Wednesday, April 4, 2018

STOP's Top 10 Unanswered Questions

Below are the top 10 questions (in no particular order) that County and State agencies and/or officials refuse to answer for us. Most will likely never be answered without the use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
  1. Does the NCC Dept of Land Use (DLU) have an established and well-accepted methodology for Level of Service (LOS) evaluations of non-signalized intersections, that include turns into residential side streets, driveways, median cut-throughs, and others that are of little or no consequence to the development? These were well taken advantage in crafting the Traffic Impact Study (TIS) for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" (CHP), in a tiny radius, to qualify its 3 intersection analysis.

  2. When Vic Singer refuted the above TIS based on failed LOS at adjacent SR4 intersections, the DLU responded that the TIS met the criteria set forth by the Unified Development Code (UDC). They followed that a "Legal Review" was conducted to confirm this. After repeated asks of Mr Richard Hall (DLU Manager), no such "Review" or documents to support this claim have surfaced to date.

  3. What truly is Joe Setting's role in the development of the Orphanage Property? According to the Wilmington News Journal, he is the developer and thus in a position to benefit financially, but may have changed to another role when a conflict of interest became apparent: Developer Joe Setting, of Montchanin-based Setting Properties Inc. is partnering with developer Greg Lingo, formerly of Cornell Homes, and the Felician Sisters on the project".

  4. Who else is partnered in both of Joe Settings LLCs related to the development of the Orphanage Property? According to Wikipedia, "A limited liability company (LLC) is the United States-specific form of a private limited company. It is a business structure that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation". What are they hiding?

  5. Is eastbound SR4 access-only really acceptable by DelDOT standards for the CHP, assuming that Mr Stranahan wins his claim for Adverse Possession? According to the FHWA, as of 2014, there are 9.4 daily car trips per day per household. Therefore, with 270 Dwelling Units (DUs), Ogletown residents are looking at ~2,500 additional car trips entering-exiting out on to SR4 each day. The project is barreling forward as though all approvals are in place.

  6. How is it possible that all 3 area representatives -- Councilwoman Lisa Diller, Rep Ed Osienski, and Senator Bryan Townsend -- did NOT recognize the Orphanage Property for the invaluable treasure that it was, and appeal to citizens and advocates to help save it as far back as 2011?

  7. With the State half stakeholder, why didn't our two legislators insist on attending the buyout negotiations with Meyer, instead of waiting for the Nuns to call them with updates?

  8. Will the NCC Ethics Commission dismiss the flagrant conflict of interest that existed when Exec Meyer appointed Joe Setting (CHP developer) and Mike Hoffman (Felician Sister's legal firm) to his Parks Transition Team? It appears they will.

  9. What prevented our County and State legislators from invoking Eminent Domain to secure the Orphanage Property, for the greater good, as a regional park, and as the last remaining land suitable for such a purpose?

  10. What is preventing our two State legislators from pursuing the first 5 above, using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of NCC Govt as a means to investigate?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Highest of odds that SR4 intersections already fail at LOS grade "F"

One of the greatest ironies of NCC's approval of the Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve" is the use of 2010 data to fulfill its Transportation Impact Study (TIS) requirements. Equally surprising is DelDOT's apparent approval, despite adding the failed intersections of Salem Church Road and Library Avenue to the TIS study area. They are under very tight ROW constraints now, and would find it prohibitive and/or nearly impossible to widen Rt.4 and add additional lanes. With developers now getting carte' blanch under NCC Executive Meyer and Land Use Manager Rich Hall, it is not clear how DelDOT will deal with the corridor in the future without the use of eminent domain.

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) was down significantly in 2010 due to the great recession, and gas prices were nearly $4/gallon. People were consolidating trips, using other means, and driving less in general. If these intersections were a grade "E" in level of service (LOS) in 2010, it's a virtual certainty that they're an "F" today (for a simple chart showing each grade and the delays involved, open the CMS report and turn to page 3).


As seen in this FHWA trend above, national VMT dropped significantly in 2010. The result was gasoline "demand destruction", which triggered a surplus resulting in the record low (adjusted for inflation) pump prices we are seeing today. VMT has since returned to where it left off, and has continued to new record highs. Delaware's improving economy, along with Meyer's fierce pro-development stance will further add to it.



Above:
This interactive map, courtesy of Wilmapco, illustrates the conundrum. If we examine the Rt.4-Salem Church Rd intersection alone, we see an "E" grade fail in 2010 (ditto for Rt.72-Library Ave). The odds are overwhelming that it would score an "F" if measured today, in 2018. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, since both letters are a fail and come under the same UDC rules. But it does show how dire the situation is out on Rt.4, a hospital corridor and evacuation route no less.
If by some miracle these intersections are still at 2010 grade "E", they are likely teetering on "F" in 2018, meaning that the Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve" will push them to "F" in any case -- the worst possible grade for vehicle LOS.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

No stopping the Chestnut Hill "Preserve"

Well folks, it is DEFINITELY over now and virtually the entire open space (and 1/3 the woods and wetlands) will be packed with apartments, townhomes, and McMansion homes -- probably by year's end (if not sooner). We were clinging to life, hoping that Stranahan's Adverse Possession claim would complicate things, given that 2 points of access (one bi-directional) were required. It turns out that a min. 300 home development is where that regulation kicks in. Therefore, even if they don't connect to Waverly in Breezewwod, a simple eastbound IN/eastbound OUT on Rt.4 satisfies NCC Unified Development Code (UDC).

We were hoping that, with "Tree of Heaven Way" removed, it would force a new Traffic Impact Study given only one access point at Rt.4. For example, traffic entering/exiting westbound will now have to use U-Turns at intersections or median cut-throughs. This will only complicate already failed Levels of Service (LOS) that now cause massive backups on Rt.4. NCC has no issue with any of this, apparently -- not even that it could delay the arrival of civil services, i.e. paramedics.

DelDOT still must weigh in, and provide for optimal through-movements. But by the time they get involved, even if they don't approve of such a limited access configuration, the project will have advanced to a point where there is no turning back. This was the argument we were trying to convince Vic Singer, who still thinks he can stop the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" at the 51st building permit. 51 dwelling units (DUs) is all the Unified Development Code allows dispensation for, when LOS is in failure mode -- as it most definitely is along Rt.4 and at its intersections. This was another issue we attempted to bring to the Ethics Commission, against Richard Hall, which has been all but dismissed at this point.

