New Castle County will likely withdraw its controversial rezonings

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Controversial properties included in a bill that would rezone dozens of parcels in New Castle County will likely be excluded from the bill by the time the County Council considers it.

At a Planning Board hearing in October, New Castle County Land Use Director Charoni Patipanda said it was her administration’s intention to recommend several properties be taken out of the controversial bill, including the Alapocas land where Insight wants to build a five-story office. A building and property adjacent to the City of Whitehall in southern New Castle County where a warehouse is proposed to be located.

Patibanda’s comments followed similar statements made by County Council members Janet Kilpatrick and David Carter at previous public hearings. In August, they said they intended to introduce amendments once the bill reached the County Council, which would force the rezoning of the Incyte and warehouse projects to be considered separately.

Previous reports: How the New Castle County planning process could impact the Incyte office project

The County Planning Board and Land Use Department will present their recommendations to the County Council after the Planning Board work meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12. A county council vote will be held in the following weeks.

The county Land Use Department proposed the ordinance, known as comprehensive rezoning, to bring the county’s zoning code into line with a planning tool called the Future Land Use Map. The county revised its future land use map as part of a comprehensive planning process that ended last year.

The future land use map classifies every property in the county, using broad descriptions such as residential, commercial and manufacturing, and is meant to embody the overall vision for the county as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. However, the zoning code has the actual legal authority to determine what can be built on each property.

Properties included in the comprehensive rezoning bill have a future land use map category that conflicts with their zoning district. For example, the Incyte property is now classified as flexible commercial on the future land use map but is zoned suburban. As proposed, the Incyte office building would require zoning of offices into regional areas.

Previous reports: Why Incyte’s expansion plans have hit a roadblock, plus updates on other projects near Wilmington

By grouping dozens of rezonings together, the ordinance would reduce the public’s opportunity to provide input.

Typically, to change a zoning district, landowners must obtain approval from the county board after a process that requires at least two public hearings. For the larger rezoning package, the public can comment on the proposed rezoning at bill hearings, but if passed, that rezoning would not face individual scrutiny at their public hearings.

Most of the lands larger than 3,000 acres affected by the rezoning bill are state or county-owned land, but a few properties are included where a developer or company has proposed a project that would require rezoning.

These are the characteristics that have attracted the most attention and raised questions about the overall reorganization. The Land Use Department says it follows state law that requires the county to rezone land to comply with changes to the comprehensive plan within 18 months of its adoption.

“The comprehensive planning process was very ambitious,” Patipanda said. “Given that this is a new process and that this comprehensive rezoning law contains multiple rezonings at once, we are very aware that this is not the normal force and is not what people are used to.”

In a meeting that lasted several hours, community members spoke out against the Incyte office project and the proposal to build three warehouses and a self-storage facility near Jamison Corner Road. Patipanda said the land use would propose amending the ordinance to remove the property Incyte wants to build on and two properties adjacent to Whitehall that would provide access to the proposed warehouse project, as well as four parcels of land controlled by the Delaware City refinery where hydrogen is produced. The plant was rumored to be part of the Mid-Atlantic Hydrogen Hub.

Land Use has not shared any intention to remove other properties listed in the ordinance that have active development plans.

Between Route 13 and Route 1 in St. George south of Port Penn Road, a large automobile sales and service center is proposed. The project needs rezoning from suburban to commercial, which is included in the rezoning package.

Ten interstate acres south of Hyetts Corner Road would also be rezoned from suburban to commercial under the law. Sentinel Self Storage has proposed building six small warehouse/storage buildings, a small warehouse and an office there.

A small shopping center has been proposed next to Wawa at Pole Bridge Road and Route 13. The property is a mix of suburban, regional commercial and single-family areas. It will be converted to a commercial district under the zoning ordinance required for the project.

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Contact Brandon Holveck at Follow him on X @holveck_brandon.

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