Pastor urges Dover officials improve role in helping homeless

 

DOVER — Plenty of action took place at the Dover City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday night, from crowded public hearings to apologies and discussion regarding building heights.

Prior to the council meeting, Dover’s Victory Church and the homeless community held a vigil in front of City Hall for three homeless men who died this summer.

Aaron Appling, pastor of the church, then spoke during the Open Forum and implored city council to find a place for Dover’s homeless before cold weather arrives.

Pastor Appling was the fourth to speak out of six who urged the city’s leaders to improve their role in helping the homeless find places to live.

“This is about reality. It’s a real problem,” Pastor Appling said. “This country was founded by people showing up at places and meetings such as this.

“I have a list of places that the city and community owns and we’d like to house people at those properties – the old Dover public library, there are a number of vacant properties. I have over 5,000 petitions of people who live in Delaware over half of which live in Dover and want these people off the streets.”

Pastor Appling, an advocate for building tiny houses for the homeless at his church, told city council they will have homeless people “camped out in the streets all winter” if something is not done soon.

He then said his group will be at the future council meetings, as well as Kent County Levy Court is something isn’t done soon.

When the council meeting officially opened, President Timothy Slavin opened by apologizing for the behavior of council at its last meeting on Aug. 22, which featured a shouting match between Mayor Robin Christiansen and Councilman Roy Sudler.

Mr. Christiansen and Mr. Sudler both apologized for their angry outbursts, which centered around the subject of city council not voting to allow two minority members to serve on the new Economic Development Committee.

Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige spoke to council Monday night regarding the issue.

“I was quite disappointed in the council’s decision not to include two minorities on the committee,” Ms. Mishoe Paige said. “I was more disappointed that we even had to have this discussion in 2016.

“We’re trying to break down barriers and build relationships then I think that it would be an automatic that all the committees need to be reflective of the population of the city of Dover.”

Councilman Sudler did make a motion to postpone the “Adopt a Goal/Vision” for the Economic Development Committee that was on Monday night’s agenda.

Also during Monday’s meeting, council voted to table the proposed Ordinance #2016-18 regarding building height regulations in the Corridor Overlay Zone 1, which stretches from the railroad tracks along Del. 8 to Artis Drive and then up and down Saulsbury Road and McKee Road.

Currently, one of the provisions of the Corridor Overlay Zone, which was in its Public Hearing/Final Reading is that it limits the height of buildings to 35-feet and two-stories high.

Ann Marie Townshend, the city’s director of planning and inspections, said the proposed ordinance would restrict the height of buildings only to 100 feet of the lot depth from the road.

“For a lot that is deeper than 100 feet from the road, the remainder of that parcel would be subject to the height restrictions of the zone,” Mrs. Townshend said.

She added there are some places in the affected Corridor Overlay Zone where a potential business might be able to build six-stories high, while some might be three stories, depending on the zoning district of the property.

Simply put, the ordinance will allow a building beyond 100 feet from the road to be taller than two stories, based on whatever the zoning of the parcel is.

Several residents of the area spoke out regarding the proposed ordinance, citing traffic and livability concerns. Many said the traffic is already too much to take in that area now.

“The two-story height restrictions on Route 8/Saulsbury and McKee roads has made this area what it is – livable,” Will Garfinkel said. “There is plenty of commerce and residential areas living in complete harmony as a direct result of this height restriction.

“The reason for this restriction, per the [city] Planning Office when asked why the height restriction was imposed was ‘Because we did not want Route 8 to turn into Route 13.’ To me, that says it all.”

Phillip McGinnis, of McGinnis Commercial Real Estate Company, put forth the proposal to the city.

“Land values are being stifled by this existing overlay zone because you can’t build to the full density that the zoning district allows,” Mr. McGinnis said. “This is a situation where there are developable properties along Route 8 that can’t be developed to their maximum density according to the current district zoning regulations because of this overlay zone.”

Council did unanimously approve the city’s abandonment of the Topaz Circle Stub Street in Emerald Pointe. The stub street will be demolished at a cost ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, according to City Manager Scott Koenig.

It was another issue that drew several speakers out in favor of the abandonment of the stub street that might have eventually been connected to College Road.

“I have concerns along with the people regarding the traffic in that area,” Councilman Brian Lewis said.

Also, a motion to rescind the smoke-free policy on city grounds failed.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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