New Castle, DE – Joined by members of County Council, community advocates, and the County’s professional land use staff, New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer today signed three ordinances into law that provide guiding design principles, allow for the creation of Economic Empowerment Districts to support a diverse and growing economy, and empower communities to establish Neighborhood Preservation Overlay Districts that support community conservation and enhancement.
“I am proud that the first three ordinances I sign into law are aimed at strengthening New Castle County communities and encouraging economic growth,” County Executive Meyer said. “This is a good first step.”
Today’s enactment completes a process of information gathering and discussion that began more than two years ago, including extensive public review through workshops, focus group meetings and on-line review and comment opportunities. County Council passed each ordinance by a wide margin earlier this month.
The first measure signed today adopts a new appendix to New Castle County’s Unified Development Code (UDC) to provide guiding principles for site design and project amenities as part of the discussion during the review of new land development plans. It supports existing design policies with the goal of encouraging the creation of walkable communities with a sense of place and development design that respects the neighborhood context. The measure does not supersede or replace elements of the UDC, but instead serves as a supplement which offers a more detailed explanation of preferred design characteristics. These include site design guidance on building/street relationships, design and arrangement of parking areas, street connectivity, and pedestrian and bicycle access and building design elements such as orientation, scale, massing and architectural elements. Finally, it encourages amenities that add value to the development and surrounding communities, including civic spaces and recreational areas.
The second measure amends the UDC to empower neighborhoods to establishment Neighborhood Preservation Overlay District (NPOD). This overlay zoning designation allows neighborhoods, by a two-thirds vote, to set standards to protect the character of neighborhoods through building height restrictions, setbacks, massing, open space, and streetscape elements. For the first three years, these district designations are limited to the initial study areas in Pike Creek, and along Concord Pike, Route 9, Kirkwood Highway, the Route 273 Corridor, and Claymont, and where a WILMAPCO study has been completed.
The third measure empowers the County to designate Economic Empowerment Districts (EED) to encourage development that attracts high-technology businesses that provide employment, diversify the economy, expand the tax base, and meet the goals of the County’s comprehensive development plan. EEDs provide development incentives that include flexibility and predictability in the permitting process for permitted uses and a streamlined review and approval process, while providing the same level of protections for traffic, sewer and water, buffers around residential zoning districts by requiring applicants to meet these current standards of the UDC, and does
not permit development intensity that exceeds the available infrastructure.
“This is an economic development opportunity and it puts another tool in our toolbox,” said County Council member Janet Kilpatrick, Co-chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee and co-sponsor of the ordinances. “I believe this is an important step and a sign to the public and the world that New Castle County is open for business.”
“This legislation went through a long process of public engagement, led by the County’s Land Use Department, to get us to where we are today,” said County Council member David Tackett, Co-chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee and co-sponsor of the ordinances. “It places us in a unique position and I’m excited to work with the County’s new economic development office to take advantage of amazing opportunities to make our County stronger.”
“Although the Economic Empowerment District ordinance is firmly set within the framework of the UDC, it enables us to start thinking about ways we can be more creative in defining spaces and place-making – focusing on the overall design result, rather than on a laundry list of fixed requirements,” said Paul Morrill, Executive Director of The Committee of 100. “If New Castle County wants to participate in that global economy - wants to attract 21st Century jobs - it has to make its development review process more nimble and allow it to reward innovation and good design with quicker approvals.”
“The League of Women Voters of New Castle County, a non-partisan political organization, was delighted to be a part of the formulation of these three forward-looking ordinances which embody many of the qualities of Smart Growth and form-based zoning which we have long championed,” said Peggy Schultz, Chair of the League of Women Voters of New Castle County’s Land Use and Transportation Committee. “The County can be proud of the manner in which these particular products were developed and have come before the County Executive today for his signature.”
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