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A Bayberry Perspective

by David W. Baker

I am writing to voice my support for the Baybery plans. This letter is my perspective on how the UDC has affected land use in southern New Castle County.

More than ten years ago a group of landowners realized the development patterns under the New Castle County Code (NCCC) were unsustainable and created land use patterns that everyone recognizes as sprawl. NCCC plans were typically one tax parcel (farm) with one entrance and square one or two acre lots, depending on infrastructure and resource limitations. Each lot had an individual well and septic system. Communities had no open space. Each development was limited to existing property lines with little concern for adjoining tax parcels.

The goal of this group of landowners was to protect the integrity of the area south of the C&D Canal and to create a community model for New Castle County and the state. The first formal meeting in December 1993 drew interested parties to discuss the potential for influencing the direction of future development throughout the area. The group met monthly to create a vision for development in the area and appropriately, chose the name Southern New Castle County Advisory Planning Group (SNCCAPG). Transportation, schools, open space, employment, town centers, recreation, wastewater and water supply, clustered residences, sensitivity to natural resources including farmland preservation, and emergency services were identified as critical to the foundation of successful planning.

As the SNCCAPG was encouraging landowners not to succumb to the temptations of sprawled development, the New Castle County Department of Planning, the State Planning Office, DELDOT, County Council members and developers supported the effort. Encompassing the land north of Middletown and Odessa to the C&D Canal and continuing east of Route 13 to Port Penn, landowners, with the support and advice of interested parties, created a vision statement in October 1995 for thousands of acres.

Landowners were promised by the former county administration, their vision could become reality if they would wait for the infrastructure and amendments to the County Code to support this vision. Albeit a former administration and Director of Planning encouraged landowners to remain patient, land plans expired or were withdrawn because they did not conform with the anti-sprawl attitude developing among the landowners.

For more than 50 years, my farming family has owned land in southern New Castle County. We were instrumental in the formation of the SNCCAPG and encouraged neighbors to attend those meetings and resist cookie-cutter development. We purposely allowed plans to expire because we firmly believed large lot development with no infrastructure to be land consumptive and environmentally irresponsible.

Before we could implement the vision developed by SNCCAPG, the current administration and New Castle County Council rushed to replace the County Code with the Unified Development Code (UDC). Viewed by anti-development activists as the means to make developers cringe at the weight of the UDC, they quickly endorsed passage and effectively shut down development in New Castle County for 5 years. The county lost countless opportunities to benefit from development activity, as builders rushed to municipalities, other counties and out state. Interestingly, the same activists from souther New Castle County who supported passage of the UDC are the same faces protesting the Bayberry plans.

Bayberry is a fully UDC compliant plan. Developers and landowners have had to adjust to the requirements of the UDC. Located in the core of the Southern Sewer District, current plans for Bayberry stand as the model for what the UDC intended.

Despite misinformed critics, concurrency requirements are guaranteed by UDC plans. Impact fees for schools and sewer will be paid for by the development. Despite continuing criticisms by a handful of activists regarding its scale, Bayberry will support the infrastructure required by is implementation. The development will not occur until UDC's transportation requirements are met.

This opportunity will not arrive again. How foolish it would be to defeat the vision of Bayberry and live with the consequences of what would replace the Bayberry community. Council members who support Bayberry will proudly look back on this moment as a very significant event for the future of the county and endorsement of the UDC.

I strongly encourage County Council to approve the plans for Bayberry. It has taken more than a decade.

David W. Baker
665 Shallcross Lake Rd.
Middletown, DE 19709

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Posted: FLR -