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Last updated Thursday, November 20, 2014

 
 

The Planning Board recommended that County Council repeal 'workforce housing' provisions of the Unified Development Code, but delay action on an ordinance to establish a 'Traditional Neighborhood Housing Programí to replace them until the public has had an opportunity to comment on the proposal. "What's the urgency other than desire? ... If there is not a true rush, why rush?" board member William McGlinchey said. Board chairman Richard Killingsworth agreed with him. "I'm concerned about the level of transparency. The speed by which this is [being] pushed through is alarming to me," he said.

Discussion at the board's meeting on November 18 touched on some of the controversial elements of the proposed new program -- particularly, the mandatory requirement for selling or renting houses at lower-than-market prices in developments that require rezoning, requiring initial purchasers to charge the lower prices if they resell within 15 years of buying the property, and failure to include existing properties within in the scope of the program -- but it centered on a general consensus there has been limited vetting of what is, for New Castle County, a new and rather complicated concept.

Board member Robert Snowden, however, said he was "somewhat inclined to give this a try." Although she claimed she felt she had not been given sufficient information, Sandra Anderson sided with him in voting to recommend that Council approve the proposed ordinance. Robert McDowell also voted to recommend approval. The five other members present at the meeting voted to recommend rejection. David Sheppard did not attend. The vote to recommend repeal was unanimous.

As expected, the official Department of Land Use recommendation was to approve both the repeal and the new program ordinance, both of which were authored by the department. Councilman Penrose Hollins, who is sponsor of both ordinances, has said he wants to have them approved as concurrent companion legislation before the end of January when a nearly year-long moratorium on accepting any new 'workforce housing' plans is due to expire. The recommendations are not binding, but Council members tend to give them great weight.

Assistant county attorney Mary Jacobson said repeal of 'workforce housing' without enacting a replacement would leave New Castle County government short of its legal obligation under federal and state laws to provide housing that is 'affordable' to people at all income levels. She disputed a claim that repeal would leave the development code without any provision for enforcing re-sale obligations on the few 'workforce housing' properties which have been approved saying that they would be discovered in the title search required before any property sale.

 
 

All content, unless otherwise noted, by Jim Parks

 

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