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Archives for November 6, 2015

New visions for Dwight Murray Plaza, Brown Street

Could tables, shade trees and a new fountain come to Dwight Murray Plaza?

Might Brown Street become a car-free promenade from the historic courthouse all the way to the 9/11 memorial, lined with sculptures and home to street festivals?

Napa’s hoped-for future has started coming into focus for two downtown sites whose 1970s overhauls have long failed to attract visitors. This week, a designer working with the city released the first concepts for redesigning Dwight Murray Plaza on First Street and the Brown Street pedestrian corridor – and invited townsfolk to weigh in and offer ideas of their own.

Renderings exhibited at City Hall reimagine the plaza as a true partner to the restaurants and shops that have grown up around the square since its opening in 1974. All the designs make a sharp break from the red-brick pavement and sunken seating of the original, replacing them with a single-level space clad in light gray. Even the plaza’s square plinth on the southeast corner – the remnant base of a reviled, long-removed wooden clock tower – would disappear.

“The most telling thing I’ve heard tonight is ‘Make this for the locals, because if the locals like it, the tourists will come,’” said Terry Bottomley, the urban designer advising Napa on the project. “And that’s the tack we’re trying to take.”

Napa began recruiting partners earlier this year to seek ways to drive more locals and tourists to the plaza and walkway, both of which have languished while luxury hotels, fine restaurants and tasting rooms have sprouted nearby. Public social events, like music concerts and nighttime film screenings, have gravitated east to Veterans Memorial Park and left Dwight Murray Plaza often bare.

The design plan will cover landscaping, paving, seating, trees, water features, lighting, signs and public art.

The city has set aside $1.5 million for design and construction, with another $250,000 allocated for public art.

While designers were careful to describe the plans as early concepts and not blueprints, they add up to the first tangible vision of a 21st-century open square and promenade in Napa’s core.

Meeting with more than 50 audience members on Wednesday, members of the Oakland-based Bottomley Design Planning displayed a plaza with its pit filled and leveled, and equipped with parasol-topped, café-style tables at its heart. Planners also offered to add more adornments to the square, such as pergolas or even a flat-surface fountain designed to encourage children to run underneath its spray.

Designers’ imaginations appeared to soar even higher when given the task of improving the Brown Street corridor, which replaced a vehicle route but has remained sleepy even as a walking area. Napans were shown a range of options from new tree plantings and public art, to a widened path for hosting festival and fair booths, to an ambitious plan reserving virtually all of old Brown Street for walking and cycling down to Third Street.

Residents, given the chance to weigh in – and to stick Post-It notes with their comments the various options – soon make some of their picks and pans clear.

More trees and tables at Dwight Murray Plaza proved popular, but palms got near-universal scorn. But the hope of a brighter and airier Brown Street stroll through downtown won the most praise of all: “Open space up!” “Love to move all the street fairs off the streets!” “Wonderful!”

After the forum, city parks commissioners who reviewed the plans also saw a widened Brown Street foot path as a valuable chance to improve downtown.

“There’s an opportunity here to do something really special, and we need to make sure that we don’t fall short,” said Mark Lucas of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

Widening and brightening the route is essential to convincing users, especially cyclists, to choose it over the crowded streets nearby, he said, complaining of the dark atmosphere caused by heavy tree cover.

“Those trees, when you look at them, it doesn’t have the feeling of a thoroughfare,” he said. “We need it to be open enough that there’s plenty of room for people to move about and not get into a collision … We have a lot of cyclists in Napa, people every day who are choosing not to drive cars to get around town. So we need to create a way for them to safely come down here.”

Design and construction likely would last for at least two years, placing the earliest completion date in 2018, according to Julie Lucido, city senior civil engineer. Officials gave no immediate timetable for the Brown Street overhaul.

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Delaware Achievers, Nov. 8


For the second year in a row, Engineering News-Record Magazine has named Nickle Electrical Companies in its annual Top 600 Specialty Contractors list. Nickle snagged spot No. 426, a 31-place jump from last year. The list, published at the end of October, ranks specialty contractors by 2014 revenue. Nickle Electrical Companies was founded in 1986 by the late Paul Allen Nickle as Paul A. Nickle Inc. Electrical Contractors. Current owners Steve and Debbie Dignan acquired the company in 1991 and changed the name to Nickle Electrical Companies in 2008. The company’s 150 employees perform commercial, industrial, residential and service electrical work within an 80-mile radius its locations in Newark and Georgetown.


