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:  http://delcode.delaware.gov/title9/c011/sc04/

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: STOP@ogletownresilience.org


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 Changelabsolutions.org, 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.

Conclusion
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.

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. Why did 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?
  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.