As we see it, IF DelDOT weighs in, and as a result of a single one-way access point, upgrades to Rt.4 infrastructure is required, the next question is who pays for it? We have little doubt that we, the taxpayer, will have to foot the bill (never mind Meyer's tax increase), to ensure that Mr Sipple and friends can draw maximum profits. We're all going to pay -- bigly -- in any case; it's the Delaware way.

In closing, nothing can now stand in the way of the full development; not DelDOT, not Vic Singer; not our State Legislators either, who could have easily stopped this over the 6 years they knew about it. In a brilliant counter move, Bob Sipple made sure to modify the building order to ensure that all key infrastructure elements (streets, sewer, drainage, etc) were already in place before any such conflicts arrived. Now, there really is no turning back.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Conflict of Interest is not enough for Ethics Commission

On their web site, the New Castle County Ethics Commission (NCCEC) states the following:

In 1990, the New Castle County Council created an ethics code and an Ethics Commission. The ethics code prohibits conflicts of interest and appearance of impropriety in the conduct of New Castle County public officials and employees.

It is in their mission to investigate and discipline if there is evidence, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest (COI). STOP clearly applies.

A conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed to create a risk that a decision may be unduly influenced by other, secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is actually influenced by a secondary interest. A widely used definition is: "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest" (Wikipedia).

After his election in 2016, NCC Executive Matthew Meyer appointed Orphanage Property developer Joseph Setting, along with Michael Hoffman, an attorney from the firm representing the Felician Sisters, to Chairmanship positions on his Parks Transition Team. There they would have significant influence over how and where regional parkland would be prioritized, including Ogletown-S.Newark where they had a vested interest to develop the last remaining open space suitable for such a purpose. In response, STOP advocates filed a formal complaint with the NCCEC. The attorney assigned to the case responded with the following:

"... how can you support your contention that Meyer was improperly influenced against purchasing the property to preserve as a park when Meyer and his employees worked many hours to, in fact, purchase the property for preservation as a park[?]

"... I have learned through my preliminary inquiry that Setting was in a position where he would profit equally whether a developer purchased the property or whether a government purchased the property. This mitigates against your allegation that Meyer would be influenced by Setting to make sure the land was purchased by a developer. Setting did not care to whom the land was sold".

Yet, according to a Wilmington News Journal article in July 2015, Mr Setting is/was indeed the developer, along with Greg Lingo. As developers, they invest in and pave over land, expecting an exponential return with the sale of homes. Hardly something not to be interested in.

"Developer Joe Setting, of Montchanin-based Setting Properties Inc. is partnering with developer Greg Lingo, formerly of Cornell Homes, and the Felician Sisters on the project"

We responded that we would forfeit our case if -- IF -- the NCCEC can provide the proof concerning Mr Setting's role in the property, and that he was not the developer at the time Meyer appointed him to Chair the Parks Team. Our understanding is quite to the contrary, that Mr Setting was in a position to benefit financially as developer, but may have changed to a different role when the COI became apparent. We also asked repeatedly if it was possible for the NCCEC to produce the membership in each of Mr Setting's LLCs, and what exactly their role was in all of this. This is not something that a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) can accomplish; these are privately held corporations that owe nothing to public relations. That question goes unanswered.

If we can achieve creditable proof to the contrary, that indeed Mr Setting was a "neutral" party in terms of who the Orphanage Property was sold to when he first took the Chair of the Parks Team, we'll consider the case closed. Otherwise, placing the developer on the "Team" that sets regional park priority for the very region that he's going to profit from (by developing its last suitable parcel for such a purpose) IS a conflict of interest. It also has all the appearance of impropriety on the part of Meyer, which is also forbidden according to the Ethics Code and subject to a probe by the NCCEC.

With such a vested interest in development of the Orphanage Property, placing it at #3 would make perfect sense for Setting/Hoffman; any funds left over in the NCC budget will be depleted on #1 and #2 -- south of the C&D Canal and in Red Lion -- well before Ogletown-S. Newark came around. It should also be noted that NCC already owns the parcel(s) needed south of the Canal, and Red Lion was donated by a philanthropist. On the other hand, #3 (STOP) was a one time ever opportunity, with the Felician Sisters looking to cash in at the appraised value. And, with a joint purchase including the State, NCC was getting a bargain at half price. It should have easily been #1.

We made sure to CC Senator Bryan Townsend, to draw his opinion on Exec Meyer's/NCC's sincerity in executing a buyout agreement, and whether a FOIA would produce the "proof" of collusion that the NCCEC is asking for. As an attorney himself, and Senator for the effected district, his office can and should be pursuing the truth concerning any unethical and illegal actions that could harm his constituents, especially in such an extreme manner as STOP. Instead, it is STOP advocates that are tasked with the impossible; providing the proof that Meyer wasn't sincere and/or staged his failed actions toward a buyout in order to seal the deal for development. We'll provide coverage on this and Townsend's reaction (or lack thereof) in our next article.

We disagree with the NCCEC on their protocol, and must question their usefulness. Their purpose should be to first determine if there's a COI based on the legal definition of the term, above. STOP clearly fits. Then they should launch a probe which includes witness testimony and evidence gathering in all its forms. It shouldn't be up to the layman to prove to one Govt agency that malfeasance occurred within another Govt agency, in this case, the one that also happened to appoint those serving on the NCCEC. This is completely irregular, and if that's how they operate, it is a setup for failure and suspicion of collusion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Will NCC and DE turn a blind eye to the worst of unethical behavior?

A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM THE STOP CAMPAIGN

We will continue to remind everyone that the Chairman of NCC Executive Meyer's Parks Transition Team, that wrote the final report determining where regional parkland is prioritized, is the Registered Agent of two LLCs overseeing the development of the Orphanage Property. It sounds unimaginably hard to believe that this level of corruption -- clear to the naked eye even among the least politically savvy -- is acceptable at any level of govt, but it is apparently.

But not only was Mr Setting appointed the Chair by Mr Meyer, but Michael Hoffman of Tarbicos-Grosso LLP -- the law firm representing the Felician Sisters -- was also appointed chair of a Park's Team's subcommittee. With this level of influence presiding, does anyone honestly believe that Ogletown-S.Newark would have a snowball's chance in hell at our only chance of getting one? Yet, Senator Townsend doesn't think for a moment that this was an issue. In fact, he believes the simple fact that the "Rt.4 corridor" was just on the Team's list was enough to absolve them of any bias.

