Bryon Short, a former Delaware lawmaker, and the Chairman of the Board of the Fort Dupont Redevelopment and Preservation Corporation (FDRPC), submitted his resignation to Governor John Carney’s office during the week of March 21, 2022, effective immediately.
This follows the forced resignation in February of executive director Jeff Randol whose last official day is March 31, 2022.
Responding to a request for comment from WDEL, Short shared the email he wrote to the FDRPC Board:
“When I assumed my role as chair, I identified four areas that I believed, if focused on, could significantly enhance the corporation’s ability to achieve its mission.
“I wanted to add to the board persons with private sector expertise in the areas of land use law, commercial real estate, and finance. Board approved policies ranging from financial approvals to staff travel to Board conflict of interest were needed. Communication with Delaware City was in a poor state and needed much improvement. Very importantly, although the corporation had utilized a third-party firm to perform financial reconciliations at the end of the fiscal year, audits had not been performed.
“I am very pleased to share with you that each of the areas just identified have now been addressed. It is my hope that these contributions will position the corporation to complete this exciting economic development effort.”
Short had no further comment.
Short’s contributions to the FDRPC were recognized by House Majority Leader Representative Val Longhurst during the board’s last meeting, which was held on March 10, 20220, more than 10 days prior to Short’s resignation.
“I want to thank Bryon Short for stepping up to the plate and being the chair,” said Longhurst. “I know he’s had his ups and downs, and this has been a very difficult time for him to have to come in and do some of the things he has done.”
Short’s resignation came just days after Longhurst and co-sponsor state Senator Nicole Poore introduced House Bill 355, legislation that would significantly change the composition of the board.
During the March 10 FDRPC Board meeting, Longhurst outlined the purpose of the legislation.
“A revamping of the board make-up, environmental safeguards, personnel safeguards, some transparency on new development,” said Longhurst. “We need to have open public meetings so that Delaware City, and people can come in and at least voice their concerns about a project.”
Longhurst said she was disappointed in the direction executive director Jeff Randol took with Fort Dupont.
Delaware City resident Erica Lindsey, who has been a vocal critic of a planned RV park on the Grass Dale parcel of Fort Dupont is disappointed with House Bill 355. She called it “a smokescreen” that would gut the board of any local representation and stack it in favor of whatever the FDRPC wants to do.
“I think it’s out there to appease the public because there’s been such an outcry, but I think it’s actually detrimental,” said Lindsey. “We currently have four Delaware City residents serving on the board, and they’re appointed by the mayor of Delaware City and approved by Delaware City Council. So with this change the number’s going to be reduced to two.”
According to the legislation, those two directors would be appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
In addition to eliminating the four directors appointed by Delaware City, the bill also drops the Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and the three elected directors from the board
The director of the Prosperity Partnership, the public-private economic development arm for the state and the co-chairs of the Capital Improvement Committee would fill those vacancies.
Lindsey pointed out one of those co-chairs of the Capital Improvement Committee is Senator Poore, who Lindsey said has co-sponsored much of the Fort Dupont legislation.
“That seems like a huge conflict of interest,” said Lindsey. “I think it’s very clear that their priority is, and always has been, development.”
And Lindsey said that includes the Grass Dale parcel which has been sold to Blue Water Development for a 400 space RV park.
At the March 10 board meeting, both Short and Longhurst addressed citizen concerns over the sale of the Grass Dale parcel and said there wasn’t anything they could do about it now.
“There seems to be some misunderstanding that the corporation still owns that property, and we do not. That property is in private hands,” said Short.
Longhurst said both she and Senator Poore had received communication from about 50 people regarding the Grass Dale.
“They seem to think that we can stop the RV park from going forward which is unfortunate we cannot stop it,” said Longhurst at the board meeting.
Longhurst encouraged members of the public to follow the Blue Water Development project through the DNREC permitting process, which she referred to as “lengthy,” and “in depth,” and advised the board to share with the public that permitting process and keep them up-to-date on its progress.
Lindsey and other critics of the Grass Dale sale maintain there is a way to reverse the sale through a joint resolution of the Delaware General Assembly directing the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to reclaim the parcel under Title 7.
In the meantime, a second piece of Fort Dupont related legislation, Senate Bill 238, has already been approved by the state Senate and has moved to the state House.
The bill would allow Delaware City to impose a 3% tax on gross rental income for any lot operating a park for recreational vehicles, load or truck campers, camping trailers, travel trailers, trailers, or motorhomes, located within the city’s boundaries.
With Thursday being the last official day for Randol, WDEL News has learned that attorneys for FDRPC granted former FDRPC employee Chris Robinson an extension of his eviction to April 1, 2022.
Robinson was fired from his position as maintenance manager for publicly questioning removal of a building. He said he later learned the structure could have been covered by protections under the National Register of Historic Places.
WDEL sought information from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs about the structure referred to as “Building 58,” but has not received a reply.