Plans for new DGHD site pass initial stage

By Dillon Davis -

Plans that would see the Delaware General Health District (DGHD) relocate to a significantly larger space continue to move forward. During its meeting Monday, Delaware City Council approved the Preliminary Development Plan for the construction of a new building on the city’s south side.

Currently located downtown at 3 W. Winter St., the proposal would see the district relocate to 470 S. Sandusky St., between Birch Bend and English Terrace. The site, which spans approximately 9.4 acres, formerly belonged to famed evangelist Leroy Jenkins, who passed away in 2017.

Jenkins sold the property for $1.35 million in 2003, and it was owned by Yogi Divine until last year when DGHD made the purchase. The main building on the site was razed by the city in 2014.

DGHD is proposing a one-story, 30,000-square-foot building to be constructed on the site, which will serve as the district’s main office location. The site allows for a 10,000-square-foot expansion to be made at some point in the future. The drive leading from South Sandusky Street would extend into a 214-space parking lot.

The building will face Sandusky Street, although with it sitting more than 500 feet off the road and being only one story tall, visibility of the building from the road will be minimal. A connection will be made to Magnolia Drive that will serve as a second access point to be used only under emergency circumstances.

There is an existing home that sits on the western portion of the site. The home will remain with the construction of the new DGHD building and could be used as storage for the district. However, with the building first needing to be brought up to code before it can be used as storage, DGHD representatives said they would not pursue renovations of the building as part of this project.

“(We’re) appreciative of the partnership with the health district and their need to consolidate operations as we grow in our city and county,” Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said. “I think they’ve looked all over and they have elected, so far, to stay right within the heart of our community and that’s great.”

During the Feb. 5 Delaware Planning Commission meeting, there was a lengthy discussion regarding the perimeter landscaping that would be required as part of the project. Pat Blayney, vice chairman of the DGHD board, said he wished to have a discussion with the city about some sort of plan that would allow DGHD to push the landscaping to the following year when the funds would be available.

While the planning commission mostly wasn’t receptive to the idea, it proceeded to pass the Preliminary Development Plan with the understanding that future discussions about the landscaping would take place before a Final Development Plan would ever be approved.

“We do want to do a lot of landscaping but it is a large property,” said Health Commissioner Sheila Hiddleson. “We’ve been working with the neighbors. The neighbors do not appear to be very concerned … We’ve received several nice emails thanking us for taking care of the property better than it has been taken care of for many, many years.”

Hiddleson went on to say, “Our understanding is (the landscaping) could cost us an additional half a million dollars … We do have a levy, but levy dollars can’t be used for this building. And, so, our budget is very, very tight. To add an additional half a million dollars will create an issue for us to be able to do that.”

Hiddleson pointed out the entire plan for the project would be submitted as part of the Final Development Plan, full landscaping included, but preferably with approved stages for the landscaping.

Councilman Drew Farrell said of allowing for the landscaping to be pushed to a later timeframe, “If the people (living) around it aren’t worried about it, I don’t see why we should be worried about it either.”

City Manager Tom Homan said that while the city didn’t necessarily want to see the district move from its current downtown location, the south side can benefit from the development that would come with the DGHD.

Blayney said the district is “pleased to be able to have this location” as it will be far more accessible to those coming from the southern parts of the county.

By Dillon Davis

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.