Thursday, August 22, 2019

CDC: Mental Health and (lack of) Green Space

Senator Townsend's taking Chair of the Senate Health, Children, & Social Services committee in 2017 is, once again, hypocrisy at its absolute worst. In this case, Mr Townsend denied a clear, common sense remedy by refusing to champion place-making, green space and a regional park right in his own District 11. An entire region of New Castle County has now lost that opportunity forever, with only more traffic congestion (and road rage) to show for it.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, the effects of the community design choices we make and the opportunities those choices afford or deny us are only just now beginning to be understood. Such effects not only can influence community members’ physical health but their mental health as well.Effects on mental health can include both increased stress and cognitive impairment, which in turn can have physical health implications. Some of this increased stress can be caused by long and taxing daily commutes necessitated by development patterns that separate our work or school locations from our homes. This increased commuting-related stress may be related to the perceived increases in the rates of “road rage.”
  • Researchers have discovered that when some people who are injured or ill are exposed to open, undeveloped land, also known as green space, they recover faster than others who were not exposed. In another study, researchers examined the cognitive functions of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to determine the effect that the children’s surroundings had on learning and their ability to concentrate. The researchers found that exposure to parks and other green spaces improved the children’s ability to focus and concentrate.
See also: Access to Parks and Open Space by the Institute for Local Government:
  • Residents of neighborhoods that lack park and recreation facilities are more likely to exhibit health disparities. Increasing park acreage and facilities per capita and improving access to existing parks are important ways to support physical activity.
And THIS article, by the Trust for Public Land:
  • Parks and open space outside of cities produce economic benefits as well. Parks attract non-resident visitors who put new dollars into local economies. Proximity to parks and open space enhances the value of residential properties and produces increased tax revenues for communities. Open space captures precipitation, reduces stormwater management costs, and by protecting underground water sources, open space can reduce the cost of drinking water up to ten-fold. Trees and shrubs reduce air pollution control costs. And of course, there is the value to human communities of protecting the habitats of wild creatures who live near us.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Newark Post: Townsend & Osienski repeat same tired lies

An article appeared in the Newark Post on August 15 about Townsend & Osienski's proposed trail network on what remains of the Orphanage Property wooded section. The two continue to lie -- repeatedly -- about their role in the loss of the land. They both took the stuffed envelopes and knowingly sold out the last and only chance for a regional park and some form of place-making for the Ogletown-S. Newark region. Business interests trumped revitalization, community building, and enhanced property values and that will be their legacy.

Excerpts from the article:

For the second year, trails proposed for the wooded land behind the former Our Lady of Grace Orphanage are stuck in limbo.

“Initially, we thought the area was in need of a county park and that’s why Sen. Bryan Townsend and I did pursue that route with the county,” said State Rep. Ed Osienski. “When that did not happen, we thought that the surrounding communities would still be interested. There are some trails back there that have developed over the years.”

Ultimately, [developer Bob] Sipple decided not to sign the easement due to the changes it required, according to emails obtained by the Newark Post. Sipple did not return a request for comment.

“I think we want to try to keep it for these trails, and if that doesn’t work out, then I think we would have a conversation with the other parts of the Route 4 corridor about what kind of local investments might be helpful to people, ideally from an environmental and leisure perspective,” Townsend said.

Townsend's "Plan" for himself AND Rep Osienski is to try and salvage an ounce credibility in the face of blatant corruption that they themselves participated in.

Nothing can change the fact that both knew years in advance that the Felician Sisters were looking to build, and that they NEVER brought it to the public or Advocate's attention. Each time someone would confront them with this fact, they answered "well, we didn't think it would happen" or "we didn't think the Sisters could get a plan approved". Sometimes they even say they did go public, mentioning it at local civic meetings (that are sparsely attended if that). The fact is, THIS is how you go public, as they demonstrated themselves!

What Townsend could have done was recognize the threat of development in 2013, well before the plans were drawn up and the regional park alternative was easily achievable. At least he or Osienski should have immediately understood the huge opportunity they had to do something great for their districts and their constituents. THEY didn't do that, they didn't see the need for this invaluable open space as a public asset, because that would fly in the face of their donor interests. So watching as they lie in this manner, and trying and save face with a no-go trail project on private property is laughable at best.