Further disturbing is that no attorney would help STOP, nor would they even touch a case like this. They won't touch the illegal Traffic Impact Studies and other show-stopping issues with the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" also, all because they don't want their careers "threatened". In other words, they're all in bed together, most especially the land use attorneys, who would threaten anyone the moment their client's profits were in doubt. This includes Widener, Greenprobono.org, etc. Not a one.

Anyway, this is what we're up against, folks. Total and absolute corruption. It's absolutely disgusting, and this is but one reason why we hold our two State's legislators (one an attorney himself) equally accountable; that they would stand idly by while such corruption continues unabated, and not make the least attempt to stop it despite our numerous pointers on how to do so.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Guest Contributor Bill Dilks: Felician Sisters Orphanage Property

24th District Candidate Bill Dilks
As a businessman and project manager, accountability is mine, success or fail. There is no such thing as "It wasn't my fault." It’s not always fair, but that's just the way life is. Failure is not an option! The epic fail of this entire RT4 Orphanage fiasco lies on the shoulders of our state representative, Mr. Ed Osienski.

In 2015, the Felician Sisters had been "engaged with State/County officials for more than 2 years” (since 2013.) What happened between 2013 and 2015? Mr. Osienski did not stay on top of this. The result is a huge tragedy for open space along the RT4 community corridor.  Two simple things needed to be done.

First, get the property down-zone approval for just the Felician Sisters units.  "...some members of County Council began expressing opposition to our request”. So Mr. Osienski said the rezoning approach would not have worked. He was defeated without even trying. (I’m sure we’ll hear in detail the excuses on how naive this approach is and how this could have never gotten done. Yet, the failure still remains.)

Second, Mr. Osienski stated he got state funding to help purchase the land. Yet he only got partial state funding. And the Sisters saw through this obfuscation. More balls were dropped here than by Tom Brady in the Superbowl.

Mr. Osienski waited from 2013 until crunch time of July 2017 before even attempting to secure State funding for public acquisition.  So after 4 years of equivocation, the Sisters gave up due to the inertia of Mr. Osienski. The zoning wasn't going to change. Mr. Osienski had only half of the promised funds. So the Sisters had no choice but to push the button to get their project moving forward with the high-density zoning in place.

It is a complex issue, too complex for Mr. Osienski to handle. I would have been in constant contact with the Sisters, coordinating, coercing, passionately pushing and driving everyone, the county executive and council members, colleagues in Dover, and the Governor, rallying the citizenry, anyone and everyone. I would have been constantly updating the residents from the beginning, going back to 2013. Ongoing meetings would’ve been scheduled specifically for this, for years if need be. I would have wrapped my arms around the entire project from the get-go, and gotten the job done. Yet, I’m sure again we’ll hear excuses of how “it doesn’t work that way”, from a man who we now know was in over his head.

Mr Osienski handles the day-to-day interests for our district, as the job calls for. It’s the heavy lifting that is beyond his grasp. We need someone in place who supports the community each day, and who has the background and drive to manage the big ticket items.

Open land, and protecting our environment and coastline should not suffer due to the inept handling by our representatives. These initiatives are just too important.

The end result? Epic fail. Did Mr. Osienski drop the ball?  He never picked it up in the first place.

Bill Dilks is running for State Representative for the 24th District. Visit his webpage.


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NOTE - The Ogletown Resilience Blog is non-partisan, and as such, we are willing to consider the views and contributions of all citizens who share our concerns for the Environment, regardless of their Political Party affiliation. 

Why didn't STOP Legislators invoke Eminent Domain?

Many of our followers have brought this question to light; why Eminent Domain -- a clearly defined means of land acquisition -- was never called upon by area legislators to save the Orphanage Property. Advocates too are puzzled, since both Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski insist that they have done everything legally possible. And surely, they will make excuses for why Eminent Domain wouldn't have worked or couldn't have been used.

Not far from here at all is a very different take:


The use of eminent domain to establish public parks, to preserve places of historic interest, and to promote beautification has substantial precedent.

In DE Title 29, Chapter 95, we see the following:

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, neither this State nor any political subdivision thereof nor any other condemning agency, including an agency as defined in § 9501(b) of this title, shall use eminent domain other than for a public use, as defined in subsection (c) of this section.

(c) The term "public use" shall only mean:

(1) The possession, occupation, or utilization of land by the general public or by public agencies;

(2) The use of land for the creation or functioning of public utilities, electric cooperatives, or common carriers, or

(3) Where the exercise of eminent domain:

a.1. Removes a "blighted area" as defined at § 4501(3) of Title 31, or a "slum area", as defined at § 4501(23) of Title 31;

2. Removes a structure that is beyond repair or unfit for human habitation or use; or

3. Is used to acquire abandoned real property; and

b. Eliminates a direct threat to public health and safety caused by or related to the real property in its current condition.

Then in Title 7, Chapter 75, we see the following:

The General Assembly finds that:

(1) The provision of lands for public recreation and conservation of natural resources promotes biological diversity, public health, prosperity and general welfare and is a proper responsibility of government.

(2) Lands now provided for such purposes will not be adequate to meet the needs of an expanding population in years to come.

(3) The expansion of population, while increasing the need for such lands, will continually diminish the supply and tend to increase the cost of public acquisition of lands available and appropriate for such purposes.

(4) Rapid growth and spread of urban development is encroaching upon, or eliminating, many open areas and spaces of varied size and character and many sites with important cultural and natural resources. These areas, spaces, and sites, if preserved and maintained in their present open state, constitute important physical, biological, social, aesthetic, recreational, or economic assets.

(5) The State must continue to permanently protect substantial quantities of such lands as are now available and appropriate so that they may be preserved and developed for the purposes enumerated herein.

(6) It is the public policy of the State that the permanent protection of land shall be accomplished through the voluntary acquisition of interests or rights in land, or donation of said lands, and that said acquisition or donation constitutes a public purpose for which public funds have been expended or advanced and should be continued.

We urge our readers to look over both chapters, and determine for themselves could our legislators have saved this last remaining jewel of a landscape? With such large gaps in their 2013-2015 timeline, i.e. waiting for the Nuns to call them as their drive toward application/exploratory plan approval went forward, couldn't they have at least made the threat?

