in a comprehensive, collaborative, and strategic way.
  • Complete Parks Playbook describes in greater detail the 7 elements of a safe, connected, and healthy parks system. It suggests policies for improving each element and presents success stories from California cities. An abbreviated Spanish-language version of the Complete Parks Playbook—Los sistemas completos de parques—is also available.
  • Complete Parks Indicators recommends indicators for assessing a parks system and measuring its evolution into a Complete Parks system.
  • Complete Parks Model Resolution provides sample language that a city or county government can use to commit to creating a Complete Parks system and establish a formal process for developing a Complete Parks plan.
  • Funding Complete Parks presents ways for local agencies in California to fund a Complete Parks system or increase funding for parks.
What makes a park successful depends heavily on neighborhood context, so a Complete Parks plan calls on many sectors to improve people’s entire experience with parks -- getting to a park, spending time there, safety and maintenance, and proximity to quality schools, affordable housing, local businesses, key services, and more. This comprehensive take on parks and its multi-sectoral focus make the Complete Parks approach especially relevant for people who want to advance equity initiatives, community engagement, and multi-agency coordination within local government. See the overview HERE.

Poster's note: A neighborhood's "community" park doesn't qualify. In NCC, these are usually a small to mid-sized grassy expanse with maybe a basketball or tennis court. Yet some on NCC Council believe that, because some of these exist in the region, Ogletown-S. Newark has "more than enough parks already". What a farce these legislators really are.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NCC Ethics Commission denies denying conflict of interest

The meme in question, updated to a generic NCCEC emblem
By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock, former Advocates for saving the Orphanage Property

At the behest of the NCC Ethics Commission
, and in the spirit of cooperation, we changed our recent meme (see our previous post) of them to a generic logo, in place of their official badge/emblem. They have written several emails to us, upset that we used it with a "false statement", and claim that the meme is flat out misleading. Here are a few excerpts from our email conversation:

NCCEC: "[We] respectfully ask that you immediately remove the Ethics Commission’s emblem from your blog. That emblem was used without the permission of the Ethics Commission. Will you be able to remove it today?"

STOP: "We just spent the better half of our morning reading on "fair use" of copyrighted logos, and can't find anything conclusive on-line forbidding their use in a meme, especially if the meme is factual. If you can point us to something to the contrary, in written or established law, let us know and we will gladly replace the EC logo with the simple words "NCC Ethics Commission" or similar".

NCCEC: "Please remove the Commission’s emblem. You do not have permission to use it in your blog. Thank you"

STOP: "Fair Use Exemption -- U.S. copyright laws offer a "fair use" exemption for educational and research purposes as well as for satire. You may be able to use a slightly altered version of the logo if its purpose is clearly satirical. For example, putting an altered version of a presidential campaign logo on a T-shirt might be permissible. Educational uses include scholarly and research purposes, and the law provides no specifics on when an item may be used or how frequently. Instead, courts look to the effects and nature of the use and intent of the user. If you're selling T-shirts to make a profit, fair use for educational or research purposes won't typically apply".

"Again, we'll be happy to remove it and discontinue its publicizing if there's something in law to the contrary, or that we are unaware of".

NCCEC: "With all due respect, your blog is not an educational blog nor is it associated with an institute of education. The emblem is not a meme. Nor does your use of the emblem qualify as satire. Your use of the emblem is nothing more than an incorrect and misleading statement along with the Ethics Commission’s emblem. The emblem adds nothing to your untrue statement which surrounds it, and nothing about it is satirical. Satire ridicules fact, and you have not stated anything factual with you use of the emblem, without permission. The Commission never said what you have stated alongside of the Commission’s emblem. It is not satire; it is nothing more that a false statement which is misleading the public. As such, the fair use exemption is not available to you in this instance, and I am sure that a Delaware court would agree with me"

STOP: "We're not disagreeing with the job the EC did interpreting the code; we disagree with the outcome regardless of how it came through. No one looks at this situation and doesn't immediately call "conflict of interest!" when we show it to them. A 1st grade educated child would even point out there's a problem, or the serious potential for one. That is our point, it has nothing to do with your job or the interpretation of the code and the guidelines you must follow".

