Dover council considers expanding development district

DOVER — City council discussed the possibility of expanding the Downtown Development District during Monday night’s meeting.

In January, Gov. Jack Markell designated Dover as one of three Downtown Development Districts in Delaware,
Since that time the city actively has been promoting redevelopment of properties within the city’s district. The state’s downtown district program allows for up to 225 acres to be included within the boundary.

Dover’s district is approximately 220 acres. In selecting the original boundary, the city utilized public streets as boundaries.

As the program has been implemented it was determined that some of the properties that front the streets utilized as boundaries are also in need of investment, said Ann Marie Townshend, director of Dover Planning and Inspections.

Expanding the boundary as proposed would make the Downtown Development District 224.9 acres, fully utilizing the allowable area under the state’s program.

The area immediately east of South State Street between Loockerman Street and The Green is mostly privately owned. Several property owners have inquired about incentives to renovate their historic properties, Ms. Townshend said.

This expansion would make these renovations more feasible, she added.

The area south of Water Street between South State Street and South Governors Avenue includes properties in need of investment. Ms. Townshend said State Street Commons has sat vacant since the completion of the building shell for many years.

The addition of this small area on the south side of Water Street would allow for these improvements to qualify for the incentives and also would make improvements to other properties.

She also said that the 1.6 acres on State Street was part of the historic district and if the buildings are historic, the owners could apply for federal money to have them rehabilitated.

The final reading of the ordinance and action by council will take place Nov. 9.

Council also discussed an amendment that would allow temporary special events and temporary camping areas within the recreation and commercial zone.

The ordinance would move auto, horse and motorcycle race tracks from the conditional-use section to the permitted-use section.

Ms. Townshend explained that this ordinance would allow events such as Firefly, Big Barrel and other large events planned to be held at the Woodlands area at Dover International Speedway.

“We’ve been working on this for several months,” she said. “We’ve been in touch with Dover International Speedway, as well.”

The amendment proposes an activity and camping permit fee, but Councilman James Hosfelt wasn’t in favor of it.

“One of my concerns is that there is a permit fee being charged to do what we’re paying taxes on,” Mr. Hosfelt said. “That seems like a double jeopardy to me. We’re paying taxes to do this.

“Most of the properties that surround the Dover International Speedway make money off the events that we host. It bothers me to some degree and I don’t see a sense in having this fee.”

Mr. Hosfelt is security manager for Dover Motorsports, owner of the speedway.

Ms. Townshend said the proposed ordinance would go through the hearing process, which would include public hearings held by the planning commission and city council.

“We’re trying to figure everything out during the process,” she added.

It will be discussed at the planning commission meeting on Nov. 16. Then the final reading will be during council’s Dec. 14 meeting.

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