And despite the drainage and sewer work, it's not too late. Except the reality is, neither legislator wants STOP to happen; from Day 1, their intentions (failure to progress) has been abundantly clear.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Ogletown Park" timeline mostly subjective, unproven

The Ogletown-S. Newark Region's "Fab Four" (not)
By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

Part of the process of going forward and healing from the loss of the beautiful Orphanage Property to development is examining all of the circumstances which led us to where we are now. We have reviewed their lengthy, and sometimes redundant Timeline, written by Senator Bryan Townsend, and Representative Edward Osienski, where they present their side of the story in their failure to successfully provide Ogletown with the parkland that they so need, and deserve. We feel that most of their story and timeline is subjective. In other words, their word against what really should have happened since 2013. While their introductions and the timeline itself are both filled with sincerity and sentiment, and although they may have e-mails to substantiate some of their claims, much of their story is what you call "hearsay", because it cannot be substantiated or proven. In the spirit of fairness, we do acknowledge that both did step up towards the end, including getting State funds committed, and Senator Townsend making himself more available to Advocates (Rep Osienski largely ignored our e-mails, and did not attend meetings with us, allowing Sen. Townsend to take charge of communications.) But it is our opinion, after careful review of their timeline, that their efforts came too late, and contributed to the loss. It is our opinion that, by not notifying constituents early in the process, they contributed to the project progressing as far as it did.

What will soon fill the fields and woods, replacing the Orphanage
Property.
Save the Orphanage Property started this campaign to save the parcel in July 2015, just days after the Community (those who discovered it leaked, on short notice) assembled in Holy Family Church, to be shown the plans for the Affordable Housing, and the accompanying massive development of townhomes, duplexes, and single-family homes. Like most of our neighbors in Breezewood, and Todd Estates 2, we had no idea that this development was being planned. We were not asked for our input, we were TOLD what was coming. Both Legislators have admitted, verbally and in their timeline, that they were aware that the threat of development existed as early as 2013, over two full years before the July 2015 meeting. However, they did not formally notify area residents. They admitted to telling a few, off the record, to try to insinuate that people did in fact know what was going on. But the vast majority of their constituents knew nothing. And this is what we believe to be the first of many mistakes that they made. Rep. Osienski stated, on Facebook and in his introduction to the timeline, that

"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. I believe that if your state/county elected official have your best interest in mind and the willingness to work their tails off to achieve it, then that should be all that is needed."

We strongly disagree. We believe that, had we been notified in a timely manner, a four-year campaign would have made ALL the difference. The Felician Sisters would have heard, loud and clear, that the surrounding community would NOT be in support of such a massive development. And, we could have all worked together to help the Sisters achieve their Mission of providing Affordable Housing, (which STOP fully supported) while finding an acceptable alternative for the rest of the parcel. But we were never given a chance, because Sen. Townsend and Rep Osienski (along with Councilwoman Lisa Diller) decided that they would keep this from us, losing us precious opportunity to delay the process and work together for an alternative.

Who really belongs in Hillery's infamous "Basket of Deplorables?
Our State and County (D) legislators are definitely in the running.
Some area residents have suggested that they may have perhaps deliberately stalled going public from 2013-15, to ensure that Exec Gordon would be "out of the way" from any effort to help with another park, as his exemplary conservation record shows would have been the case. We can't help but agree, because we do know that Exec Gordon was in fact supportive of STOP.

Do we actually want to believe that Sen. Townsend and Rep. Osienski acted in such a nefarious way? Of course not. But how do we know that? Should we simply disregard the backgrounds that these two come from; a law firm that deals first hand with high dollar LLC interests, and a Union man who may well put temporary construction jobs before our environment? Both of whom concocted and drove through HB-190, angering Environmentalists and key Environmental organizations, under the guise of creating "jobs", when in fact DE's unemployment rate is relatively low at 4.1%? And don't forget the large numbers of developer-friendly people who contributed to their campaigns. Their own records prove that they are not friends of the Environment, that saving Open Space is not their priority.

And so after careful review, here is a list summarizing our findings, to share the inconsistencies that we uncovered. Here are the 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 affected household. They did not engage those who would be directly affected, such as those homeowners immediately bordering the property, in time for them to voice their concerns. Advocates were never given the chance 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.

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 will likely suffer even worse 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.

If this isn't a Conflict of Interest, nothing is. Both the developer
(Setting) and the attorney representing the seller (Hoffman) were
appointed Chair positions on Exec Meyer's NCC Parks Team.
4) Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski failed to object to the appointment of Joseph Setting as Chair to County Exec. Meyer's Parks Transition Team. They were both aware that Setting had a vested interest in developing the Orphanage Property, and so they were morally and ethically bound to raise an objection, protect their Constituents, and cite that the appt of Setting to this position was 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 the appointment of Setting was indeed NOT a conflict, because Setting's Team did prioritize the need for Ogletown parkland as #3. We have repeatedly pointed out to Townsend that, at #3, STOP could never become a reality in time to stop the bulldozers. And it was the very last chance at a regional park, given the lack of significant open space inventory both here and throughout most of NCC today. Mr Setting's (along with Michael Hoffman, an attorney representing the Sisters) appointment to Parks Transition would make absolute sure of that.

5) Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski failed to respond to, or investigate, the legality of the Traffic Impact Study. Sen Townsend said that he read the County Law, and from his perspective, he felt the study was acceptable. Advocates -- one of whom served 13 years as Chair of the NCC Planning Board -- brought forth claims that the TIS was flawed and incorrectly recorded to exclude failed signalized intersections that, by law, must 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 the development would have virtually no impact on Rt 4's already failed vehicle Level of Service (LOS).

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 legislators failed their Constituents by not acting at an earlier date, in time for this project 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. And we believe that, for this, they must take responsibility and answer to their constituents.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

NCC, DelDOT appear resolute in accommodating Chestnut Hill "Preserve"

NCC Exec Matt Meyer, serial liar
Last update from the STOP Campaign -

We have bad news to report. We have been told that NCC is resolute in wanting the Orphanage Property developed, meaning that a way will be found even if the 269 unit plan appears blocked on all sides. DelDOT has informed us that a simple curb-cut on to Rt.4, in one direction only, will suffice if the other options (Waverly and Gender) remain contested. We were not aware of this; we were told on several occasions that bi-directional access to Rt.4 was required. Assuming that the Adverse Possession case succeeds (odds are it will), and Holy Family doesn't sell or give an easement, and Waverly is saved, then the main (and only) access road will simply come off of Rt.4 in the eastbound direction. We surmise that DelDOT will "improve" signaling at Pearson (Todd Estates) to accommodate the increased U-turning traffic at that intersection, being the closest. Obviously, we're not engineers, but really, what other option would there be?