"First of all, context; we never said our meme was satirical; we simply stated that was but one use of memes. What the EC did in dismissing such a blatant conflict of interest is anything but funny. Second, our blog is indeed educational, in the sense that people learn from it, from fact based reporting, on an advocacy campaign. 3rd, as said previously, meme etiquette calls for the use of quotes to actually quote what someone, or an org, etc actually said or wrote. We did NOT quote the EC. Finally, the EC did indeed send that exact message, without actually "saying" it, because they dismissed a formal complaint regarding a conflict of interest that WAS a conflict of interest. Supposedly, the ethics code "prohibits conflicts of interest and *appearance* of impropriety in the conduct of New Castle County public officials and employees", according to its mission. By dismissing our complaint, the EC did NOT see putting the developer and the seller's land use attorney in Chair positions on the Parks Transition Team as inappropriate either way.

We have come to the absolute, undeniable conclusion that from Day 1, the fix was in. The evidence is overwhelming. The region's Legislators (County & State) were already in the pockets of developer interests as far back as 2011, when it was first apparent that the Sister's wanted to sell. They knew that by July 2015, when hundreds showed up at Holy Family Church in protest, it was too late for any citizen advocacy effort to stop it.

What they failed to grasp was that the community wasn't stupid, and wasn't going to roll over and just go away. Once they realized the strength of the STOP movement, and the in-depth knowledge that folks now had about their filthy land-use laundry, they moved quickly to shore up everyone and everything that could be used against them and the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". As we're seeing now, this also included the NCC Ethics Commission, members of which were appointed by Exec Meyer himself (conflict of interest #2).

We remain hopeful that none of you will be taken by the region's 3 elected Legislators and Meyer himself -- the 4 of whom caused this to happen. Each is highly skilled at defense of the indefensible, and turning an argument completely around until it implicates the innocent or what's justifiable. Nothing about throwing away the Orphanage Property -- forever -- is justified, nor is 8 years of inaction on the part of the Legislators and keeping it from the public (and then Exec Gordon for a chance to save it). The evidence is clear that these "leaders" never once had the community and their constituents in mind and at heart; It would appear that the bottom line is much more important. Hopefully, opposing candidates will run and the electorate will toss them out come November this year.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Townsend's "Ogletown Park" vs Meyer's County Efforts

The NCC Ethics Committee (NCCEC) already quashed STOP's complaint against Exec Meyer, based on subjective information and hearsay from interviews of those accused in STOP's complaint. This also included Rich Hall of Meyer's Land Use Dept for the failed traffic impact study (TIS) debacle. This is a gross injustice, because even to a layman, putting the developer and the seller's land use attorney in Chairmanship positions on any Parks Team -- the equivalent of putting foxes in charge of the hen house -- is criminal, disgusting, and inappropriate. Even if their intentions were pure, it doesn't remove the potential for bias and favoritism. The two had a vested interest in developing the Orphanage Property. That in itself is a Conflict of Interest (COI), and that the NCCEC denied this suggests collusion between them and Exec Meyer. After all, it was Meyer that appointed them, another COI!

Out of consideration, our representing attorney with the NCCEC suggested that organizations like STOP usually spend the money to execute Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. By doing so, we would make every last attempt to retrieve all documents, emails, texts, etc between Exec Meyer and the Felician Sisters from the time that the supposed buyout negotiations took place. However, this can be very expensive and STOP Advocates have already spent enough of their own money on this failed campaign. Not only that, but a FOIA is not a subpoena; Meyer and his minions would have full discretion over what was divulged, much of which took place in private and likely has no documentation.

According to Executive Meyer in his "County Efforts to Preserve Felician Sisters Ogletown Property" timeline:

Over the course of negotiations, New Castle County made the property owners four written offers to acquire the land. Each offer expressed the County’s support for the owner’s desire to retain a portion of the parcel and develop 60 affordable rental apartments. To date, the four County offers stand as the only written offers to purchase and preserve this land.

