New Castle County Council again voted down rezoning the Stopyra property on Kirkwood Highway, which would have led to the construction of a giant shopping center in the mainly residential area.
Some members of the public were forced to stand in the lobby area of the City-County building in Wilmington Tuesday night, as Council Chambers was at full capacity for the bi-weekly Tuesday night meeting.
Council voted against the rezoning 13-0, ending the meeting with applause from the more than 100 people who remained at the meeting when the vote was made around 10:30 p.m.
"We're trying to get small business back in the state, not big box stores," said Councilman Joseph Reda.
Residents of the county's ninth district turned out in the hundreds, most opposing the 80,000-square-foot Newark Town Center that has been in the works since 1974.
State legislators from the area also spoke out against rezoning the Stopyra tract Tuesday night.
Richard Abbott, an attorney for property owner Frank Acierno, told council that the plans met all five standards of the county's Unified Development Code.
The 55-acre parcel is located at the intersection of Kirkwood Highway and Possum Park Road, just outside of Newark city limits. The Holy Angels Church and School is right across the street, and teachers from the school read letters of protest from young students Tuesday who said that the construction would be noisy and take away from their learning.
Teachers and the school's administrators also pointed out the safety issues of having a large shopping center across the street, including the increased traffic and number of strangers driving by the school.
Abbott said that if the rezoning was approved, the developer would have complete $5 million in road improvements around the center, including a stop light at an intersection close to the school.
Citizen's Advocacy Possum Park Area gave a presentation, also arguing against the rezoning.
"We already have 5 million-square-feet of retail within a four mile radios here," said CAPPA board member and Chapel Woods resident Dave Debski. "There are already high vacancy rates nearby."
Board members and other residents also gave example of alternative uses for the 55 acres of land, including continuing farming, a county or state park, and single family homes.
Members of the Chapel Hill Civic League showed up in protest and the county's Land Use Department also recommended against the rezoning.
"We concluded that the rezoning doesn't fit with the comprehensive plan," said David Culver, general manager.
When Abbott gave a rebuttal after public comment Tuesday night, members of the public booed him.
"We can always state the negatives, but you didn't tell of all the positives," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Abbott pointed out the road improvements that would have been made, the traffic light being installed making the intersection safer, called the possibility of flooding a scare tactic, and said that he "begs to differ" with statements made by employees of the Holy Angels School.
He also proposed deed restrictions during Tuesday night's meeting that would set aside the other 116 acres of the property to be used only for single family homes in the future.
The Traffic Impact Study for the Kirkwood Highway and Possum Park Road area near the Stopyra property had been performed in 2007 and submitted to DelDOT in 2010, which also raised concerns by residents that the study was out of date.
The rezoning was rejected by council first after being introduced in 1974 and again in 1985. It was also denied twice in court.
The project would have cost nearly $23 million, and would have created 480 construction jobs and about 450 more permanent jobs, Abbot said.
Members of council said that they voted against the rezoning because it was not consistent with the community character of the area.