Despite such widespread and enthusiastic support for a regional park, no amount of action or visibility on the part of residents and citizens counted toward democracy in Townsend's District 11 -- and in light of such obvious corruption, the rule of law. It became painfully clear that, from the very beginning, the fate of the land was already sealed. Townsend and his cohort Osienski were well aware in 2013 that development of the Orphanage Property was coming, and kept it a secret from their Constituents for 2 years -- long enough that it was too late to stop it.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Townsend's Bond Committee Quashed Open Space Funding

Senator Towsend (and Rep Ed Osienski) are equally at fault for the loss of the Orphanage Property. Unlike other States, most of Delaware does not have local jurisdiction (charter), like a city, township or borough. Nor do we have the ability to draft and put up referendums on the ballot, i.e. open space funding via a minuscule sin tax as commonly seen in most other States. Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) Advocates poured their hearts and souls into 10-9 funding ($10M for farmland, $9M for open space preservation) and Open Space as a Democrat Party Plank, and both were soundly defeated.

Therefore, because of the lack of charters in most suburban areas of Delaware, our County and State Legislators are given a significantly elevated responsibility to act in the people's best interests, throughout the districts they serve. NOT, according to Townsend and his minion in the House -- Rep Edward Osienski. Both failed (and go on failing) their Ogleotwn-S. Newark constituents on issues of environment and quality of life.

Advocates knew from very early on that New Castle Councilwoman Lisa Diller was completely useless; a
colossal failure who did virtually nothing for STOP. Exec Meyer arrived late on the scene with his election in 2016, and with no State Legislator oversight, simply threw away this one time-ever opportunity. But along with Diller, both Osienski and Townsend knew way back in 2013 that the property was under the threat of development, and did not act in the manner one would expect if you're trying to save it.

View Senator Townsend's position on the the State's Bond Bill Committee HEREFor 2017, Delaware ended up with an $87M budget surplus. Citing "budgetary constraints" instead, he faked leveraging $1.25M for what is easily the most disenfranchised region of his own District 11 -- Ogletown-S.Newark.  And he did this while consumed by his failed primary campaign (at 34 years of age) against Lisa Blunt Rochester for U.S. Congress.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Who's your daddy? Following the money trail

Is it any wonder why Senator Townsend would not champion saving the Orphanage Property? An analysis of his campaign donor list indicates contributions in upwards of $125,000 tied to development interests to one degree or another.

You may need to register with to access the list, which can be broken down among several categories including individual donors. His legislative companion, Ogletown's own State Rep. Edward Osienki, is similarly weighted with builder interests. No wonder the two concealed the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" from their constituents for two full years from the time it was first conceived. Doing so kept environmental and quality of life Advocates out of it, and allowed the development plans to reach a point of no return. From there, the two could make excuses and lie their way to its finished conclusion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Saving Face: The Hypocrisy of HB-200

Excerpt from the article in "Blue Delaware" HB-200 - Clean Water Plan:

“This is a critical first step towards addressing the crisis-level needs we see throughout Delaware,” Senate Majority Whip Bryan Townsend said in a statement. “From chronic flooding, to aging sewer systems, to drinking water that isn’t drinkable, Delaware desperately needs sustained investment in water infrastructure. “This bill represents initial steps down a path of true commitment to meeting our water challenges. Let’s show immediate progress, and then push for even more investment to promote our economy and the health and safety of all Delawareans.”

Senator Townsend can try, but he cannot hide from his tainted environmental record. He wouldn't champion saving the 180 acre Orphanage Property -- its forests, fields and wetlands -- for future generations to enjoy (and possibly need for allotments). At the same time, he relaxed coastal zone protections in favor of heavy industrial development. His position as "Chair" of the Clean Water Task Force is laughable at best, a bad joke for a man whose record runs contrary of what this "task force" says it wants to accomplish. According to this paper from the Environmental Protection Agency:

Urbanization increases the variety and amount of pollutants carried into streams, rivers, and lakes. The pollutants include:
  • Sediment
  • Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from motor vehicles
  • Pesticides and nutrients from lawns and gardens
  • Viruses, bacteria, and nutrients from pet waste and failing septic systems
  • Road salts
  • Heavy metals from roof shingles, motor vehicles, and other sources
  • Thermal pollution from dark impervious surfaces such as streets and rooftops
These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water
supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.