Despite their rhetoric, the property owners never proposed an offer for sale they would accept.  The owners never responded to any of the offer letters with a specific counter-offer, sale conditions or a sale price they would accept to complete the sale.

Funding commitments for purchase:
County: County Executive Matt Meyer offered up to $2.5 million in New Castle County funds to acquire this land at appraised value, subject to approval by County Council and contingent on the commitment of matching funds from the State of Delaware.

STATE: In June, 2017 State Senator Bryan Townsend initially tried to secure “$2 million for the first year of a five-year, $6 million commitment,” to purchase the property according to draft bond bill language he submitted to the General Assembly.  Unfortunately, Senator Townsend’s efforts to secure that allocation were unsuccessful and the approved Fiscal Year 2018 bond bill only included a soft one-time commitment of $1.25 million in state funds.  The failure to secure adequate funds from the State complicated efforts to secure a successful purchase.

PRIVATE SOURCES: New Castle County committed to taking all possible steps to help secure funding from private, not-for-profit funding sources for the balance of the purchase price.

Meanwhile, the owners continued to advance the pending development plan through the land use process.  In July, 2017, the owner and developer sought and received final development plan approval.

In Senator Townsend's public timeline "Ogletown Park", and in person and in emails, he and Rep Osienski tell the opposite story. They describe how Exec Meyer was anything but sincere and genuine in wanting a regional park. There were not 4 buyout offers; only 2 were viable. They claim that Meyer's 2 lame attempts at a buyout agreement failed to include several key conditions that he promised the Sisters.

In July 2017, Towsend and Osienski detail the difficulties they had in encouraging Meyer to present a reasonable offer to the Sisters, and how invaluable time was squandered and deadlines expired. Additionally, on Aug 1st, 2017, they claim that Meyer refused to participate in a joint teleconference with Sen Townsend, even though that was the Sister's own request. The Sisters felt that Townsend understood their needs and had communicated them effectively. "Ogletown Park" and its timeline is a publicly released document and an official statement from Townsend/Osienski, and should have been used as admissible evidence to support STOP's complaint to the Ethics Committee, but apparently, it wasn't enough.

So, in a game of "Name that Liar", we have two attorney politicians representing the County and State, with two very conflicting stories. To make matters worse, neither will challenge each other out of party loyalty, and will jump at the chance to support each other's re-election bid!

In our next post: More on the NCC Ethics Committee, including a scanned copy of their letter dismissing the Setting/Hoffman/Parks Transition Team conflict of interest, and how useless they really are.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

STOP to Delaware's Environmental Organizations: Epic Fail

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock,  formerly of Save The Orphanage Property

There is plenty of blame to go around for the public loss of the 180 acre Orphanage Property, watershed, wetlands and critical habitat area in Ogletown-S. Newark. It was the last significant open space, and the last opportunity for a regional park and trail system; residents are now committed to either Pike Creek, Glasgow, or others well out of the region -- and certainly not "local" to anyone here.

It is a very sad day when an organization such as UAW's CAP Council -- a non-environmental org no doubt -- can endorse a campaign like STOP without hesitation, but DE Audubon, Sierra Club, Wildlands, etc would not. They either found it too little of a PR grab, or they just couldn't be bothered wading through their own red tape and bureaucracy to take a position one way or the other.

There has been a lot of discussion, and controversy surrounding our courting of environmental organizations for support of Save the Orphanage Property (STOP). As one of our latest Facebook posts on the topic is fast approaching 1,000 "reached", we are considering paying them a few dollars (something we only do for action alerts) down and "boosting" it further. It is a discussion we need to have, or expect little from said orgs and certainly no united front.

