New Castle News

October 22, 2011

Focus: Decisions on property have impact on city

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — An issue that seldom, if ever, comes up in local political campaigns is zoning.

It may not create as much excitement among voters as candidates giving their positions on taxes, on dealing with crime or on creating a climate to encourage economic development.

Yet, zoning plays a role in all of those. In fact, it’s probably the second most important matter local officials have to deal with — behind only adoption of the annual budget. Some may argue that zoning is more important.

Decisions that officials make on zoning matters can affect a municipality for years.

New Castle City Council faces decisions on two current requests: One a no-kill animal shelter on the West Side and the other a housing development on the South Side. Residents overwhelmingly voiced their opposition to both requests at public hearings this week.

Regarding the South Side proposal, residents said the city, which has a preponderance of low-income housing, doesn’t need another such development. The developer argued that it isn’t low income housing, but affordable housing for people from zero to 40 percent of median income.

While the developer said there is a segment of residents who need housing, the question is whether the city needs such housing. The South Side already has two public housing projects within a stone’s throw of the proposed site, which is bordered by Long Avenue and Jefferson and Reynolds streets.

One council member strongly indicated that he opposes the proposal while three others expressed reservations.

Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo, who noted that he grew up on the South Side, said he doesn’t believe the project will benefit the area. The city may be missing an opportunity by passing on this project, he said, but added, “Right now, I don’t think it’s the way to go.”

Voting down this proposal would maintain the status quo as far as this particular area is concerned. And there’s always the possibility that something else could be developed on the site.

The cumulative effect of zoning decisions tend to define a city. Right now, council members have indicated this proposal doesn’t pass the smell test. But whichever way council votes, the decision will be another defining moment for the city.