This, today, from DelDOT Planning:

"DelDOT sees value in developments having access to more than one road. Section 3.5 of our Development Coordination Manual addresses what we refer to as connectivity. However, if a property has frontage on just one road, our regulations do not prevent, or necessarily limit, its development"

Today, from Senator Townsend:

". . . preliminary word from County is that they do not intend to block this development on the grounds of having just one entrance off of Route 4. Ed [Osienski] and I are digging into the issue to figure out who has the actual decision making authority, so we know whom to contact."

So, this probably explains why construction is continuing unabated. Mr Sipple knows he'll be accommodated, even if it takes bending a few rules. For whatever reason, those in authority absolutely do NOT want our region to have a regional park; instead choosing for us all the ills that STOP has spent nearly 3 years writing and advocating about.

Rep. Ed Osienski was right; if only we had listened to him in 2015 when he would shake his head at meetings, repeating "it's going to happen; it's going to happen. It's abundantly clear now that the decision was already made, years ago. Had the Community been been made aware of this impending disaster back in 2013, when our Legislators knew that the possibility existed, we have no doubt whatsoever that it WOULD have made a huge difference, and quite likely produced an entirely different outcome.


Above:
The Orphanage Property developer himself, Joe Setting, along with a land use attorney from the firm representing the Felician Sisters, both served in influential positions on Exec Meyer's Parks Transition Team. They relegated Ogletown to third priority for a regional park, all but assuring their development will go forward. The Orphanage Property represented the last opportunity where suitable open space inventory is concerned.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

STOP Update: Construction rolls on despite AP Claim

Blogger's note: The description of this suit as an "injunction" was an error and has been corrected in this post to reflect "AP claim".

According to residents on the scene
right now, the construction is rolling forward. It was thought that activity would cease until there is a resolution and the plans redrawn. For example, the proposed access road that is now under lawsuit for Adverse Possession (AP) splits two retention ponds. Work is continuing on in this exact spot as we write. Therefore, Bob Sipple and co must be pretty confident that they'll prevail against the resident.

Based on the little we have seen and been told, there are very few options to legally connect the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" to Gender Road if the resident wins his case. One is to ask Holy Family Church for an easement, or to purchase right of way (ROW) through their existing property somehow. The other, that will surely draw mass opposition above all else, is the original plan of connecting to Waverly Rd in Breezewood, or Lynch Farm in Todd II. This would use existing neighborhood streets in those communities as through roads. A simple "curb cut" on Rt.4 is unacceptable by DelDOT regulations, given it would not have 2-way access. And that is all that remains.

Again, Mr Sipple must be pretty confident of his good fortune, or construction would have stopped by now. The claim was filed on 2/6, and the property in contention covers the stand of forested area that the access road penetrates alongside resident's yards. It would all be cleared out, and the road ROW placed directly alongside residents backyards.

The new parish under construction would appear to block any potential of simply moving that ROW northward and on to Holy Family property. Minus the Waverly option, using the Church parking lot would appear all that is left. If courted, and offered enough of a "donation", will they do it? Would the Catholic Church, albeit a different diocese, deny yet another chance at doing the right thing by its neighbors? We hope our legislators have the fortitude to notify Advocates and residents as these moves play out. That remains to be seen, though.

The ideal outcome and the overwhelming favorite of everyone involved is a simple one; our legislators say "enough is enough". They begin lobbying their colleagues on the Bond Committee for emergency buyout funds, and begin drafting a buyout proposal that compensates Mr Sipple for the value of the land (minus the affordable housing, of course) and the work that has already been committed. The work that is being done now, actually -- drainage and grading -- is readily adaptable for use in a regional park, and needed to protect residents from future flooding in any case.

That is all we have for now, everyone. Do not forget that your State and County legislators work for YOU; not the builders, the developers, trade orgs, land use attorneys, or any other fat cats that load their campaign coffers. You have every right to contact them and demand an update, and demand that they must stand firm with the citizen's best interests in mind, NOT special interests.

Bob Sipple himself delivers eviction notices to Breezewood, Todd 2 residents


By Angela Connolly --
There's nothing worse than getting someone else to do your "dirty work" for you, but that's exactly what Councilwoman Lisa Diller has done. STOP Advocates were notified by a Breezewood resident, whose property backs directly to the carnage, that a letter was placed in his mailbox a few days ago. The letter was from none other than Bob Sipple, the developer of the Orphanage Property.

Mr. Sipple told the resident that Councilwoman Lisa Diller "suggested" that he walk around and deliver these letters to these residents. Well, this resident called Diller's office, and spoke to Susan Moore, Diller's Aide. Ms Moore claimed to know nothing about what is going on with the property, despite a formal notice of injunction filed a week ago, putting a stop to the construction -- for now.

The District's Councilwoman would be (and indeed should be) intimate with every phase of this nightmare, but apparently she's not. The resident felt that Diller herself should have delivered the letter, either alone or accompanying Mr Sipple. But given the overwhelming blowback this project has generated, it's obvious to most that she is avoiding her Constituents, and will go on ignoring their very real concerns.

Why not give her office a call at 302-395-8345, or e-mail her at EDiller@nccde.org. Let her know that you don't appreciate this gross disconnect, and her lack of concern for the devastation that her inaction has caused. She has not acted on the best interests of her Constituents, and her inaction has contributed to this tragedy, which could have been avoided had she been a strong advocate for STOP.


"Friendly Bob" even offers to help squatters, some with adverse possession rights no doubt, relocate. What a guy.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

STOP: Another Window Opens


In light of a recent lawsuit that has been filed, the following letter was just sent to Senator Townsend:

"Good evening, Bryan,
It comes to our attention that a Breezewood resident has formally filed an injunction against the Developer and Holy Family Church. They are claiming Adverse Possession for the strip of land currently shown as "Tree of Heaven Way" in the exploratory plan. This would choke off access to Gender Road, and if the suit is successful, another way, an alternative access road, will have to be found. This is not an idle threat - this suit has been formally filed, as per this attachment, and the client's lawyer believes that he has a very strong case. This is where YOU (and Ed?) come in.