=> It also contributes heavily to flooding, especially in low-lying areas like the Orphanage Property, with its high water table.

Also check out this paper (pdf), from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Excerpt:

 . . . with the increase in man-made impervious surfaces, such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots, the volume of stormwater runoff has drastically increased. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that can drastically impact water quality.

By his very record, Senator Townsend has never seen a development project he didn't oppose, regardless of its impacts on water and the environment in general. Sacrificing wetlands, paving over natural permeable surfaces, and creating torrents of polluted run-off is very much on his agenda. A look at his campaign donor list -- loaded with developer interests -- tells us all we need to know.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Name That Liar: Townsend vs Meyer

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.

In summary, 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.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Townsend's "Democratic" Party is an Environmental Fraud

In the Autumn of 2016, Advocates for Saving the Orphanage Property (STOP) also worked hard on a campaign to have the Delaware Democrat Party include open space preservation as a plank in their 2017 platform. This was not an endorsement of a particular party; the Democrats are the State's State's controlling party at this time. Unfortunately, despite repeated follow-up attempts, it was dismissed, swept under the rug and never even voted on.

Open Space and Farmland Preservation is supported by the overwhelming majority of the electorate, regardless of party affiliation. Countless studies have shown the importance of parkland, natural habitat, and bio-diversity in a community's overall health and well being. Ordinary folks know this. Yet the party that sells itself as stewards of the environment is nowhere to be found, as evidenced by their silence on STOP.

Below is the breakdown of those who signed on in support of the plank. It was grossly inadequate considering how many (D) legislators there are in Dover. Conspicuously absent was newly elected Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, whom advocates reached out to on multiple occasions without success. Townsend, of course, was expected on there as a cover for the mass campaign contributions that he accepts from the building lobby.

The best advice for those who care about the environment in Delaware is to join, engage with, and vote Green or other 3rd party. Or, if you insist on supporting the 2-party duopoly fraud, choose the "other" party (R) as a protest vote, i.e. "throw the bums out". Let us not forget that a highly respected former Republican Governor had put in place coastal zone safeguards that Townsend and his (D) minions have since relaxed. Most of the environmental damage we are seeing now -- and the lying to cover for it -- has occurred with Democrats in solid majorities.

Par for the course: The start of clear-cutting and the paving of forest and habitat area for a major housing development, also in Townsend's District 11 on Salem Church Road. Townsend could have been a champion of conservation by Saving the Orphanage Property, and in the process, won the last opportunity for a regional park in Ogletown. He chose not to, and even saw fit to conceal the development plans from his constituents and area Advocates.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Chestnut Hill "Preserve" run-off channeled to FEMA Type A flood plain

According to officials at the NCC Dept of Land Use (DLU), the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" will see much, if not most of its runoff channeled to Leathermans Run, a tributary of the Christina River. The final stretch of Leathermans is on the State's FEMA map as a type "A" flood hazard. What this means for adjacent residents (i.e. Woodshade to the southeast, close to where Senator Townsend lives) isn't clear, but it can't be positive.

Will the green hash marks of the flood plain need to be redrawn, possibly overlapping property lines? Even without the Orphanage Property paved over, Todd Estates and Breezewood residents were used to seeing the grasslands and woods fill with standing water. It was a very low land and has a high water table -- before the development raised it. This water and more will now be heading to the Christina via Leathermans Run or will simply "absorb into the ground", according to officials and developers.

With Senator Townsend's refusal to champion the preservation of the Orphanage Property as State and/or County parkland, he blew off any notion that flooding could be an issue. Apparently, he relies on the "miracle" of civil engineering to tame the natural environment no matter what the challenge. 

We are at the dawn of the Anthropocene, runaway climate change, and what should be a biodiversity emergency of epic proportions, yet Senator Townsend (and his fellow Democrat legislators) would rather condemn future generations and follow the money trail. He aids and abets developers in habitat destruction, forest clear cutting, and the paving of wetlands, or he would have fought to save the Orphanage Property.

The purple line represents the Salem Village Tax Ditch. The village is routinely threatened by
runoff, and the ditch helps protect communities like Chelmsford by channeling large
amounts of stormwater to Leathermans Run. Some units and their outbuildings are seen
sinking into the ground, which is unstable to begin with. It can be argued that this
development, and others nearby should never have been built in the first place.

