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Last updated Thursday, July 09, 2015

 

Residents of several communities in central Brandywine Hundred turned out en masse to object to a proposed mixed-use residential-commercial development off Silverside Road near Marsh. No matter that the plan is in a very preliminary stage and that the owners of the 12-acre property promised to modify it to address legitimate concerns, all but a few attenders at a public meeting on July 8 were ready with a litany of the usual ‘nimby’ issues – traffic, stormwater management, congestion and historic preservation. ‘Nimby’ is an acronym for ‘not in my back yard’.

Branmar Commons would replace the remains a long-derelict structure generally regarded as an eyesore with 35 upscale condominium townhouses, a couple of eateries and several commercial establishments, according to Larry Tarabicos, a lawyer representing Joe and Judy Setting, who have been involved in several development projects in the area. This development would “be totally unique [sic] for the (New Castle) county and fairly unique [sic] for [nearby] Pennsylvania,” Tarabicos said.

The structure was once a one-room schoolhouse claimed to have been in use from 1799 until 1939 and, according to former owner Bob Forwood, is “the oldest [still]-standing building in the nation that was once a school.” The plan calls for it to be torn down and its stones used to construct a smaller replica. That, Tarabicos said, “will cost the Settings $100,000 to $150,000 they don’t have to spend.” The building has been structurally evaluated and cannot be preserved, he said.

The lawyer insisted that many details are left to be determined and most of the features of the plan are still open-ended. The proposal will require rezoning from residential use to commercial use, a process that typically requires up to two years.  No plan has yet been filed with the county Department of Land Use.

Several times during the presentation Tarabicos responded to questions and implied objections with reference to doing “what you want” as the approval process goes forward. Nevertheless, the meeting turned testy at times with several people talking at once and questioners becoming argumentative instead of allowing Tarabicos to respond. At one point, County Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area, had to shout a request for civility.

Wiener, who arranged for the meeting in the county’s Brandywine Hundred branch library, said he was hearing the plan for the first time and consequently had not formed an opinion on its merits.

The most-frequently-stated objections had to do with traffic. Tarabicos said a study of traffic conditions at nine or 10 nearby intersections will be required. “We won’t go to public hearing before the traffic study is done,” he said, adding that applicants for rezonings are not required by law to follow that sequence. He said that, without rezoning, the county Unified Development Code would allow for 40 townhouses on the property.

 

 

 

All content, unless otherwise noted, by Jim Parks

 

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