You have publicly stated your regrets that this project moves forward. However, IF you have been honest, AND are truly committed to stopping this project from going forward as planned, then you will make sure that you follow this case very closely, and state your FIRM objections in terms of re-connecting via stub roads in Breezewood (Waverly) or Todd II (Lynch Farm). If you are truly sincere, then you will bring Rep. Osienski on board, also. Then, together you will meet with Holy Family Church, and INSIST that they NOT issue any easement to Sipple for anything more than the affordable housing piece. It's hard to imagine they'd want that much traffic through their parking lot (or nudged up against their new parish) in any case, but just to be sure . . .

Our followers have been made aware of this new and significant opportunity, and we will be keeping them updated, including whether or not you and Rep Osienski make a sincere and aggressive effort to halt this project in any way that you can, including this golden opportunity that has arisen. This is an opportunity for you to step up and stand aggressively for your Constituents. This is the time for action, not words of regret. Our followers, your Constituents that elected you to look out for their best interests, as well as the surrounding communities, will be watching. We will make sure of that. Please, don't let them down."


Will our legislators grab hold of yet another opportunity to halt this carnage? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Not too late for legislators to join Vic Singer, and STOP

Victor Singer: "it's not rocket science"
Will Senator Townsend and Representative Osienski do it? That's the question right now on everyone's mind. It is not too late to put a stop to the Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve" (CHP), if they were serious about enforcing NCC law. That is a well documented, undeniable fact coming from a former Rocket Scientist with Thiokol, Mr Victor Singer, who served for 13 years as Chair of NCC's Planning Board. He has intimate knowledge of the Unified Development Code and how a traffic impact study (TIS) is to be applied at all times. Vic also cites prior cases, that set legal precedence for the very situation STOP is in now. He is famous for responding "it's not rocket science!" in cases like these, when achieving the correct outcome is a simple matter of standing law. That is the case here; it's "simply" being violated by Mr Richard Hall and his Land Use Dept.

Unfortunately for us, Mr Singer's approach of filing legal action upon building permit #51 (county law allows dispensation for only 50 dwelling units - DUs - in the case of the CHP) is not going to work, because the townhomes/duplexes/mcmansions are being built first. It might work if the "affordable housing" portion came first. That means that, by the time the building permits are requested in about April or May, all the development infrastructure will already be in place; roads, utilities, drainage (going on now), etc. By then, the only result we might achieve is an article in the paper, with full dispensation soon to follow.

However, if our legislators both pooled their resources, and allied with Vic TODAY to file an injunction against NCC, to reverse their approval of the CHP based on a flawed TIS, it isn't too late to STOP this horrible embarrassment. Justice could still be served, and we could avert this major disaster. But will they is the question; from all our indications, probably not. Both (forget Diller) have completely resigned themselves to our loss, and are preparing to "move on" in the most upbeat possible manner.

Here is a list of our past links demonstrating Mr Vic Singer's case against the NCC Dept of Land Use, relating it to historical precedent:

Chestnut Hill "Preserve" TIS scope exposes flaws, favoritism

THE CHESTNUT HILL PRESERVE

State must act if NCC issues building permits for Chestnut Hill "Preserve"

Drilling down on the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" TIS

Vic Singer presents legal objections to Chestnut Hill "Preserve"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

STOP defeat helps pave the way for North Jersey redux

By Frank Warnock, on behalf of the STOP campaign

We're such horrible people for wanting this jewel of a landscape saved, that even the press has abandoned us. We've become toxic, to be avoided at all cost. This, despite the blatant contempt for established county codes and other law breaks going on with the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". Our last press release stirred no interest among any of the major outlets, despite a clear outline of one, final, last gasp potential for a buyout opportunity.

Starting construction of the Chestnut Hill "Preserve"
It's such a terrible and rotten thing when you're trying to be a force for good, for the greater good of people, the planet and its indigenous species, isn't it? It's become abundantly clear to Advocates just how anti-environment this county and state has become, even when they know and understand the implications of putting money before quality of life issues.

As what's left begins to fill in, don't think for a moment that so-called "protected" lands now won't come under scrutiny. Traffic sewers like most of N Jersey and SE PA didn't happen without rampant corruption and crushing pressure by development interests ruling the day. Growing up in NJ, I watched it unfold before my eyes, to where reaching any kind of rural countryside and/or habitat area became an hours+ long harrowing car trip away.

Therefore, with so little support coming from those we truly need it from, this is what we can expect. This lack of support was shocking, having included so-called environmental orgs like DE Audubon, DE Chapter of the Sierra Club, DE Wildlands, all of our region's civic groups, etc. as non-endorsers. With all of the attention on the Coastal Zone Act (the darling of Townsend and Osienski, btw), so-called environmentalists have lost sight of the critical need for inland wetlands and open space protection as well. And that's not to mention a sorely needed regional park.

Below is a snip showing the difference. No, the scale on North Jersey wasn't increased -- both are the same. With an exemplary campaign like STOP unable to put the brakes on a disaster like the Chestnut Hill "Preserve", this is what's coming, folks. Fill in the pale yellow, over time, until we are wall to wall bodies with little to no bio-diversity and green space.

The only advice we can offer is to abandon the two party establishment system and start voting for 3rd party candidates whose mission it is to protect the environment and our quality of life. Or, if that's a stretch for you to consider, at least vote anti-incumbent; the Democrats are clinging to a 1-seat majority in the Senate. They have placed the bar so incredibly low, just vote to tip the balance of power, even if it isn't necessarily favorable.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rep Baumbach to host Matt Meyer at constituent meeting, Wed 1/31


Slick on the part of Exec Meyer to give Reps Baumbach a 7:30 a.m. time slot on a Wednesday for his monthly constituent meeting, to discourage as many folks as possible. After all, Ogletown is only a stone's throw away, isn't it. This is still a MAJOR opportunity, everyone, for Ogletown residents and citizens in general to bring signs, even just the yard signs, and stand there silently (or loudly!) protesting.

By defeating STOP, what Meyer has committed us to is unspeakable, unconscionable, unforgivable. It will be in our face every day, all day, as we commute, recreate, run errands, etc. There are actually a few unlikely scenarios that can still stop this Chestnut Hill "Preserve", but they're not looking likely at this point. In the meantime, work on prepping the land for this ultra high density development will continue for some time, before the building permits are issued.

What is the likelihood you can attend? Leave for work early or go in later? Mr Meyer may not come around our area this close again, for a long time. And you know full well that Rep. Osienski or Diller won't invite him.to their constituent meetings on the first Friday of every month! Heaven forbid.

