Environmental Advocacy

Newark Residents, Delaware Audubon Society File Appeal Over the Proposed UD Power Plant

Question the validity of the zoning verification decision made last month by the City of Newark

An appeal, filed with the City of Newark Board of Adjustment on February 10, 2014, challenges the City of Newark’s Planning and Development Department’s January 17, 2014 zoning verification for the proposed power plant/data center project by The Data Centers, LLC (TDC). The group Newark Residents Against the Power Plant (NRAPP), the Delaware Audubon Society, and five Newark residents are joint appellants on the appeal.

The appellants seek review of the decision and ask that it "be set aside and invalidated as a matter of law." The appeal contends that in issuing the zoning verification, the City of Newark’s and Director of Planning and Development Maureen Feeney Roser’s "actions were arbitrary, capricious, and/or contrary to law." The reasons set forth in the appeal include:

  • The proposed project violates the City of Newark Code in that it does not meet the definition of "accessory use." "Island mode" power plants are neither "customary" for data centers, nor "subordinate and incidental" to an approved zoning use. In addition, the proposed project would "alter the character of the premises and impair the neighborhood," which is expressly prohibited for accessory uses.
  • The conditions and restrictions placed on TDC in the January 17th zoning verification are unlawful, because the conditions would further place TDC outside what is considered "accessory use;" the City of Newark staff lack the power to set such restrictions; and the conditions constitute an amendment to the City Code, which is the purview of City Council and not the Planning Director.

The appellants are represented the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Widener University School of Law, under the direction of Kenneth T. Kristl, Associate Professor of Law.

"The Clinic took on this matter because it raises important legal and environmental issues that should be resolved before this project is allowed to move forward." Professor Kristl said.

NRAPP is a grassroots group formed in opposition to the power plant planned for the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, which is in the middle of Delaware’s 2nd most densely-populated city. TDC plans to build a 279 MW natural gas powered plant that will generate power for its data center, but plans to also sell power to the grid. If built, the power plant would be able to meet the energy needs of five cities the size of Newark.

Residents contend that the power plant would negatively impact quality of life; an issue that was not taken into consideration until last summer when residents first became aware of the power plant component of the project. Prior to that time, staff of the City of Newark worked behind the scenes with the project’s developers, including signing on as the "public sponsor" for the power plant in a grant application to the Delaware Economic Development Office in 2013.

To date, NRAPP has worked to uncover information about the project and make this available to Newark’s City Council and the public. NRAPP also recently commissioned an independent sound study in an effort to determine baseline noise levels in surrounding neighborhoods.

NRAPP and Delaware Audubon joined forces in December when Audubon became the nonprofit fiscal sponsor of the group.

The group seeks donations to go towards their legal cause and the sound study. Donations are tax-deductible and be can be made by clicking here.