Kentmere zoning battle continues in Wilmington
A longstanding zoning battle is at a standstill after the Wilmington Design Review and Preservation Commission meeting rejected a proposal by the Department of Planning and Development during a meeting earlier this month.
The Kentmere Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center on North Lincoln would like to demolish four homes in order to build a second parking lot in order to create more spaces for residents and staff, and allowing easier access for ambulances and other vehicles.
“If you look, that’s half the block and it really would aid in destroying the neighborhood.”
That’s Kara Briggs, Vice President of the Forty Acres Civic Association. She’s also a historian and the author of the book, "Forty Acres."
Last Sunday, I took a walk with her through the Forty Acres neighborhood.
“This section of Lincoln street in particular is known for its community, all of these neighbors…you can see all of the houses have porches," Briggs said. "The entire neighborhood is still a place where people sit on their stoops, sit on the porch, have a little mini party on Friday night and catch up. If you take away the physical fabric of the neighborhood, you’re going to kill that sense of community.”
The houses are currently occupied, and Briggs says she hopes to find an alternative solution for Kentmere.
But Kentmere’s attorney Kimberley Hoffman argues otherwise, saying this is a textbook case of “not in my backyard,” a case she presents in an Urban Lawyer article titled: “Zoning and the Aging Population: Are Residential Communities Zoning Elder Care Out?”
She says the decision is poor policy and similar to a case recently taken on by Delaware’s Supreme Court.
Hoffman argues that exclusionary zoning practiced against nursing homes prevents the delivery of care and potentially violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
“Kentmere believes that patients, residents, their families, the traveling public and emergency responders deserve a safe place for ambulances to load and unload besides the street," Hoffman said. "Kentmere is committed to providing that and will continue to look at options in that regard.”
Kentmere has been on Lincoln Street since the 1920s, before current zoning measures were in place. And since it falls within the Forty Acres Neighborhood Conservation Historic District, the examination of the proposal fell under the purview of the city’s Design Review and Preservation Commission.
“They are occupied. They fit the architecture of the neighborhood," Briggs said. "It may not be high style fit for a textbook but they are vernacular but they do meet all of the criterion for Italian 8 townhomes in this area and they’re in tact. They’re not derelict.”
Briggs says the 40 Acres Civic Association is not unsympathetic to the needs of Kentmere residents, but believes an alternative solution should be sought to balance each side’s concerns.
The Commission's rejection is sending Kentmere and the Department of Planning and Development back to the drawing board and negotiation table.