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Resolution Forwarded to City Council February 28, 2024

                                                                                                                                         Wilmington, Delaware

                                                                                                                                         March 13, 2024 (revision 2)

         WHEREAS, the site of the Rodney Reservoir has served as a public greenspace for over 150 years and has never been privately developed;

          WHEREAS, the Rodney Reservoir has a rich history of public recreation hosting amenities and activities such as a public viewing tower, ice skating roller skating, baseball, football, basketball, concerts, dances and sings; 


          WHEREAS, the Rodney Reservoir has a rich recent history of urban agriculture initiatives and is currently home to the Wilmington’s largest community garden, a school gardening program and an apiary;


          WHEREAS, the nature of Rodney Reservoir site is itself significant, located at the meeting point of two watersheds at the highest point of the West Side in Wilmington at the confluence of three neighborhoods;


          WHEREAS, neighbors of the Rodney Reservoir treasure the vistas the current site configuration offers, particularly the way the elevation gives visitors a sense of peace and the feeling of being outside the City;

          WHEREAS, scientific research points to the profound physical, mental, and emotional health benefits that humans receive from spending time in and interacting with nature and the potential for access to urban green space to decrease mortality rates and increase well-being;

          WHEREAS, urban green spaces also contribute to public health by mitigating adverse environmental factors that residents of dense urban areas experience, such as increased temperatures caused by paved surfaces—a phenomenon known as the heat island effect; land, water, and air pollution; lack of access to healthy foods; lack of native habitat to support wildlife and pollinators; and enclosure in noisy, auto-dominated streets and built environments of concrete and brick;


          WHEREAS, research has found that urban greenspaces must be at least one contiguous hectare in size (2.5 acres) to achieve significant heat mitigation, carbon sequestration and reduction of  air pollution, and the Rodney Reservoir site is 3.78 acres;

          WHEREAS, community gardening is a multi beneficial, nature-based strategy for increasing community resilience because it strengthens one-on-one community relationships, encourages civic engagement, promotes healthy lifestyle, requires physical activity, teaches people about where healthy foods come from, makes fresh local produce accessible, and enhances the environment by encouraging pollinators and beneficial insects and adding oxygen to the environment;


          WHEREAS, according to the  EPA's EJScreen Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators Data for the area within 1/2 mile of the Rodney Reservoir (EPA EJ Report attached), the neighborhoods around the Rodney Reservoir are above the 90th percentile for the following Supplemental Indexes: Particulate Matter (94th percentile) Ozone (94th percentile), Diesel Particulate Matter (93rd percentile), Air Toxics Cancer Risk (90th Percentile) Toxic Releases to Air (92nd percentile percentile), Traffic Proximity (93th percentile), and Lead Paint (91th percentile); 


          WHEREAS, neighborhoods surrounding the Rodney Reservoir (West Hill and Little Italy) have 1 - 4.9 acres of public park land per 1000 residents compared to surrounding areas which have 10-24.9 acres per 1000 residents (2028 Comprehensive Plan, p. 36);


          WHEREAS, “Delaware is tied with Arizona as the fourth-fastest warming state in the United States based on temperature trends since 1970, and is expected to warm another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees F by 2020-2039” (Resilient Wilmington Report p. 12);


          WHEREAS, “Wilmington is particularly susceptible to UHI [Urban Heat Island] effects as it is approximately 60 percent impervious surfaces and has a tree canopy of just slightly greater than 20 percent” (Resilient Wilmington Report p. 12);

          WHEREAS, the City of Wilmington recognizes that “exacerbating heat” and “worsening air quality” are correlated with “increasing risk of disease,” decreased food security, mental health issues and rising cost of living and how these issues impact communities unevenly with a tendency to more severely impact historically underserved communities (Resilient Wilmington Report pp. 32-34);

          WHEREAS, the City of Wilmington has indicated that it must “collaborate and coordinate with local organizations…to enhance resilience” and “focus on community-wide adaptation strategies” that are “multi beneficial” (Resilient Wilmington Report p. 35);

          WHEREAS, the Wilmington 2028 Comprehensive Plan outlines the following goals of supporting “1. Strong and safe neighborhoods focusing on the physical environment including housing, community character, safety, and open space and recreation;” 2. Healthy and thriving communities focusing on the city's people, community building, health and services;” 5. Sustainable and resilient city focusing on city infrastructure and services, resource conservation and climate readiness;” and efforts to  “5.4 Promote community greening for aesthetic and environmental benefits;”


          WHEREAS, the Wilmington 2028 Comprehensive Plan set the following policy goals: to “make healthy living the default choice” (2.3) and “build community capacity and civic engagement” (2.4); 


          WHEREAS, Wilmington residents–including the neighborhood organization Green for the Greater Good–have been working together to restore public access to the Rodney Reservoir, which was fenced off in 2003/2004, and to transform it into a safe, community- and nature-focused public park that residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy;


          WHEREAS, more than 80 residents and stakeholders participated in community design sessions in June 2023 hosted by Green for the Greater Good in partnership with professors and students from the University of Delaware and created a high-level vision for a nature-based, community-focused park to occupy the entire Rodney Reservoir site. This vision includes strong support for a publicly accessible greenspace that is interactive and engaging for residents of all ages and abilities; builds on current uses of the site as a community garden, apiary and wildlife habitat; seizes on the unique opportunity to cultivate a natural space at the Rodney Reservoir; and balances access, safety, usable space and preservation of unique elevation and views available at the site. The vision also assumes an overarching approach to the site as a key resource for developing local solutions to offset the challenges that global warming and other environmental crises pose to community members in our dense urban neighborhood by mitigating increased temperatures caused by paved surfaces, reducing water and air pollution and hosting programing and uses that promote healthy lifestyle and contribute to public health, including by creating new educational opportunities for our children and youth;