STOP articulated a very simple, yet concise email and sent it to dozens of organizations contained on a list used by Advocates in opposition of HB-190, a bill to gut environmental protections for DE's coastal zone. The architects of that bill were -- you guessed it -- Senator Townsend and Rep. Osienski (as though they haven't presided over enough environmental damage already). Their environmental record shows rather clearly that these two, like their NCC colleagues Executive Meyer and Councilwoman Diller, are among the most anti-environmental legislators in Dover, but that's fodder for a future article.

Moving on, these were STOP's three simple asks, contained in the email to said org's representatives, sent multiple times:

" . . . Your support of us need extend no further than a statement from you, saying that -

1. You share STOP's support of the Felician Sisters Mission to build affordable housing for the underserved in Ogletown.

2. You agree with STOP that the development, if it goes through as fully planned, will have a negative impact, both on the environment, and the existing infrastructure including roads, schools, and drainage, on Ogletown and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Wetlands area and Vernal Pools will be harmed, as well as the wildlife there.

3. You support and share STOP's desire that the land apart from that which is needed to build the affordable housing, should be used to create a Regional park instead of approximately 200 additional housing units, and that you encourage the County and the Sisters to negotiate an outcome to that end."

Is it us? A noted Advocate from Newark recently accused us of having "no idea what it takes to build a coalition". Really? We were guided and advised by Mr. Donald Sharp, who is a noted, 40+ year Advocate who was instrumental, along with Dorothy Miller and others, in saving large tracts of what is now known as the White Clay Creek State Park and Preserve. He continues in that role today, with the Coalition For Natural Stream Valleys, more recently working with Richard DuPont to save even more. We were also advised by other noted and senior Advocates, including Civic League of NCC members with abundant land use campaign experience. We carefully followed their advice. We also signed on, without hesitation, to support the opposition to HB190 - because the bill was a product of the same Legislators - Townsend and Osienski - that had 6 years (first two keeping it a secret) and multiple chances at saving the Orphanage Property. We are very proud of our efforts, although evil won in the end. In a nutshell, the support just wasn't there.

We really don't think it could have been much easier. We had no choice but to rely on people caring. They had to have a willingness to follow STOP on-line (3 venues -- two web w/ email updates, and one social media). Or in this case, for endorsements, answer a few simple questions. Were we supposed to break from what became a full time commitment (including our normal FT jobs and other advocacy pursuits and goals), stake out these orgs in person or at their functions and spoon feed it to them? No one was asking anyone to endorse "STOP" as an org; they were asked to join in opposition to the destruction of the Orphanage Property. That, in turn, would provide cover in the advent that STOP advocates engaged in questionable activities.

We want everyone to remember this come "Endangered Species Day" this weekend, when these same orgs/chapters will be out there strutting their stuff, giving handouts, appealing for memberships and contributions, etc. Remember it when you see them at events such as UD's Ag Day, Earth Day events, etc. We urge our followers to instead consider joining the Delaware Nature Society, whose actions -- such as the swift endorsement of STOP -- speak louder than words. On a more local level, the Coalition for Natural Stream Valleys also needs your help, as does the White Clay Creek Watershed folks. As said earlier, "Charity begins at home" -- think globally, ACT locally.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ethics Commission to formally "dismiss" STOP allegations

According to the New Castle County Ethics Commission (NCCEC) via email, they carefully considered the complaints by Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) against both NCC Exec Matt Meyer and Rich Hall (Land Use), including a "comprehensive review" of related documents and information from the many individuals involved. The NCCEC voted to dismiss both as charged with respect to the NCC Ethics Code, which sadly, is their only jurisdiction. They say that the facts do not support STOP's claims that the code was violated as alleged in their formal complaint, chief among them, the conflict of interest that occurred when Meyer placed Joe Setting (Orphanage Property Developer) and Mike Hoffman (attorney from the firm representing the Orphanage Property seller) in Chairmanship positions on his Parks Transition Team. The "Team" went on to put Ogletown-S. Newark as 3rd priority for a regional park, knowing full well that, unlike #1 & #2, the Orphanage Property would be this region's last suitable open space and final hope for one.

