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New Castle County Council approves zoning of old golf course for dense housing

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Shawn Tucker presents the proposed development to County Council on behalf of his client, Carlino Commercial Development.

New Castle County Council approved rezoning of the Cavaliers Country Club property in Newark Tuesday night by a vote of 10-2, with one councilmember absent.

The nearly 150-acres will likely be developed into more than 700 residential units—a mix of apartments, townhomes and detached single-family homes.

Pennsylvania-based Carlino Commercial Development has been working on the proposal for over four years.

Council’s vote Tuesday night rezoned the majority of the property from S (suburban) to ST (suburban transition), which significantly increased the density of development permitted on the site.

Kathryn Herel has lived in the condominium community neighboring the site for over 25 years. Although she can see the golf course from her house, she says she’s not opposed to development on it. What bothers her is rezoning for higher density, which she doesn’t think local infrastructure can support.

“We’re looking at additional traffic, we’re looking at additional air pollution, noise pollution. If you use the Christiana hospital, if you want to go to the Christiana Mall, if you want to have access to I-95 or Route 1, you will be impacted by it,” she said.

But Nicole Kline of McMahon Associates, which Carlino commissioned for a required traffic study, says the developer’s plans are in line with County requirements.

“In this area … a level of service 'D' or better is considered acceptable. And through our traffic study and the recommended improvements … we’ve shown that we satisfied the New Castle County code in those regards,” she said.

Kline says intersections rated “D” mean delays of 55 seconds or less for drivers.

Mark Tudor of DelDOT also presented plans for a four-lane Churchman’s Crossing connector road which hopes to alleviate congestion in the area.

He said the project is moving into the design phase, and is fully funded through the agency’s 6-year Capital Program. He projects it will be finished in 2020 or 2021.

Carlino Commercial Development would pay for and build a segment of the connector road which would run through the proposed development.

An economic impact study commissioned by Carlino says that construction of the proposed development would create 475 temporary jobs per year of construction, and the annual economic impact of the development would be $11 million.

Shawn Tucker, attorney for Carlino Commercial Development, also argued for the development by citing the county’s Comprehensive Plan and a 1997 Churchman’s Crossing study, both of which call for dense housing walkable to retail in the area.

Councilman Penrose Hollins voted in favor of the rezoning on account of the Churchman’s Crossing study, which has been updated several times since it was written 20 years ago.

“It is a designated growth zone in New Castle County,” he said. “If there’s going to be a place where we’re going to have density, we’re going to have a job center, we’re going to have a residential center, we’re going to have economic development—this is the site that’s been designated for that. You have the state investment there.”

Tucker projects that depending on the economy, buildout for the proposed residential development will happen in five to ten years.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.