TIME/LOCATION: Greene Turtle Restaurant on S. Main St in Newark, not far at all. 7:30 a.m. on Wed! Please message the STOP campaign on Facebook, or email STOP@1stbikes.org if you are planning to go!

Friday, January 26, 2018

STOP holds State legislators equally accountable. Here's why

No nonsense Rep. John Kowalko, Newark
By Angela Connolly, STOP Admin

Surely, Sen. Townsend and Reps. Osienski are angry and upset being lumped in with Meyer and Diller. We know because they told us as much in past correspondence. In their minds, they did their part by convincing the Bond Bill Committee to set aside $1.25M in the event NCC (Meyer) came through in a deal with the Nuns. So yes, in that regard, one can say that County (Diller/Meyer) is more at fault.

But here's the conundrum; that doesn't change the fact that both legislators knew years in advance that the Nuns were looking to build, and they NEVER brought it to the public's attention. Each time we have confronted them on this fact, they answer "well, we didn't think it would happen" or "we didn't think they could get a plan approved". What they should have done was recognized there was a threat, and immediately understood the invaluable opportunity they had to do something great for their districts. THEY didn't do that, they didn't see the value in preserving this amazing open space as a public asset. So we're sorry they feel this way, but by default, they must be held accountable just like Diller and Meyer..

And again, as said, they will come together in the end. If Meyer's job is threatened, they'll come full tilt to aid and assist his campaign. That is just the way it is; both major parties are loyal to their own, no matter how hideous the incumbent or candidate may be. It is foul and disgusting that they refuse to stand up for what's right, on their own, and shun fellow party mates if it comes to right vs wrong. Shame, shame on them for this disaster now being foisted on us, that comes down to party loyalty.

When something is this important to the community, the constituents, the entire region, you find a way to GET IT DONE. PERIOD! There is absolutely no excuse, especially when, in relative terms, we weren't talking about a lot of money! When you look at the expenditures NCC puts out, including $30M for a library on Rt.13, Ogletown County Park (STOP) was going to cost the County 10% of that -- 10%! ($3M) when factoring in State and donor funds!

This was purely a grab for developer interests; Exec Meyer had to deliver results to all his developer and land use campaign donors; STOP was only the first casualty, plenty more to come. We'll keep you posted on Cavaliers; Meyer et al are surely licking their lips!


Councilman Bob Weiner's website is chock full of news concerning land use issues. He updates his constituents constantly on all the latest projects. Not to tout Bob, but had we had this level of "representation" in Ogletown, we would have known well in advance of the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" and had a MUCH better chance of stopping it.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Meyer, Ogletown-S. Newark Legislators are a disgrace to democracy


By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly -- 
 A 2.5 year exemplary citizen advocacy campaign to save the Orphanage Property (OP) in Ogletown in its natural state, and to truly preserve it as a future regional park has finally ended. Multiple windows of opportunity for buyout were -- time and time again -- refused action by our legislators on both the County and the State level.

It is estimated that, judging by a 1,100+ following on social media alone, Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) had many thousands of area residents that were backing the campaign. No fundraising took place, and no memberships were offered; it would be the truest of grassroots efforts. Despite such widespread and enthusiastic support, no amount of action or visibility on the part of residents and citizens counted toward democracy -- and in light of a broken Unified Development Code, the rule of law. It has become painfully clear that, from STOP's earliest beginnings, fate was already decided. Councilwoman Lisa Diller, State Rep Edward Osienski, and Senator Bryan Townsend were well aware that development of the OP was coming as early as 2013, and kept it a secret from their Constituents until it was too late.

Shortly after news of the CHP was leaked, Councilwoman Diller was forced to call an emergency public hearing. At least one is required by County law for any major plan. In July 2015, hundreds of area residents came out to Holy Family Church and were shocked and dismayed to find out that the CHP was already well advanced and would be difficult to stop. Had she, along with our two State Legislators brought this to the public two years earlier, it could have been an entirely different outcome. A way could have been found to provide the Felician Sisters with their 60 units of affordable housing, which the STOP Campaign supported, while preserving the bulk as a regional park. The Nuns at that time had even favored such an outcome over the development.

Immediately after this first and only hearing, "Save Ogletown Pond" (SOP) grew exponentially, with the immediate goal of steering any development away from the "Ogletown Pond" critical habitat area. The developers did comply and adjusted their plan to the west and closer to Breezewood. But the larger goal did not stop there; it was soon obvious that everyone wanted the entire parcel for dedicated open space, wetland protection, wildlife buffer, and ultimately, a regional park. The Ogletown-S. Newark area is devoid of such a facility, that could be walkable, jogable, or bikeable from their homes. Those closest -- Glasgow and Pike Creek -- are a 20+ minute drive for most, which contradicts Gov Minner's "Livable Delaware" and DNREC's "Trails and Pathways" initiatives (among others). The Orphanage Property represented the last potential green space that can be designated, and in the process, it would prevent some of the horrific damage being done to Delaware's bio-diversity and wildlife habitat according to a recent report authored by Senator Stephanie Hansen. That chance is now gone due to political apathy and indifference, and a shunning of "We The People".

County Executive Matt Meyer
The amount of dishonesty and half-truths by these legislators was staggering. They did a superb job at keeping advocates in flux, confusion, in darkness and not knowing, and having to guess who was on the side of truth. Councilwoman Lisa Diller insisted all along that the property was not for sale, and for all intents and purposes, she was "done and finished" with any notion of a buyout. She made that clear in meetings, and in writing, in one of her e-newsletters. That simply wasn't true, because as seen, it was later sold to developers. The onus then shifted to NCC Exec Matt Meyer, who failed to produce a buyout proposal that was acceptable to the Felician Sisters. During that time, Senator Bryan Townsend repeatedly said that Mr Meyer threw away several windows of opportunity.

Because it was Mr Meyer who was meeting with the Sisters, not the State legislators -- who were either prohibited or unwilling to participate -- advocates had no conduit and thus no way to know if progress was being made. In a leap of faith, they chose to put their complete trust in Senator Townsend, who claimed to be in regular touch with the Sisters and thus, receiving their updates on negotiations. The news was not good; Mr Meyer, according to Townsend, had bungled repeat buyout offers by not meeting several basic demands that he and the Sisters had verbally agreed upon. He simply wasn't "going after it" with the heart of someone who really wanted a park for Ogletown. He had an excellent deal in the palm of his hand, with a huge multiplier in State money, but simply wouldn't close it. This was the news coming back to advocates with repeated calls and emails from the State Legislators, mainly Senator Townsend.

