Just a week after Governor John Carney signed a bill that changes the composition of the board of directors of the Fort Dupont Redevelopment and Preservation Corporation (FDRPC), land clearing work on the parcel of Grass Dale, a strip of local land defenders fought to preserve , was paused.
House Bill 355 cleared its final hurdles by passing the Senate on May 12 by a vote of 19 to 0, then approved, with an amendment, by the House on May 17 on a vote of 39 to 1. Governor Carney signed the bill on June 14.
At the same time the legislation was passing through the General Assembly, heavy equipment began moving into the Grass Dale plot, paving the way for a planned RV park.
Blue Water Development CEO Todd Burbage replied to WDEL in an email that any development delays are part of the normal course of business.
“As with all of our projects, we selectively start and stop them based on a multitude of factors (literally hundreds),” Burbage wrote. “We remain nimble and fluid as we grow our national footprint.
“There’s nothing to read in it except that we’ve decided to push back our opening date. Again, whether it’s Masseys Landing, Inlet View, Aloft Rehoboth or one of other ongoing projects (all of which have been delayed at some point); project milestone dates are being moved,” Burbage said. “We’ve just decided to push the project back to a 2024 opening date. the story.”
Despite a request from House Majority Leader Representative Valerie Longhurst at the March 10 FDRPC board meeting that the public be kept up to date on the permitting process for the motorhomes, it was a member of the public who alerted WDEL in late April to the presence of what appeared to be a construction road on the site parallel to the C&D canal.
At that time, WDEL asked Burbage if Blue Water had obtained permits for the work, and if so, from which agency.
“We followed all local, state, and federal guidelines and permitting processes, which included maintaining [sic] on-site pre-construction meetings with the various agencies required,” Burbage wrote in an email response. “We overcame the setbacks of the state’s environmental protection wetlands of our own free will.
FDRPC meeting minutes indicate that a pre-construction meeting was held with Blue Water on March 29 to give them notice to proceed, but at the time WDEL News was unable to to determine which agency had approved the permits.
On the licensing issue, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) referred WDEL to FDRPC, but FDRPC attorney Richard Forsten told WDEL that FDRPC no longer owns Grass Dale. and did not issue permits.
A local attorney was advised through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to check with the New Castle County Land Use Department.
New Castle County officials said the state has taken land use authority from the county over this project.
Wdel obtained a letter from DNREC dated October 26, 2020 (see below) to former FDRPC Executive Director Jeff Randol for approval of the Sediment and Stormwater Plan for what was referred to as “the site Fort Dupont campground”.
Work for this plan was conducted by Annapolis-based McCrone Engineering, and sources said it was paid for by Blue Water.
The letter predates both the campground’s approval by Delaware City in December 2020 and the sale to Blue Water by one year.
A FOIA request has been submitted to DNREC to determine if a revised Sediment and Stormwater Approval Plan has been submitted following the change in ownership in October 2021.
Randol, meanwhile, was the subject of eviction proceedings initiated by the FDRPC after he failed to leave the house he was renting in Fort Dupont, and he is expected to be away from the house on Wednesday, June 22.
Randol resigned under pressure earlier this year and was believed to have left the property at the end of March.
According to FDRPC board minutes from the April 13 meeting, Randol had asked for some leeway and an extension of his lease until the end of May to allow more time to secure a new job. and a new residence.
It was Randol who led the effort to evict a former FDRPC employee who drew attention to a building that was demolished on the property and could have been covered by the property’s listing on the National Register of Places. historical.
Timothy Slavin, former director of Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, is slated to take over as FDRPC’s new executive director on July 1.
He will lead a board of directors that HB 355 is remodeling, including the elimination of the DHSS secretary, the four Delaware City mayor-appointed trustees, and the three council-elected trustees.
The bill adds to the Board the director of the Partnership for Prosperity, the co-chairs of the Capital Improvements Committee, an administrator appointed by the Speaker of the House and an administrator appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
One of the Capital Improvement Committee co-chairs is State Senator Nicole Poore, who was one of the sponsors of HB 355 along with Rep. Longhurst.
Critics questioned whether Poore should vote on legislation that would put her on a board for which she would then provide funding.
In a response to WDEL, Poore’s office said she was not required to abstain from HB 355, and that she had not broken any Senate rules.
It is unclear when the new board will take over. The next scheduled meeting of the FDRPC Board of Directors will take place on July 13th.