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New Hanover Supervisors Give Developer an Ultimatum
Written by Candace Perry, Correspondent
2021-10-27

            "Dragging it on and dragging it on is going to stop on November 4th," stated Board of Supervisors chairman Kurt Zebrowski at the New Hanover Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, October 25.

            Zebrowski was addressing Ben Goldthorp, principal of the Pennington Property Group  who is representing the developer of the New Hanover Town Center, R.P. Wynstone of Colmar. 

            The statement followed a lengthy discussion regarding the progress of the plan. Goldthorp asked numerous times what the board wants to see changed.

            New Hanover Town Center is intended to be a mix of single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, and commercial space located off Swamp Pike and Charlotte Street.

            Solicitor Andrew Bellwoar presented the basis for the continuing controversy over the development, which has been in the works since 2005 with the plan now in its eighth iteration.

            Bellwoar said that at the crux of the matter is whether the developer will go ahead with the plan as presented under the existing ordinance in 2005 or will continue to proceed as it has been incorporating three other later ordinances. The supervisors are asking that the plans adhere to the 2005 ordinance.

            The additional three ordinances that the developer has followed include post-2005 ordinances which permit a 40 percent reduction in lot size; allow for drive-through restaurants; and reduce the visual break between housing types, none of which the supervisors want to allow. These issues were detailed in a review letter from the county planning commission's office.

            When asked if the developer intended on proceeding with the plan with the three additional ordinances, Goldthorp said he couldn't answer because their attorney wasn't present.

            Solicitor Bellwoar said that counsel did not need to be present for him to answer.

            Attorney Marc Jonas was absent due to a COVID-related issue, and no other attorney from his firm was sent to the meeting. The legal team also declined to appear via Zoom. The attorneys also did not attend the October planning commission meeting, citing a conflict.

            Adding to the controversy was an article originally published in the Delaware Valley Journal and reprinted in the online news source Patch on September 24, 2021, in which attorney Jonas said he was going to ask a judge to appoint a "special master" to oversee the proceedings "due to repeated efforts by the township to delay development applications."

            In a further dramatic turn, Bellwoar reported that Jonas had filed a motion for an injunction to impose a stay on the board of supervisors so they could not hold the October 25 meeting and to have the special master appointed, as Jonas warned in the September news report.

            Within three days the motion was withdrawn. Bellwoar noted that he "never had that in my experience."

            Township manager Jamie Gwynn said it was an "intimidation tactic."

            Gwynn, who repeatedly asked Goldthorp to clarify statements alluding to the lack of communication and lack of cooperation on the part of the township, provided the audience with copies of emails and the chronology of the plans for the Town Center, including all the changes to density that have occurred over the years.

            The figures in Gwynn's charts did not agree with information in the Patch article, which Gwynn stated were untrue.

            Gwynn also listed what the supervisors wanted to see in the plans, including improvements to stormwater management; addressing of traffic problems on Swamp Pike; and the commercial space to be built in phase one or two of the development.

            Township Planning Commission member Rusty Oister, attending the meeting, reported that the commission had recommended that the plan be denied.

            "Fair warning," said solicitor Bellwoar, "November 4 the board intends to address this."

            Following the discussions and input from audience members, the supervisors approved a motion to postpone the discussion of the development's preliminary plan until the Thursday, November 4 meeting, whether the developer's legal counsel is present or not. Supervisors Boone Flint and Ross Snook opposed the motion.

            "We've been courteous with struggles to get counsel here," Chairman Zebrowski said to Goldthorp.

            Bellwoar reported that the board had met in executive session prior to the meeting to discuss litigation and on Friday, October 22, to discuss litigation and personnel.

           


 

 

 

 

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