          WHEREAS, Mayor Purzycki appointed the Rodney Reservoir Advisory Committee made up of community members and City officials to consider the future use of the site, and that committee conducted a request for proposals process after which the City hired landscape architecture firm Hinge Collective to engage the community in a design process and create designs for a public park at the Rodney Reservoir building on the results of the Community Design Charrettes that occurred in June 2023;

          WHEREAS, more than 100 residents and stakeholders have engaged in the public design workshops conducted by Hinge and those sessions have further confirmed alignment around the concept of building a community- and nature-focused park at the Rodney Reservoir;

          WHEREAS, Mayor Purzyki has made multiple public statements about the City’s intention to build this public park at the Rodney Reservoir site;


          WHEREAS, solidifying those intentions in this resolution would give the public much sought after certainty about what’s ahead, aid those working to realize the park, and create the opportunity to build on the momentum that is coming from the community design process;

          WHEREAS, OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1926 Subpart T, (1926.850) requires that an engineering survey be completed by a competent person and presented to the Employer, prior to start the of demolition, and the City of Wilmington has not conducted an engineering survey of the underground water tank at the Rodney Reservoir since 2006;

          WHEREAS, the FY 2023 State Bond Bill legislation awarding the $1.7 million to demolish infrastructure at the Rodney Reservoir site includes language that requires “comprehensive planning, including public engagement, to determine the best use for the property before any future development is begun;”

          WHEREAS, the City of Wilmington is moving forward to demolish the Rodney Reservoir in March without a plan to remediate environmental contamination at the site, a completed design to guide site work, or funding in place to build a public park;

          WHEREAS, proceeding with demolition and creating a seeded, graded lot would leave the site in limbo and vulnerable to development pressures;


          WHEREAS, integrating design and construction phases is necessary so that the topographical and historical features that local residents love can be incorporated into a design to build a park with a unique sense of place;


          WHEREAS, soil testing has confirmed that there are unacceptable levels of contamination at the site for the residential use scenario, and DNREC is not requiring nor is the City of Wilmington opting to clean up that contamination before moving ahead with the demolition; 

          WHEREAS, doing demolition as part of building the park will also enable the City to save money, reduce the carbon footprint of the project, and limit the community’s exposure to hazardous substances, silica, diesel fumes, noise pollution and other disturbances; 


          WHEREAS, it is the City of Wilmington’s duty to prioritize the health and wellbeing of its residents;

          WHEREAS, it is in all our best interests for the City to move forward prioritizing good design, proper planning, environmental sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and resident engagement; 


          WHEREAS, sustainable water infrastructure planning creates opportunities for optimizing environmental, economic, and social benefits by setting goals and selecting projects through a transparent and inclusive process with the community; realizing consistency across a range of alternatives that address both utility and community goals; and enhancing the long-term technical, financial, and managerial capacity of the utility;

          WHEREAS, City Council affirms its responsibility to engage in sustainable water infrastructure planning;

          WHEREAS, City Council affirms the community’s desire to create a unique and remarkable public green space that will benefit all residents of the City for current and future generations, helping to meet this community’s urgent need for access to nature while addressing climate-change related challenges.


          NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF WILMINGTON that in keeping with statements made by City administration, the will of the community, and existing City policy promoting greening and resiliency, the City Council recommends that the site of the Rodney Reservoir be designated, in perpetuity, a public park;

          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in order to make sure the Rodney Reservoir remains a park and to protect people from the risk of exposure to contaminated substances, City Council recommends that the City apply an environmental deed restriction to the Rodney Reservoir site to prevent future residential development. 


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council recommends that the City of Wilmington develop a policy to permit community gardening to continue at Rodney Reservoir Park and, where appropriate, other City parks.


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council holds the option that the City should commission an engineering study to inform demolition work at the Rodney Reservoir site before the project begins or workers come on site.


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that to minimize the risk of exposing our dense urban neighborhood to hazardous chemicals and to keep residents safe from the release of contaminants, City Council recommends that the City of Wilmington’s contractors be required to test soil periodically and identify and carefully handle hazardous materials disturbed at the Rodney Reservoir site during any and all demolition activities. 


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council recommends that the City of Wilmington and its contractors be required to implement and enforce an Air Monitoring plan that tests not only for particulate matter but also the hazardous chemicals identified as present at the site, provide neighbors timely access to accurate reports about monitoring results especially in the event of an incident, and put in place measures to ensure compliance.


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council is of the opinion that the City should not start demolition of the Rodney Reservoir until a consensus park design and specification documents are available to guide construction and site work.


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council recommends that the City should not start demolition of the Rodney Reservoir until funding to build the park is committed.


          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that City Council recommends that the City of Wilmington maintain the Rodney Reservoir Advisory Committee to facilitate collaboration between the City and residents and to engage the wider community throughout the entirety of the design, construction and implementation phases of the Rodney Reservoir Park project.

                                                                                                                                         First Reading………………….......

                                                                                                                                         Second Reading………………..

                                                                                                                                         Third Reading………………........


          Passed by City Council,


                                                                                                                                         President of City Council 


                                                                                                                                         ATTEST: _________________________

                                                                                                                                         City Clerk 


                                                                                                                                         Approved this ___ day of _____, 2024.



SYNOPSIS: This ordinance establishes a set of steps for the renovation of the Rodney Reservoir, a component of the City of Wilmington's water infrastructure.


This Resolution shall become effective on ____________. 

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