STOP Advocates now await the NCCEC's formal response, a letter outlining their investigation and how they arrived at this conclusion. In the interim, Advocates wrote back with the following advice:

As for the conflict of interest, we hope that the letter of response clearly outlines, and provides proof of just what Mr Setting's position is. If it doesn't, that is not going to look at all good for the NCCEC or anyone else involved in NCC govt. The News Journal plainly stated that Mr Setting is indeed the developer of the Orphanage Property. We suppose it could be an error, or Setting may have relegated himself, given that now Bob Sipple is known as the developer. But until Setting's non-vested position is demonstrated with clear evidence, everyone will go on seeing this as a blatant conflict of interest no matter what NCCEC says. It is something only the NCCEC can do; as citizens, we have no way to determine his position and the composition of his two "Felician" LLCs. We hope the response addresses that, or we will continue to hold Exec Meyer/NCC accountable and fault the EC for failing to cite the obvious.

According to an email of  March 27, 2018, the NCCEC learned through a preliminary inquiry that Setting was in a position where he would profit equally regardless of who purchased the property -- Government or Private. The question STOP is asking is this; is a "preliminary inquiry" sufficient to learn all the facts in this matter, especially in consideration of the Press and the title of "Developer" given to Joe Setting? What is the role of Joe's two LLCs, and who resides on them? If the NCCEC did investigate to this level, and can prove to us that Setting was indeed NOT vested in the outcome of the Orphanage Property, we will have to accept their dismissal. Until then . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

STOP Final Notes

If only our so-called "representatives"
had a 
conscience like this man . . .
By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly, STOP Advocates

Well, everyone, hope has run out. We've said this several times already, but this time we're seeing Sipple's deadly cancer spreading over the landscape. Utility work and site prep is advancing to the point that it will be impossible to stop the development, and it won't be stopped.

Look for DelDOT to approve of one entrance/exit way out on Rt.4, and Vic Singer to make one last stand (symbolic at best) when Ryan Homes applies for their 51st building permit. We are under no illusions that his protest will somehow turn things around. We've run out of confidence and energy and are looking forward to ending this grotesque chapter (3 years wasted) of our lives, which will be extremely difficult. Absolutely no good came of this campaign; all it did was prove to everyone just how low NCC and State Govt has sunk in terms of corruption. That, in the face of countless reasons and tons of justification, they STILL flipped off our entire region within their districts. Wow, just, wow. We as advocates were naive, trusting; hoping that kickbacks, payoffs, and profiteering was mainly a national problem. To think it has permeated County and State level politics to this degree is just repugnant; stomach churning. It proves there is NO hope for the citizen advocate, never mind the layman trying to do something positive for the community and the greater good. The opposition comes fast and furious.

What all of you need to be doing now is asking the tough questions. HOW did it come to this, and why were our elected leaders so easily bought off -- or so it would appear? Surely, they will muddle half-baked answers to our questions, insisting they did everything in their power to save the land. But no matter what they say, they DID NOT -- not even close! There were numerous means by which a deal could have been brokered, and if indeed it was the Nuns unwilling to sell, you invoke eminent domain. This by itself could have been done, even amicably, at any time during the 2011-2018 (8 years) time frame that they knew development was coming. It could still be done, but now we're looking at major compensation and rework of damage already done and getting worse daily. At this point, it's simply not going to happen.

Finally, our complaint with the Ethics Commission was dismissed, based on a preliminary investigation that included little in terms of fact finding. Even if it was shown that Joe Setting and Mike Hoffman were not in a position to gain monetarily (they were), you still DON'T do that. You DO NOT place developers on a commission whose purpose is to set regional parkland priority and protect the very land that they massively profit from paving over. Adding to that, they were tasked with setting priority for Ogletown-S. Newark, for the last remaining land suitable for such a purpose -- that THEY stood to profit from developing! It's completely outrageous that our legislators stood idly by and let Meyer and his minions in the Land Use Dept get away with this. But, for reasons we will never grasp, the Ethics Commission did not recognize the obvious. We will will publish their formal letter of dismissal upon receiving it.