New Castle County officials have collected more data on attitudes toward a theoretical buyout in two Route 9 neighborhoods surrounded by industry.
A County-commissioned survey last year found roughly half of householders in Eden and Hamilton Park would be likely to move away if given fair value of a house comparable to a similar home in a low crime area, or financial assistance.
The survey was recommended in WILMAPCO’s 2017 Route 9 Corridor Master Plan, which proposes rezoning the neighborhoods, if residents want to be bought out. Residents have long complained of environmental issues, such as airborne dust, resulting from their proximity to industry.
Victor Perez of the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center conducted a second survey this summer focused on 87 owners of properties in the neighborhoods such as rental homes, businesses and churches. Some property owners live within the neighborhoods, and other live elsewhere.
Only forty percent of property owners responded to the survey — and of those, more than 80 percent said they would be likely or very likely to sell their properties if offered fair value of a property comparable to a similar one in a low crime area. Perez says he cannot use to this generalize to all property owners there.
“The research can only do so much,” he said. “It’s voluntary. You can’t make people answer the questions. So there’s still tons of work that needs to be done in terms of getting a sense of how a broader and wider array of voices feel about these issues.”
Perez says the notion that all residents and property owners want to be bought out is untrue.
“My hope is that the research has shown everyone involved that the narratives are complex,” he said. “And in that, there needs to be a great deal of care and patient reflection on how to move forward, whatever that means.”
Perez recommends continued community engagement, possibly in the form of a task force composed of diverse community stakeholders.
New Castle County General Manager of Land Use Rich Hall says the path forward is not clear.
“We’ve done this work, and now it’s kind of figuring out what next steps are, and we’re just not there at this stage,” he said. “The County isn’t the only player. Frankly, we couldn’t even if we wanted to be.”
Hall says a buyout is not on the table yet. He mentions partners such as DelDOT and DNREC, as well as federal money, would likely need to be involved.
DelDOT is in the process of pursuing a buyout of up to ten residential parcels on Pyles Lane, which is part of Hamilton Park. Residents there complain of truck traffic driven by the nearby Port of Wilmington degrading their quality of life.
This article has been updated to clarify the definition of "fair value."