Thursday, November 15, 2018

OPPOSE opening of Creek Road north of Newark to motor vehicle traffic

The Honorable Shawn Garvin
Secretary, DNREC (Dover?)
(physical mailing address unknown)

Greetings, Mr Garvin,

It has come to our attention that a petition is circulating to, among other things, shore up and re-open Creek Rd north of Newark to vehicular traffic on a limited basis.

In response, and in opposition to this petition:

  • We oppose the re-opening of the road into the White Clay Creek. We feel that any and all vehicular traffic will have a detrimental impact on the existing infrastructure, and the nearby wildlife.
  • As cyclists and walkers/hikers, as well as concerned environmentalists, we will support any decision by DNREC to designate Creek Road and/or Thompson Station Road as permanent trails, excluding any and all vehicular traffic.
  • We absolutely oppose re-opening, and any vehicular use of the dirt section of Creek Road between Wedgewood Rd and Hopkins Rd. This area should remain closed to any and all traffic that is not human powered, either by bicycle or walking/hiking.

Let this be for the record that, as hikers and bicyclists who endorse minimal use of motor vehicles, we vehemently oppose any notion at all of vehicular traffic through the White Clay Creek Watershed and Valley. We additionally object to spending multiple millions -- possibly $6M or more dollars -- to complete such a project. Not only will this serve a very small minority of users on a limited basis, it further cements the fact that portions of Newark are shown favoritism, while other nearby areas suffer disenfranchisement. The road will also be subject to continued erosion and will eventually suffer the same fate it is currently undergoing -- falling into the river. What remains is doing just fine now, with its remaining ROW serving the purpose of a walking and biking trail. If provisions must be made for the elderly and/or disabled, the State should consider EV rentals (i.e. tractor, golf cart, or other) as the only option.

As you may well know, the entire region SE of Newark lost their last and only hope -- forever -- of a regional park on the site of the former Our Lady of Grace property as a result of blatant Govt corruption on the part of NCC AND the State of DE -- including DNREC, who could have done so much more to protect this living, carbon-sequestering, natural environment. Those forested and wetlands areas, as well as the open space, had been home to many species of birds and wildlife, some of them endangered. Even if not endangered, some species will suffer lessened population as they lose precious habitat areas. In the current environment we face, with the ever-rising threat of over development, loss of biodiversity, and climate change, every species of wildlife is worthy of our consideration and protection.

We chronicled and have presented factual evidence where this land should have been saved from development on our page, and we invite anyone to dispute anything found in our history of what occurred over the 2013-2018 time frame. But given what this region is suffering right now, and the regional park facility forever denied to it (traded instead for lost home values and zero recreational opportunities within walking/biking distance), we cannot endorse any of these efforts and will move to fight in opposition to them if necessary.

It is noteworthy to say that the corrupt legislators and govt officials that allowed this horrible travesty in Ogletown are in no way represented by the results of the mid-term election results. Low budget/little known opposition, Low voter turnout, gerrymandering, and national political scare tactics virtually assured their re-election. The system allows for disenfranchisement of certain neighborhoods, and we have seen firsthand how Legislators favor those living in the more affluent sections of their Districts.

In closing, WE will not forget what they have done to us, nor will most in the region surrounding the Orphanage Property-Rt.4 corridor. And we will continue to object to disenfranchisement and wasteful spending of Government monies where we see fit.

Respectfully yours,

Angela Connolly
Pedestrian, Bicycling, and Land Conservation Advocate
(302) 545-2797

Frank Warnock
Pedestrian, Bicycling, and Land Conservation Advocate
(302) 420-2198

CC: Senator Jack Walsh, Rep. David Bentz, Jim Ireland (Trailspinners), Arabella Bianco, Charles Salkin (DNREC), Leslie Reese, David Bartoo (DNREC), Charles Salkin (DNREC), Matthew Chesser (DNREC), Mary Clare Matsumoto (WCBC), David McCorquodale (Green Party, DE), Rep. John Kowalko, Rep. Paul Baumbach, Linda Stapleford, Senator David Sokola, Bernard August (Green Party, DE), Tyler Capana (Preservation DE), J.W. Haupt (White Clay Bicycle Club), Wilson, Xerxes (WNJ).

Thursday, November 8, 2018

STOP defeat complete: Ogletown-S. Newark Legislators win re-election landslide

From the Newark Post - 7 November 2018:

"New Castle County Councilwoman Lisa Diller earned her third full term, easily defeating Republican John Richard Thomas in the District 5 race."

"State Rep. Ed Osienski emerged victorious in District 24, easily defeating Republican newcomer William Dilks."

"Incumbent State Sen. Bryan Townsend cruised to victory against his Republican challenger Daniel Kapitanic, securing his seat for another term in the District 11 race."

Easily defeating. Emerged Victorious. Cruised to victory. 

