Jerome Reid (Director Public Works), Michael Houlihan (Mayor) and James Waehler (Town Attorney) make up the Board of Adjustments.
Normally in a Board of Adjustments meeting the question is asked what hardships would come of you not being allowed a variance, no one on the board asked that question.
There were a number (maybe 10 people) who gave testimony in favor of allowing the Homeless Shelter to be in an R-1 zoned neighborhood. Most were from the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans in Wilmington. The three that were from Delmar; William Boylan, Beverly Wilson and Greg Smith live several blocks away from the proposed house where the Shelter is proposed. All testimony was of the, "they are a great group doing good work" type of testimony not why they should be allowed in a residential neighborhood which was the purpose of the Board of Adjustments meeting. The Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans have also asked to increase the number of veterans allowed in the shelter from five to ten. I heard nothing from them about the impact this homeless veteran shelter would have on the character of neighborhood, how traffic patterns would be effected by resident vehicles and staff vehicles, nor the impact on community services, police ambulance etc.
Three people gave testimony against the homeless veteran Shelter being allowed in an R-1 residential neighborhood. One young man who lived at 203 Grove St (maybe a half block from the proposed homeless shelter) discussed parking problems (the residents of the homeless shelter can have cars), water flooding problems and sewage use. I, of course spoke, with my first question being was Mayor Houlihan going to vote on this issue given his involvement in the American legion and VFW? He said he was and he had discussed it with the town lawyer if he should and the lawyer said he could vote. Mr. James Waehler (town lawyer) said all three on the board of adjustments would have to be excluded as all three had ties to veteran and/or veteran organizations so it was decided to go ahead. Obviously this is not a unbiased board of adjustments we are dealing with. I read a letter I had sent the Board last week ( I have copied it below) and I pointed out I live about a block from the proposed shelter and I was also a veteran.
The board decided to postpone making a decision on the Homeless veteran shelter being allowed in an R-1 Zoning until sometime in the future. No ideal why but I am sure it is not something that will be in my favor given the makeup of the board.
If I have misquoted a statement made in the meeting I am sorry, my hearing is pretty well shot and a number of people spoke softly.
February 10, 2016
Subject: Board of Adjustment Meeting February 16th
Dear Mayor Michael Houlihan,
The area that is outlined by State Street, Bi-State Boulevard, Delaware Ave and Pennsylvania Ave is the oldest section of Delmar, Delaware. Over the years it has had a great many businesses, residential homes, a jail, veteran rental housing, a school and a number of churches in it. Eventually the town enacted zoning regulations to segregate uses that were thought to be incompatible with the neighborhood and to preserve the “character” of the community. The zoning regulations are supposed to protect housing values and to provide predictability in the real estate market.
The neighborhood is now faced with a proposed homeless veteran shelter at 109 East Grove Street. The property is presently zoned R-1. At present this shelter is proposed to be run by Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans. It will house up to five homeless veterans selected by the Veterans Administration to be housed in Delmar for 60 to 90 days. This neighborhood has beside residential homes; a post Office, an American Legion, a library, a number of houses converted to apartments, several churches and a nursing home – all grandfathered in when the zoning regulations were made. If those non-residential organizations were to try to build today, the neighborhood would reject them. A homeless veteran’s shelter is not an inherent use for a neighborhood zoned R-1, it is an incompatible land use with the homes in the area. You may say “Well look at what you already have there” and I will say it was all grandfathered in and none of those organizations have transit people living and sleeping in them 24 hours a day who are allowed to wander about the neighborhood.
Having a homeless shelter in the neighborhood is not a selling point to sell your house AND eventually you or your heirs will sell your house, nor is it going to increase the market value of your home. To allow one homeless shelter in will merely open the doors for other similar types of organizations. This neighborhood has become a dumping ground for organizations and absentee owners of apartments that no other neighborhood will allow them in. It has to stop.
Since the possibility of this shelter actually being allowed, considerable distress has been created among the residents of the neighborhood who are concerned about safety problems with the shelter. Different Veteran surveys estimate that approximately 50 percent or more of homeless veterans have some kind of disability including substance abuse, mental illness and physical disabilities. Why would you want to invite additional problems to Delmar when you can’t handle the present ones?
I am not bashful about saying it at all; I don’t want this type of operation in my neighborhood. It will have a negative impact on the neighborhood. I expect the Board of Adjustments to deny the use of a homeless veteran shelter in an R-1 residential district.
I would like for this letter to be part of the minutes for the Board of Adjustments meeting.
Howard L. Dickerson