New Castle County Council should step up with leadership to defeat the Bayberry Development. Like most NCC initiatives of the past decade, this plan was developed without meaningful community involvement. It should not be a surprise that communities throughout the region are opposed.
Bayberry is being praised by some on its site design, rather than its fit in the larger region and the character of Southern NCC. This approach ignores the interconnectedness of our communities. We must rise above our narrow perspective and consider the plan with a broader view than the current site-specific approach. We must look at Bayberry in the larger regional or metropolitan context. In the case of southern NCC, the Bayberry Plan is excessive overdevelopment in the region, in direct competition with municipal growth in and around existing towns where most growth should occur, and is located where new infrastructure must be built, rather than where it already exists.
Bayberry is not a panacea for sprawl. In fact, it is a new form of "conservation" sprawl. As an enormous bedroom community remote from any job base and a development split between the congested Route 301 / 896 thoroughfare; its "walk ability" claim does nothing but create laugh ability. In terms of regional community character, it will also create an excess of housing. This will cause disinvestment in the growing SNCC while it gobbles up farmland as fast as "cookie cutter' development.
With regard to overdevelopment, the Delaware Population Consortium (DPC) projects a need for only 15,936 homes in Southern New Castle County from 2000 out to the year 2030. Why are we allowing so many more to be built? Is it an absence of leadership to provide intergovernmental coordination and regional cooperation?
Currently there are just under 9,000 homes planned for construction on central sewer in the Town of Middletown, approximately 800 in
Townsend, plans for up to 2,000 on Central Sewer in North Smyrna, and 1,500 expected in the SR zoned region. NCC has already approved 2,324 homes in the MOT region with sewer from Water Farm 1. This is 92% of the DPC 2030 projected housing needs for the MOT District.
With approval of the City of Bayberry, we will reach 104% of the 2030 DPC projected housing needs, 26 YEARS EARLIER THAN EXPECTED . We are developing the area 7 times faster than the DPC data indicates is needed. Additionally, there are 2,315 homes proposed in other pending plans that if approved, will place SNCC at 119% of the projected 2030 housing needs.
A direct result of over-development is a housing bubble due to the basic law of supply and demand. those that can afford it will likely trade up from areas like Middletown to the Bayberry burb. If we allow an excess of housing to be built, Middletown will likely experience urban decline, disinvestment, and social injustice in the future. This will create a dejavu of Wilmington's social and financial problems.
At the same time, there are nearly 2,500 vacant homes in Wilmington and extensive areas of vacant land that could be recycled near existing jobs. Unlike SNCC where we must in invest $165 million in new sewer and $90 million in new roads, the Wilmington area has the needed infrastructure in place. Shouldn't we be equitably investing in the "recycling of land" in Wilmington, rather than treating our rural landscape like a fast food wrapper?
While the design of Bayberry may arise from good intentions, its failure to understand the interconnectedness of our communities throughout the metropolitan region, also known as "regional planning", is far from smart growth. It's actually quite dumb.
A New Urbanism approach may be worthwhile, but it should be tested and proven on a much smaller scale in line with our projected need. It should also require state legislative approval for an incorporated town. Unlike other towns, Bayberry will have no home rule, no town charter, and no voice.
Please oppose the project for the benefit of all NCC residents and help form a better vision of how to develop SNCC. This would involve all the stakeholders including the existing community and taxpayers, not just the developers, landowners, "book smart" planners and politicians that are out of touch with the existing communities.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NCC COUNCIL APPROVED THE BAYBERRY PLAN ON OCT. 5.