What can we say, friends? Except that today, we are taking the first healing steps forward, in trying to recover mentally and physically from the advocacy efforts that we have put forth for you, our neighbors, and for the wildlife, and quality of life, that this development now brings. It was hard work - gathering and presenting the facts and evidence, spending hours researching and writing. But today, this will be our last post, and the Facebook page deleted forever. There is nothing more for us to say and do. We now know that, except for those in adjacent communities, no one's listening, and nobody cared. That's a hard fact to accept . . . that there are so few of us. We were outnumbered by others who were willing to forgive the three Legislators responsible for this preventable tragedy -- or worse yet, simply didn't care about the quality of life that will now be compromised for us in Todd Estates 2, Breezewood, and other communities along the Route 4 corridor. The numbers proved that last night. Not only did the challengers lose, but it was a resounding defeat -- an electoral massacre that was made even more bitter by the fact that two of the challengers -- William W. Dilks Sr. and Dan Kapitanik -- worked very hard. They canvassed, met with Constituents, went to civic meetings, etc. We are grateful to them that they stepped up, and gave us hope that those who did this to us would be voted out.

We want to say a very big Thank You to those few of you who were with us every step of our 3.5 year journey, fighting for our region's last precious parcel of bio-diverse land that so few thought worthy of saving, and that was abundantly clear in the votes we saw on Nov. 6. We will now focus on our website Ogletown Resilience, where we will share our ideas for gardening, encouraging wildlife conservation and protection, permaculture, sustainability, and active transportation with like-minded folks. Our goal is limited now to preserving our own properties, making them even more eco-friendly, and to share ideas with others who cherish the environment, as we do. We hope that you will think to contact us sometime, and maybe visit us there. Thank You especially to those of you who consistently "liked", commented on, and shared our posts and articles. There are too many of you to mention by name, but you know who you are. You are among the very best and honorable among us, because unlike the Legislators and those who voted for them. you cared. Unfortunately, caring about anything in DE anymore has become a crime -- the like the wildlife whose crime it is to cross the highway. We wish all of you peace, especially those of you who will now suffer the consequences of this environmental crime, both in your home values as well as further increased traffic congestion and property taxes. Life for you will change, forever.

During this effort, we experienced corruption and appalling Legislator behavior that we didn't imagine possible, like their tantrums and unprofessional behavior at meetings, which we were unprepared for. We were helpless as key large Environmental orgs refused to endorse and help us. Unlike with Newark's advocacy community (that also ignored the STOP campaign), no attorney would even look at our situation, never mind assist pro-bono. At almost every turn, we were discouraged, and even berated, as it was reported to us that the Legislators, particularly Townsend and Osienski, were telling our neighbors and others that we were liars, conspiracy theorists, etc.

And finally, please - always remember that the Legislators did this to us. The destruction of the land and the unnecessary development will forever remain their legacy, even though their reputations have emerged unscathed and even improved over the STOP outcome. For the few STOP followers that did care, we will always know this happened under THEIR watch. We will be forever convinced that Senator Townsend, Rep Osienski, and Councilwoman Diller deliberately kept plans for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" hidden from Constituents for over two full years because they wanted this development to happen as donor payback. Then, stunned that anyone would oppose it and want a park instead, they went into overdrive to silence those voices . Based on the evidence, there can be NO other explanation. Don't forgive them for that, ever. Not only is the region forever devoid of a regional park because of them, but all the innocent wildlife, including the threatened and endangered, will be dying in vain as their home in the forest and open fields are forever destroyed, and what's left degraded by pesticides, fertilizers, Chem-Lawns and other suburban runoff.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

STOP's Greatest Memes: Part 3

By wildly popular demand, here is the third installment containing the most poignant, revealing, and/or disturbing MEMEs published during the STOP campaign. Each has its own story to tell about failed leadership, hypocrisy, trashing democracy, and throwing constituents under the bus. There is so much shame to go around, we have to publish these in a series.

While not a direct quote, Rep Osienski's actions/non-actions with STOP speak volumes about his union ties. The fact that he helped hide the Nun's plans from early 2013 thru mid-2015, then went on to say it was impossible to stop the Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve" at such a late stage -- well, what more can we say. It's clear he had promises to fill for his union pals in the building industry.

Clearly, Senator Townsend did NOT put his constituents first by allowing Exec Meyer full control over buyout negotiations. Before that, he didn't put them first by failing to formally notify anyone in surrounding communities of the Nun's plans to build starting in 2013 -- fully 2 years before Diller leaked it in July 2015. When it comes to political leadership, the man is inept, incompetent, and little more than a cartoon character if there ever was one.

The Orphanage Property sits atop one of the highest water tables in the State, and is very difficult to build on without exasperating flood-prone issues in adjacent communities -- and a FEMA "100 year" flood plain down on Leathermans Run/Christina River. According to the NCC Dept of Land Use in a meeting with Advocates, that's exactly where all the water will be heading. Senator Townsend lives in or near the Wood Shade community, adjacent to Leathermans; maybe karma will have a say after all, if his house sits low and close enough by.

Delaware Wild Lands is another cartoon of an "environmental" advocacy organization. They are hypocrites that, like Sierra Club, just couldn't find it in themselves to assist in a grassroots effort to save the Orphanage Property. At least Sierra had the "decency" to come right out and say they "generally" don't endorse such efforts, but Wildlands thought it best to simply ignore Advocate's pleas. If it wasn't for DE Nature Society's enthusiastic support of STOP, we'd of all but written off DE's environmental community altogether.

Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski would NOT intervene, assert themselves and/or participate in Orphanage Property buyout negotiations; instead, they trusted and allowed their NCC Democratic colleague -- newly elected Exec Matt Meyer -- to handle all negotiations on behalf of saving the Orphanage Property. Despite pleas from Advocates to oversee Meyer's negotiations, and the chance of losing this one chance-only opportunity for a park, both would not get involved and they wouldn't even enlist the highest office for help - the Governor.

Not only did Senator Towsend not challenge the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" failed traffic impact studies and the blatant contempt for established land use code, he also didn't see fit to challenge what should go down in history as one of the worst conflicts of interest ever recorded in NCC govt. Further evidence that Mr Townsend thought that the development would simply sail on through without community backlash. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

STOP's Greatest Memes: Part 2

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

Councilwoman Lisa Diller kept no secrets about her disdain of former Exec Tom Gordon, and her love of newly elected Matt Meyer. It is widely suspected that she kept the Sister's development plans a secret, just to deny Mr Gordon any opportunity to get involved early on in saving the Orphanage Property as a regional park. If so -- and it's definitely plausible -- she literally threw her constituents under the bus in an act of retribution toward her boss.

The very fact that Senator Townsend and Rep Osienski knew the Orphanage Property was threatened as far back as early 2013, and did virtually nothing to inform the community and to try and save it as a regional park is absolutely appalling. But most expect that they will win re-election this Nov, because their skills as liars and con-artists are likely to have enough voters convinced that they "did everything they possibly could" with regard to STOP. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It became abundantly clear upon his election that Exec Meyer was fiercely pro-development. His campaign donor list contains a wealth of construction interests as well as land use attorneys and others in the building industry. Not only did Townsend-Osienski stand back and let Meyer throw away STOP all by himself, he also awarded his developer friends a bonanza in Port Penn farmland and crtical migratory habitat area. The Brandywine and Cavaliers Country Clubs will also be replaced with almost a thousand more houses and the traffic congestion that goes with that will be staggering.

While some key organizations such as the Delaware Nature Society, Coalition for Natural Stream Valleys, and White Clay Creek Watershed endorsed STOP without hesitation, those of highest clout would not. Sierra Club DE Chapter, DE Audubon Society, DE Wildlands, and others were asked repeatedly to sign on to 3 simple statements, supporting preservation of the Orphanage Property as habitat, a regional park, and open space. They ignored the opportunity, in spite of the devastating environmental consequences. Without their support in matters like this, people question what their purpose is, or what they bring to the State in terms of environmental conservation.

Senator Bryan Townsend, Rep. Ed Osienski, and Councilwoman Lisa Diller share constituents and are sworn to act in their best interests. This trio knew in 2013 -- a full two years before Diller leaked it to the public -- that the Orphanage Property was under threat of development, yet they saw no value in saving it as open space. They failed to recognize that geographically, a regional park was very much needed, and this was the last opportunity in their districts. And to top it off, Osienski himself stated that 2 years of additional notice would not have made a difference in the outcome -- STOP's fate was sealed from the very start.

Putting developers and land use attorneys in positions to prioritize parkland -- for the very land that they own and plan to develop -- would be a conflict of interest anywhere else in the U.S. But not if you're the NCC "Ethics" Commission, supposedly a watchdog group overseeing NCC Govt ethics. And worse, the NCC Civic League has accepted this and moved on after having endorsed STOP and a regional park. "Route 4" (Ogletown-S. Newark) was indeed prioritized as #3, behind Red Lion and Middletown. Saving the Orphanage Property for this region should have been #1 priority, because the land was not yet owned and secured and this was the last chance. #1 and #2 are regions with properties that NCC already owns or had gifted to them; they just need the amenities. With only a couple million left over in the parks budget, and Meyer unwilling to add anymore, a #3 priority was as good as ZERO priority. But no, Setting and Hoffman on Meyer's Parks Team, helping set priorities wasn't a conflict of interest according to this farce of an "Ethics" Commission, whose attorney members are appointed by Meyer himself.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

STOP: Townsend, Osienski in damage control mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

STOP's Greatest Memes: Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Saving the Orphanage Property required only 10% the cost of the Route 9 Library

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

STOP: No word yet on the Adverse Possession Claim

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

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

By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ogletown Park: Setting the record straight

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock, STOP

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

Here are those key points...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

STOP: State Legislators Must Go. Here's Why

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

STOP Advocates to meet with opposing candidates

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

NCC Ethics Commission letter of dismissal

The complaint was lodged because when New Castle County Executive Matt 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 180 acre Orphanage Property in Ogletown, and an attorney from Tarabicos-Grosso, the law firm representing the Felician Sisters in their effort to sell the land.

Our many followers
have been asking us for the details of this complaint's outcome, so we are posting the letter by the NCC Ethics Commission formally dismissing STOP (Save The Orphanage Property) and their complaint against 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.

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