At Monday’s meeting, Delaware City Council voted to approve a small, four-unit subdivision to be constructed north of Belle Avenue and east of Liberty Road. “Belle Commons,” as it will be known, will encompass 1.34 acres, with each lot spanning 15,300 square feet.
The subdivision will account for a small portion of the nearly 11-acre parcel of land that is currently undeveloped directly south of the Liberty Field baseball diamond. The city hopes the remaining land can be developed by the developer to serve as a transition from the industrial entities on the west side of Liberty Road, namely Liberty Casting, to the residential neighborhoods east of the road.
City of Delaware Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said previously, during the Planning Commission’s approval of the proposal last month, that the city has been working with the developer to possibly rezone the remainder of the parcel for that transitional use.
Currently, the entire parcel is zoned residential, meaning the developer could ultimately decide to build more single-family units, which was what was originally proposed. Efland said that, for the time being, costs of infrastructure have proven to be too high for any plans to be made. He did, however, express confidence both the city and developer could continue to work together to find an appropriate solution.
The proposed subdivision garnered little debate among council members, as could be expected for a four-unit development. However, Delaware citizens from nearby neighborhoods have voiced their concerns over continuing to build new homes in such close proximity to the Liberty Casting plant.
Stephanie Gregory, who lives just south of Liberty Casting, spoke at the Nov. 26 city council meeting, stating she couldn’t, “in good conscious,” accept a new subdivision being built so close to the plant with the amount of air pollution she felt the plant created.
Gregory is a member of “Sustainable Delaware,” which, according to its website, is “a group of residents focused on promoting environmental, social and economic sustainability for the Delaware community through awareness, advocacy and action.”
In response to Gregory’s concerns, Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said the city had previously reached out to Liberty Casting and, to their knowledge, “everything was up to standards.”
Anna Willow, a Delaware resident who lives north of the plant, said she moved to Delaware and built her home without prior knowledge of Liberty Casting and the consistent aroma the plant produces.
Willow spoke of the disappointment and remorse she suspects new homeowners may feel once they settle into a home and begin to see the prevailing smells from the plant are there to stay.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller told Willow she had many of the same concerns years ago, but after discussions with Liberty Casting, many of her concerns and fears were put to ease.
Keller encouraged Willow to reach out to the plant, and council members said they would follow up with Willow to aid her in getting in touch with the company.
Councilman George Hellinger reminded the public that, regardless of personal feelings, the council is “constrained by law” in how they judge proposals when those proposals are already properly zoned and plans fit within those zone restrictions, as is the case with the Belle Commons development.
“There’s nothing the city can really do to prohibit that unless we want to get sued,” Hellinger said. “I think that, so often, the public just does not understand that we can only do what we’re legally allowed to do.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.