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Newark reverses course, approves 6-story project but may consider development moratorium

Newark City Council approved another multi-story development on Main Street—weeks after rejecting it. 

The latest student housing-centric development will bring 80 apartments, retail space and a public parking garage managed by the City. It’ll be six stories tall, and replace several smaller retail buildings. 

Council rejected the proposal last month. But the body decided to reconsider the vote after a closed-door meeting with its attorney over concerns about the legality of the rejection, according to the Newark Post. 

Mayor Jerry Clifton said Monday there was some “confusion” last month around the criteria that can be considered in site plan review.  

“I think we do owe it to the citizens of Newark and to the applicant to ensure the proper criteria is considered on this vote,” he said. 

City Solicitor Paul Bilodeau said Monday that Council is allowed to consider the treatment of common open space and parking facilities, architectural design, landscaping, relationship to the community, and energy conservation in its site plan approval vote. 

During the approval process, council members raised concerns about the amount of open space in the plan, the character of the building, the affordability of units and the fact that student housing has become a primarily private enterprise in the city. 

“When the University got out of the dormitory [business], it became the City of Newark’s problem,” said Councilwoman Sharon Hughes, who opposed the project last month, but voted to approve it Monday. “They took away our houses and took away our Main Street.”

“Our code, whether you agree with it or disagree with it at this point in time, allows for the size of this building to be built,” Clifton said Monday. 

He noted the project will also contribute parking to busy Main Street. 

“I can clearly look our neighbors throughout Newark in the eye and say, in this particular case, we are getting something great coming out of this,” Clifton said. 

Councilman Jason Lawhorn argued that additional apartment units in the city could help with housing affordability. 

“Ultimately, if we can fulfill the supply for the demand, we’ll in time reduce the costs of living in the city,” he said. 

Council approved the site plan and special use permit 5-1. Councilman Jay Bancroft was the opposing vote.  

Despite the approval, Clifton said he’d like Council to discuss a potential moratorium on development in certain zones while they reconsider the code. 

“We’ve seen the muck and the mire we've gotten into with a couple of the projects," he said. "What I’m asking for is a discussion for a potential moratorium on building in the BB [Central Business District]  and RA [High-Rise Apartments] zoning districts."

That initial conversation is scheduled for the June 28 meeting.


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.
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