Martha Denison explains the critical purpose of the Tax Ditch, that is used to protect low
lying neighborhoods from flooding. This stretch, in Chelmsford, is part of one that circles
Salem Village, as seen in the above map. Also pictured is Angela Connolly.

Townsend Guts Coastal Zone Protections

Coastal Zone Act bill is a betrayal to Peterson’s intent
Note: With Democrats like Townsend, who needs Republicans? Bill signing HERE.

Originally posted in Delaware State News, May 21, 2017 | Rep. Ed Osienski and Sen. Bryan Townsend have introduced a bill (HB 190) that guts the Coastal Zone Act by re-industrializing some of Delaware’s most contaminated land and allowing new bulk product transfer operations where they never previously existed.

Established in 1971 under Republican Gov. Russell Peterson, the Coastal Zone Act has controlled the location, extent and type of industrial development in Delaware’s coastal areas to protect the natural environment for recreation and tourism. Manufacturing is allowed in the Coastal Zone (with a permit), but new heavy industrial development and bulk product transfer facilities were prohibited.

If passed, the bill would allow new heavy industry and bulk product transfer in targeted areas. Heavy industry, and its associated air and water pollution, is the most harmful and dangerous form of development. The areas that would be opened to new heavy industry including those near homes, schools and critical habitat zones.

The Coastal Zone Act prohibits bulk product transfer because of the pressure it places on the Coastal Zone. The language of the prohibition is eliminated by this bill and replaced with a new procedure that allows bulk product transfer operations where docks existed in 1971.

  • “During an era when protecting clean water is a priority for Sen. Townsend, he places the integrity of the Delaware River and its tributaries at risk. He is essentially fouling the Delaware Estuary with this bill, thinking somehow that financial guarantees and offsets could mitigate the loss of critical habitat for birds and the ecosystem they rely on to survive.” — Mark Martell, Conservation Chair of Delaware Audubon Society
  • “Russ Peterson warned us that once he died, lawmakers would start hacking away at the Coastal Zone Act. If he were alive today, would Sen. Townsend and Rep. Osienski be able to look him in the eye and argue their positions? It is only since Russ has passed that these legislators have decided to betray him.” — Matt DelPizzo, President of Delaware Audubon Society
  • “HB 190 does not ‘modernize’ the Coastal Zone Act. Instead, it significantly weakens core protections in the Act in the unsubstantiated hope that backwards-looking options like heavy industry will somehow provide an economic boost to Delaware. [Full Article . . . ]
As expected, HB-190 was signed into law by Democrat Governor John Carney.

"A champion must be ready at all times" ~Cris Cyborg

Saving the Orphanage Property on Route 4 in Ogletown, as a regional park and trail system, should have been top priority for Senator Bryan Townsend starting in 2013. He could have been a champion for his constituents and their quality of life, but he chose not to. His campaign donors and a full time run for U.S. Congress made sure of it.

The trail system through the woods and wetlands portion (approx 2/3 of the property) were mapped by GPS in 2016 upon learning that it was threatened by an enormous mixed housing development. As many of you know, Advocates were in the fight of their lives to save this beautiful landscape as a regional park for Ogletown -- something so desperately needed, and now, can never happen.

Ogletown residents have been vastly underserved when it comes to parkland and open space. None of NCC's regional parks with amenities are within a safe walking or biking distance of their homes, while other regions including Pike Creek and the City of Newark are continually adding them. None of that mattered to Mr Townsend, who threw this forgotten region of his (gerrymandered) district under the bus -- with two hands.

The easiest way to have accessed the trail system was Pearson Drive, through Todd Estates II, south of Route 4. Pearson dead-ends at a major trail head with room for parking. It is now completely off-limits as a result of the Chestnut Hill so-called "Preserve".

We mapped out the entire trail system using a GPS.

The view from orbit. The lower left 1/3 is being paved over by a housing development, and the rest of the trail system shut down via DNREC directive. It didn't have to happen had a Legislator like Bryan Townsend championed the cause. He could have been that champion, from the time he first learned of development plans 2 years before Councilwoman Lisa Diller leaked it to citizen Advocates.