State makes affords in buyout of residents close to Port of Wilmington
The state buyout of several residents near the Port of Wilmington is moving forward—after being delayed this spring because of the pandemic.
The state Department of Transportation has made offers to the owners of ten parcels on Pyles Ln. in New Castle. So far, two have accepted them, others are “in progress” and a few may not move forward with the buyout, says DelDOT spokesperson C.R. McLeod. McLeod declined to provide an interview with a DelDOT official about the buyout process.
The owners are being offered a buyout after enduring years of intense truck traffic driven by the nearby Port of Wilmington and a business on Pyles Lane called Port to Port. Residents say the vibrations, noise and lights from the traffic have damaged their homes and eroded their quality of life.
DelDOT’s offers consist of a market-based appraisal and a relocation cost that is “factored into the purchase offer and is determined on a case by case basis,” said McLeod.
Theresa Childress-Gilliam is one of two owners who have accepted DelDOT’s offer. She says she hoped for more—but feels she has no choice but to sell her house to the state.
“I’m absolutely taking it,” she said. “I have no other recourse. I’m in the mouth right here where they come out with the trucks, and my house is falling down around me.”
Childress-Gilliam says her house has shifted, her front door stopped opening and her ceilings are “starting to cave in.” She attributes all of these problems to the truck traffic.
“My mother can’t visit me from West Virginia because she can’t sleep at night,” she said. “My quality of life was just taken away from me.”
Childress-Gilliam, a veteran, plans to use the buyout money to pay off her mortgage, then start fresh on a new house.
Members of Winnie Richards’ family have lived on Pyles Ln. for generations. She is among the owners who have not yet decided whether they’ll take the buyout. Richards says the offer DelDOT made to her and her husband is too small to cover what they owe on their current house and allow them to buy a new one.
“We have absolutely no snowball’s chance in hell of getting out of here,” Richards said. “None.”
Richards worries that at age 74, she has little chance of getting approved for a mortgage on a new house.
Richards also thinks the pace of the buyout has been too slow. It started last summer when the state Bond Bill authorized DelDOT to purchase the parcels. DelDOT delayed making the offers this spring because of the pandemic. McLeod says the first offers were made early this summer.
“I’m not totally satisfied, but I’m looking at the glass half full,” said Childress-Gilliam. “I’m just glad something’s happening.”
Ultimately, Childress-Gilliam holds the state responsible.
“An employee at DelDOT created this problem,” she said.
The News Journal reported that following complaints from residents, DelDOT changed the rules in 2015 to expressly allow trucks on the road.
Pyles Ln. is not the only street near the Port where residents complain of heavy truck traffic. Some in the Hamilton Park neighborhood next to Pyles Ln. have also asked to be relocated over concerns about industrial contamination and airborne dust.
The state Legislature took steps toward cracking down on illegal truck traffic last year. At an event on Lambson Lane in New Castle last August, Gov. John Carney signed a bill allowing state agencies to install height-monitoring devices on roads that truck drivers use as illegal shortcuts.
Elected officials have said the area is an example of bad zoning, which allowed residential and heavy industrial uses too close together.
The Route 9 Corridor Master Plan completed by the Wilmington Area Planning Council in 2017 echoed this concern.
“Illogical zoning and development patterns along the Route 9 Corridor are the underlying source of several environmental and public health problems here – from poor air quality created by emissions and dust to illegal heavy truck traffic traveling along neighborhood streets, such as Pyles Lane,” it reads.