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.