Distinguished Professor John G. Culhane recently was named Widener University Delaware Law School’s ninth H. Albert Young Fellow in Constitutional Law. He will hold the fellowship through the middle of 2017. The announcement was made at the H. Albert Young Distinguished Lecture in Constitutional Law, a biennial event that marks the culmination of the fellowship holder’s experience. Outgoing H. Albert Young Fellow in Constitutional Law David R. Hodas, a professor noted for his work in environmental law, gave the lecture “The Laws of Science and Constitutional Law.” The H. Albert Young Fellowship in Constitutional Law was endowed in 1998 by the Young Foundation of Wilmington, Del. to honor the memory of the late H. Albert Young, a highly respected lawyer and former Delaware attorney general known for his unwavering dedication to upholding justice. A nationally known expert in the legal rights of same-sex couples, Culhane joined the Delaware Law faculty in 1987. He co-directs the school’s Family Health Law Policy Institute, contributes to Slate and Politico magazines and co-authored “Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies.” Culhane previously received the school’s Outstanding Faculty Award three times and currently serves on the advisory board of Equality Delaware and the board of Women’s Way. He earned a law degree from Fordham University. Culhane live in Philadelphia with his husband David Girasole and their two daughters.

The Widener University-Pennsylvania Military College Alumni Association recently presented Bear resident Nat’e Parker-Guyton with the John L. Geoghegan Alumni Citizenship Award. The award is given annually to a graduate who has brought honor to the university through leadership and community service.  Parker-Guyton is the clinical informatics officer for Mercy Health System and a leader in the acute healthcare setting. Over her career, she has served as chief nurse officer at Mercy Suburban Hospital, senior director of nursing operations at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington and nurse manager for cardiac transplant and telemetry at Temple University Hospital. As a Widener alumna, Parker-Guyton serves on the School of Nursing Advisory Council and the alumni association. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Widener in 1998 and her master’s degree in nursing from the university in 2002.


Michael Johnson, president of Peninsula Financial Group in Georgetown, recently was recognized for his sales production in 2014. For the third consecutive year, Johnson was named a Platinum Elite Producer in the Questar Capital Elite Producer Program, one of the highest distinctions offered by the Minneapolis-based subsidiary of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. Johnson has served on the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission for more than a decade.


Matt Snyder, an account manager for Sposato Landscaping in Milton, recently received a 2015 Bill “Hammer” Hamilton Service Award from the Carl M. Freeman Company. The award is named for Bill “Hammer” Hamilton, who is remembered for his inspiration, customer service excellence and fun-loving nature while worked at Freeman from 1999 to his death in 2012. Presented biannually, the award recognizes associates who share his service excellence. Snyder was honored for his spirit and passion for the Bayside community in Selbyville, where he manages an 11-man crew that maintains the landscapes for over 700 homes.


Wilmington law firm Morris James recently was presented the Leadership Award during the Delaware State Bar Association’s Christopher W. White 2015 Distinguished Access to Justice Awards Breatkfast. The Leadership Award is given to the firm that has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of pro bono service to Delaware’s impoverished residents and fostered a culture that recognizes the value of Access to Justice service. The Access to Justice Awards are given in the name of the late Christopher W. White, a long-time attorney with the Community Legal Aid Society of Delaware and a member of the Delaware State Bar Association, who was widely respected for his advocacy work on behalf of indigent people in Delaware.

Kerry M. Porter recently joined the Law Offices of Michele D. Allen LLC as an associate. In her new role, she will concentrate her practice on labor and employment law matters. Previously with Fisher Phillips LLP, Porter focused her practice area on assisting in the representation of employers in federal and state court for various matters involving legal claims and issues arising from the movement of employees between competitor firms, including non-disclosure and non-solicitation clauses, breach of the duty of loyalty, misappropriation of trade secrets, employee raiding and unfair competition.


