Bill promotes ‘transit-friendly’ development in Delaware

 

DOVER — The House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday creating specialized walkable and bikeable economic development districts.

By a 35-2 vote, with four legislators absent, the chamber sent the proposal to Gov. Jack Markell.

The proposal, which passed the Senate last month, defines the areas, known as Complete Community Enterprise Districts, as ones developed by local municipalities and the Department of Transportation.

Areas must be between 1 and 9 kilometers, include land zoned for different purposes and be discussed in a public hearing before approval.

Lawmakers cited the Wilmington Riverfront and the Villages of Five Points in Lewes as current examples.

“This bill creates another tool in the toolbox for local governments, municipalities and counties to encourage and attract healthy and transit-friendly development or redevelopment to their areas through partnering with the Department of Transportation,” main House sponsor Rep. Edward Osienski, D-Newark, said.

“Allowing local communities to plan and invest in walkable, transit-rich mixed-use neighborhoods is vital for eocnomic development. Businesses are increasingly choosing these locations with transportation options and amenities within walking distance to attract a talented, mobile workforce, and it also fosters an active and healthy lifestyle.”

Supporters said the districts are voluntary and the law would allow citizens to provide their input before any rezoning takes place.

Rep. Richard Collins, R-Millsboro, was one of two dissenters. He argued the bill was a government “mandate” that would impact property owners who did not want to live in highly trafficked areas.

“If a district is created with 9 square miles in it, hundreds of property owners most likely will be brought into a district like this with no real say at all,” he said, protesting the process was moving too fast.

Lawmakers backing the bill disagreed, noting nothing has to be done and the process is overseen by the local governing body for each area.

The legislation is in its third form, marking the rare instance where a bill is replaced by not one but two substitutes.

Rep. Osienski said organizations like AARP of Delaware, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and Delaware Nature Society are in support of the proposal.

With the bill having passed the Senate 17-3 in April, it now awaits Gov. Markell’s signature. He will sign it Thursday, according to a spokesman.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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