Dover council votes to transfer property to Delaware State University

DOVER –– In an 8-1 vote Monday, Dover City Council chose to transfer property from the Delaware Civic Center Corporation to Delaware State University.

“I think it’s been thoroughly vetted at the committee level and I think DSU can now do something better with the land than what we ever could,” Council President Tim Slavin said.

The land was handed over from the city to the Civic Center Corporation in December 2001 but after a lack of private interest combined with an economic downturn, the plan for a Civic Center never reached fruition.

DSU has seen the land as an opportunity for expansion since the Civic Center plans were abandoned and in 2014 pitched to use the property for a multi-purpose center.

The multi-purpose or convocation center has the potential to be a $57.5 million project that would provide additional educational space, an area for indoor sports and to hold large ceremonies like graduations.

“It would be a perfect opportunity to avoid another May 7,” said DSU’s General Council David Shepherd. That was a reference to the May 7 graduation which took place outside despite less than desirable weather conditions.

DSU has estimated the proposed convocation center could stage between 144 and 173 events per year, 40 percent of which would be DSU related and 60 percent related to public use.

Since more than half the convocation center’s purpose would serve public interest, tax issues came into question.

As a non-profit educational institute, DSU holds $250 million in city property tax-free.

Councilman James Hosfelt expressed concerns about the university gaining even more untaxed land despite its public use.

Although he expressed these concerns, the other councilmen seemed more concerned in taking one step at a time.

“I think a convocation center is a good idea that will have a positive benefit to the city,” Councilman David Anderson said. “I agree with Mr. Hosfelt that there shouldn’t be a blanket assumption of a tax exemption.”

But he added that the tax issue can be evaluated in the future, after DSU makes progress with its plans.

“I see no benefit for the city to keep this,” Councilman William Hare said. “We were willing to give it away before. The only difference is it’s a different organization. It hasn’t even been ours for 15 years.”

The City of Dover does not actually own the land, but maintains it, absorbing about $5,000 in fees per year.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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