How did we lose
our last open space and regional park opportunity in the Ogletown-S. Newark region? Two attorney politicians -- NCC Exec Meyer and Senator Townsend -- were representing the County and State with supposed interest in saving the 180 acre Orphanage Property on Route 4, the last remaining parcel suitable for such a purpose.
Each, below, tells a conflicting story about how the region was sold out. One or both lied, repeatedly, to cover themselves and to give the appearance of action on their part. One thing is clear, however: Townsend would NOT stand up for his constituents, insert himself in the process, and hold Meyer accountable -- presumably out of (D) party loyalty.
At the end of the day, both will defend their positions with skillful deceit and con-artistry. And they will readily support each other's re-election bid.
According to New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer in his "County Efforts to Preserve Felician Sisters Ogletown Property" timeline:
Over the course of negotiations, New Castle County made the property owners four written offers to acquire the land. Each offer expressed the County’s support for the owner’s desire to retain a portion of the parcel and develop 60 affordable rental apartments. To date, the four County offers stand as the only written offers to purchase and preserve this land.
Despite their rhetoric, the property owners never proposed an offer for sale they would accept. The owners never responded to any of the offer letters with a specific counter-offer, sale conditions or a sale price they would accept to complete the sale.
Funding commitments for purchase:
County: County Executive Matt Meyer offered up to $2.5 million in New Castle County funds to acquire this land at appraised value, subject to approval by County Council and contingent on the commitment of matching funds from the State of Delaware.
STATE: In June, 2017 State Senator Bryan Townsend initially tried to secure “$2 million for the first year of a five-year, $6 million commitment,” to purchase the property according to draft bond bill language he submitted to the General Assembly. Unfortunately, Senator Townsend’s efforts to secure that allocation were unsuccessful and the approved Fiscal Year 2018 bond bill only included a soft one-time commitment of $1.25 million in state funds. The failure to secure adequate funds from the State complicated efforts to secure a successful purchase.
PRIVATE SOURCES: New Castle County committed to taking all possible steps to help secure funding from private, not-for-profit funding sources for the balance of the purchase price.
Meanwhile, the owners continued to advance the pending development plan through the land use process. In July, 2017, the owner and developer sought and received final development plan approval.
In Senator Townsend's public timeline "Ogletown Park",
and in person and in emails, he (and State Rep Osienski) describe how Exec Meyer was anything but sincere and genuine in wanting to save the Orphanage Property as a regional park. There were not 4 buyout offers as claimed by Meyer; only 2 were viable. They claim that Meyer's 2 lame attempts at a buyout agreement failed to include several key conditions that he promised the Felician Sisters, those selling the property.
In July 2017, Townsend details the difficulties they had in encouraging Meyer to present a reasonable offer to the Sisters, and how invaluable time was squandered and deadlines expired. Additionally, on Aug 1st, 2017, he claims that Meyer refused to participate in a joint teleconference with him, even though that was the Sister's own request. The Sisters felt that Townsend understood their needs and had communicated them effectively.
"Ogletown Park" and its timeline is a publicly released document and an official statement from Townsend (and Osienski). Though loaded with hearsay and easily debunked, it could have been used as admissible evidence to support STOP's complaint to the Ethics Committee. But even that wasn't enough -- their minds were already made up that the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" was going to go forward, no matter what.
, Senator Townsend -- above all other area legislators -- could have easily
championed saving the Orphanage Property, and brought Ogletown-S. Newark a regional park. There is tons of precedent for State Legislators around the country enthusiastically supporting open space advocacy campaigns, taking charge and making
projects happen at all levels. Townsend was conspicuously absent; if anything, he worked harder at the appearance of action on his part, because ultimately, he didn't intervene and/or make a stand when it mattered most.