In the time that ensued, the announcement came through that the Sisters sold the OP to Robert Sipple, a major land developer. With Ryan Homes, he is currently heading up the controversial LaGrange development along Rt.40 in Glasgow, where they are fighting to develop a "permanently" protected historical area (more on that in future posts). Advocates re-organized and thought it best to contact Mr Sipple directly, and ask for a meeting to find if there was a price that he and his people would accept in a buyout proposal. A non-STOP advocate (who chose not to be identified) made contact with Mr Sipple through Joseph Setting of Setting Properties. Mr Setting is the developer that was cited by the Wilmington News Journal as the developer of the OP just shortly after the CHP was leaked and then announced in 2015. He continues in two LLCs that are associated with the development of the OP, which runs contradictory to his claim of being disassociated.

The meeting took place around lunch, with Senator Townsend in attendance. Apparently, Rep Osienski was unable to attend for medical purposes. Or so he says. There was no agenda, but Mr Sipple quoted a figure of $7.14M that he thought would be an acceptable buyout cost, but that he would need to meet with his partners to discuss. Little is known about the meeting beyond that, but Senator Townsend insisted that his repeated calls and emails to Mr Sipple since then had gone unanswered. It is his opinion that Mr Sipple's lack of confidence in NCC is what has him now moving forward with the CHP as opposed to any thoughts of selling.

Representative John Kowalko (Newark)
As it turned out, Advocates did learn that Exec Meyer had agreed to bring 1/2 the buyout price before NCC for a vote, which if successful, would make the OP a State and County purchase as originally hoped for. Unfortunately, Mr Meyer also said that he wanted no part in negotiations with Mr Sipple or any logistics in a buyout. That alone ended any notion of County involvement, financially or otherwise, because any deal on this scale must come at the County level.

Complete silence from all parties would follow, with the exception of one instant message from Exec Meyer on the evening of Jan 17 putting his $3+M offer in writing. His language suggested he was naive about the current situation, and questioned if the Bond Bill funding had come through on the State side. Nothing he said indicated he had spoken with Senator Townsend or Rep Osienski. He further suggested that it was their failure to progress that held things up. Meanwhile, Townsend replied "I have seen email communications from Meyer that are not at all a rosy picture of support for [STOP]. Meyer (of course) says he supports [the buyout], but then goes on to say how the County can't afford to participate."

As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, 2018, surveyors set up camp on the OP. They are beginning the drainage and utility mapping for 270 homes that are now sure to come. The CHP is anything but a "preserve", but in a complete oxymoron, that is what they call it. This super high density development will completely fill in the region's last remaining wildlands and open space that is suitable for a deserved regional park. Construction will soon be underway, with no apparent way to stop it.

We will now summarize some key aspects of the STOP campaign, and why things turned out the way they did.
Councilwoman Lisa Diller
  • Councilwoman Lisa Diller declared herself detached and unwilling to champion the cause, insisting all along that the land was not for sale. Executive Meyer was not a sincere proponent of STOP either, and kept finding reasons not to commit. Was it because he accepted maximum campaign contributions from numerous developers in Delaware? He also appointed Joseph Setting, a campaign donor and developer of the OP (according to the Wilmington News Journal), to serve as Chair of his Parks Transition Team. Mr Setting's role was a direct conflict of interest, giving him significant influence and input over where NCC parkland was prioritized. He remains vested in the property today via two LLCs.
  • The Dept of Land Use (DLU) will be issuing illegal building permits for 269 apartments, townhomes and large-scale homes as part of the CHP, probably by Spring 2018. According to the Unified Development Code (UDC), if a project fails its Traffic Impact Study (TIS), it is not permitted without traffic level of service (LOS) improvements funded by the developer.   
  • In the case of the CHP, DelDOT expanded the scope of the TIS by six intersections, two of them in grade "E" failure mode based on 2010 study data. Today they are likely "F". Ironically, the author wrote that these were to be omitted, however, UDC section 40.11.124 states the contrary – that DelDOT's recommendations are equally relevant. Therefore, issuing building permits is illegal. Repeated attempts to contact Mr Richard Hall, Manager at the DLU, have been made, and are still being made, to no avail. Advocates need to see in writing where in County law that the DLU or anyone else has the authority to override TIS regulations when the transportation system is already overwhelmed, or otherwise exercise discretion over how it's carried out. Mr Hall, at rehall@nccde.org, refuses to reply.
    Representative Ed Osienski
  • Rep Osienski, Senator Townsend, and Councilwoman Lisa Diller all knew that the Nuns were pushing for development as far back as 2013, but didn't think they were serious and/or would succeed at getting a plan approved. They didn't think anything would happen, and did not see the land for the invaluable opportunity that it was. They never considered land conservation in their districts, or securing a regional park for the people to enjoy and be proud of. By 2015, the CHP was far along in the planning, and their constituents had no choice now but to be TOLD what was coming to their community, instead of an appeal for comments and public input as is typical in the beginning stages of any major project. All three Legislators failed to inform and engage the Community in enough time to work together to help the Sisters realize their goal of creating affordable housing, while finding a suitable way to preserve the rest of the land. This tragedy could, and should have been avoided, through effective communication by our Legislators, with their constituents and with the Felician Sisters.
  • Approval of the CHP is a major blow to several Delaware initiatives intended to save our environment, fight climate change, and promote walkable, bikeable, and livable communities. The justification for a buyout of this land was overwhelming, and should have been jointly embraced by County and State Govt. During the STOP campaign, advocates also worked hard, and showed strength in numbers in Dover, at Bond Bill hearings, to promote funding for programs that include 10-9, or $19M, that is supposed to be included in the budget for open space and farmland acquisition and/or development rights -- by law. This was denied. Then advocates fought for open space as a plank in the Democratic platform, and that failed too. With Democrats in control of most of Delaware's legislative bodies, it would appear that open space and parkland is not their priority, and not to be funded or fought for.
Whether or not it was a vested interested in the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" (CHP), corruption, or simple indifference, one thing is abundantly clear; the loss of STOP was a colossal failure of political will and competence. The Ogletown-S. Newark region was already known to be dis-enfranchised in matters of community, place-making, and local access to quality regional parkland facilities. What has taken place here only cements this issue further, and in a way that can never be reversed. The goal now must be to replace these lawmakers with just and competent leaders who will listen to, and respect "We The People". November 2018 is not far off.