More on Odessa National Story:
National will crowd out Rural Delaware"
Delaware's charming character is slipping into oblivion. More importantly, the natural systems that sustain all life are crumbling. The proposed Odessa National Golf Club and Residential Community in southern New Castle County demonstrates the failure of our state and county governments to control the “sprawl” development lamented by almost everyone not tied to development interests.
Southern New Castle County is now experiencing the development pressures that fundamentally altered Newark, Pike Creek Valley, and the Concord Pike. Consider Newark, once surrounded by farms. One by one, developers have converted them into commercial and residential properties. Many bear names such as "Country Hills," names which are essentially epitaphs to what once was. The Newark area has changed. At what loss? New residents moving to the city find it pleasant, and see little reason to complain. But they never knew what it was like before. How many residents of West Branch know that beaver once lived in their back yards?
In 1997, New Castle County approved a new Unified Development Code. One of the Code’s stated intentions is to protect the character of existing communities. As County Council prepares to vote on Odessa National, many see it as a test of the County’s commitment to preserving “community character.”
A News Journal editorial on Friday, December 22 supported Odessa National, calling it a "good plan," and cautioning that, by delaying or denying such a project, the county risks getting a "reputation as obstructionist." To who? Developers?
There are legitimate reasons to reject this plan. To begin with, Delaware is unable to meet Federal air quality standards, and faces the loss of Federal transportation funding. New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner noted, "this is a crisis." Odessa National, producing a calculated 2,770,650 more vehicle trips per year, is not what Delaware needs. The Delaware Department of Transportation (DELDOT) itself reminds the County that "one of [the Wilmington Area Planning Council’s (WILMAPCO)] goals is a ten percent reduction in single-occupant vehicle trips by 2020… By allowing [Odessa National], the County would move us further from, not closer to that ten percent reduction."
Traffic congestion is another concern. While the News Journal writes that DELDOT believes traffic congestion caused by Odessa National should not prove "crippling," the newspaper fails to note that DELDOT also states "neither [Fieldsboro Road or Delaware Route 9] is designed to accommodate the traffic that this project would generate." DELDOT also lists several roads and intersections which would require improvements yet undetermined. Furthermore, DELDOT is now unable to analyze the development’s impact on the already-dangerous intersection of Route 13 and Fieldsboro Road in the typical manner, due to a change in the manual they use. Can we be sure Odessa National will not prove crippling in the literal sense?
The County should also reconsider the location of Odessa National, and the nature of the “open space” it includes. Within two miles of the proposed development, are 20 State-listed rare, endangered or threatened species, including a nesting pair of bald eagles less than a mile from the site. Also within this radius, are 30.16 acres of "wetlands of critical concern," as well as 1,064 acres of National Estuarine Research Reserve area. While not all these areas are on the property to be developed, increased runoff and changing hydrology would adversely affect them. At the very least the County should require an in-depth environmental assessment.
As to planned “open space,” the law which permits golf courses to satisfy open space requirements should be changed. Golf courses tend to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers which impact the environment, and are tailored environments not providing the habitat and environmental benefits that other open spaces offer. While Odessa National would have 68% open space including the golf course, excluding it, only 10% of the land would be open space.
Finally, if built, Odessa National will change the agricultural character of the existing community. The property in question is adjacent to an Agricultural Preservation District. According to the County, however, the developers believe that "since the area is only beginning to develop, the Odessa National plan is essentially creating the character of this area." To someone who has lived in rural, farming communities this is an insult, implying such communities lack character and must rise to the ugliness of suburbia to be considered worthy of possessing character. The Delaware Department of Agriculture and the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation oppose Odessa National, noting that such a development is "not compatible…in a traditional agricultural community."
For these reasons, Odessa National is NOT a “good plan,” and County Council should reject it or table it for further study.
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page was last updated on January 21, 2001.