Hometown Delmar changes with Salisbury spill-over
By Tony Russo
Over the coming months the dividing line between Salisbury and Delmar will start to blur with the commencement of residential and commercial development spanning both sides of U.S. 13 from the Delmar Exxon to Mike’s Clearance Center.
As industrial Salisbury spills over the state line, there is a legitimate concern about the hometown status of Delmar, where any 40-year-old native can easily recall the transformation of Bi-State Boulevard from “main drag” to alternate route and to back road.
Customers at Campbell’s Barber Shop in Delmar were cautiously optimistic about the development boom. Oscar Porter pointed out that the influx of new residents “will surely be good for Delmar businesses” while Rodney Brown added that the increase in the tax base “would be a positive thing.” But Brown remained concerned about the condition of many of the current neighborhoods.
Campbell gave voice to the concerns of all three men when he pointed out that town services (such as police and fire) would require greater oversight to ensure greater efficiency.
Sara Bynam-King, Delmar town manager, remembered that under the previous administration, when Delmar really needed to grow, the town was “happy to even be considered as a development site.”
Now that many of these growth plans are coming to fruition, Delmar can afford to be more selective about new development proposals, she said. “We may say [to new development petitioners], ‘That’s a good idea, but it’s not right for the town right now.’”
This attitude is part of Delmar’s decision to embrace Smart Growth, a program that encourages municipalities to use current resources rather than to build new infrastructure to encourage growth.
Larry Points, a member of the Delmar planning board, described it as a way to accommodate increasing demand while retaining the sense of what makes Delmar attractive. It allows for growth but only on land “with existing access to city services rather than ruining our countryside,” he said.
In addition, Delmar has instituted a transfer fee on all new construction that is intended to cover the increased water and sewer treatment system maintenance costs that come with expansion.
Of course, the expansion of the Salisbury business district does not just result in additional retail choices. Delmar is fast becoming a premium alternative for would-be suburbanites, as evidenced by the success of planned communities such as Wood Creek and Breckenridge.
While neither community is explicitly an “age-restricted” community, both target retiring or soon-to-be-retiring baby boomers. This is particularly positive growth, Points said, because the members of this demographic “don’t place a lot of demand on services” — they increase the population (and tax base) without burdening the already well-populated school system.
The addition of places like Wood Creek and Breckenridge, as well as plans for several more residential development sites both along U.S. 13 and Line Road, may seem to signal the transformation of Delmar from a bedroom community to a confederation of self-sufficient planned communities. If Charlie and Joann Laudherr of Wood Creek are any indication, however, Delmar growth need not be marred by these new additions. The Laudherrs raised their children in Salisbury and continue to make their living there but, like so many empty nesters, elected to sell their large home and take up residence in a maintenance-free planned community. This way they can spend their time at home, according to Charlie Laudherr, “doing more enjoyable things rather than just working all the time.”
Though they have only been in town for about four months, they have already begun integrating into their adopted community. They volunteered at the Delmar Day in the Park and Charlie Laudherr has begun attending Delmar Chamber of Commerce meetings. They identify themselves as living in Delmar and care very much for the larger community.
The community, at least from the administration's standpoint, has two challenges to meet. The first revolves around preparation for the inevitable growth that has been put in motion by the Salisbury building explosion.
The second challenge is how the town chooses to deal with the new migrants. If the new residents are truly integrated, Delmar may very well be able to maintain its home-town identity. In this way it could reap the benefits of, rather than fall victim to, its neighbor’s sprawl.