Delaware Human Association’s board of directors has elected three existing members to new leadership roles and welcomed four new members. Peggy H. Eddens, the executive vice president and chief human capital officer at WSFS Bank, was elected the board’s new president. Timothy M. Holly, a partner at Connolly Gallagher LLP, was elected vice president, while Elizabeth A. Garofalo, the chief financial officer for Delaware Community Foundation, was elected secretary. New board members include Jennifer N. Brown, segment director of retail for Barclaycard U.S.; Kristin K. Jankowski, a rehabilitation veterinarian at Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware; J. Tyler Lassen, a financial analyst for DuPont; and Susan P. Terranova, director of risk operations for Citigroup.

Former Delaware Economic Development Director Alan Levin has joined the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation’s board of directors. Levin stepped down from the state economic development office’s top job earlier this year after six years in office. He previously headed Happy Harry’s, the drugstore chain founded by his father, Harry Levin. Levin is currently a senior advisor for the hospitality group SoDel Concepts. The Joshua M. Freeman Foundation was established in 2007 to honor the former chair of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation after his untimely death in December of 2006. With The Freeman Stage at Bayside, an outdoor performing arts venue located near Fenwick Island, the foundation provides unique arts experiences to over 50,000 visitors a year.


Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate recently welcomed four new sales associates to its Greenville office. Wilmington resident Dottie Beene grew up in Las Vegas and worked in the poker industry before becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010. Newark resident Linda Busacca speaks fluent Spanish and volunteers for Read Aloud Delaware and Court Appointed Special Advocate. Bear resident Michael Sokira is president of the Country Woods Maintenance Corporation and has 25 years of experience as a sales consultant and marketing professional. Wilmington resident Gerald (Tony) Carlton earned a bachelor’s degree in business management, spent 8 years in the U.S. Army and was employed with Verizon for 14 years.


SoDel Concepts, a hospitality group with eight restaurants along the Delaware coast, recently received the Inspiring Business Award from the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.  The award is given to a group or individual that actively encourages and perpetuates business innovation, freely shares ideas and opinions regarding business issues and is a catalyst for the future of business. The award was presented by Doug Phillips, marketing and communication manager for the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation and the Carl M. Freeman Foundation.


Artesian Water Maryland, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newark-based Artesian Resources Corp., recently was inducted into the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame. The hall of fame was created by the Cecil County Chamber and the Cecil County Office of Economic Development to recognize the dedication and economic impact of businesses located in or serving in the Maryland county. Artesian Water entered the Maryland market in 2007 with the purchase of the Carpenter’s Point Water Company and subsequently acquired the Mountain Hill Water Company and the water assets of Port Deposit. In 2011, Artesian furthered its Cecil County expansion by purchasing the county government’s water assets. The company also completed construction of a water main connecting its Delaware water system to Elkton, which provides a consistent supply of water to the town and a reliable back-up source. In 2013, Artesian completed an interconnection with the town of Chesapeake City that made Artesian the sole supplier of water to the town and surrounding area.

To submit a Delaware Achiever, email Scott Goss at

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Montgomery County’s design awards set laudable example for DC area

Celebrate Design was Montgomery County’s first design awards ceremony honoring excellence in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. The hope is that recognizing design excellence will raise aesthetic aspirations throughout the county.

The highest award deservedly went to the Silver Spring Civic Building, the design of which resulted from a national competition, another county first. And the inaugural celebration appropriately was held in the award-winning Civic Building.

But publicly recognizing and celebrating design excellence is significant beyond Montgomery County. It sets a laudable example for other Washington-area municipalities where design is often less than stellar.

Montgomery County created its awards to encourage people to advocate for and expect top-quality design. Of course, this implies that citizens, county council and commission members, planners and architects, even real estate owners and investors, perceive much of the county’s built environment to be visually uninspiring, or worse.

Regrettably, design excellence is rarely considered, discussed, advocated for or demanded in Montgomery County. Serious pursuit of design excellence almost always takes a back seat to coping with pragmatic needs and pressures, some decidedly negative.

A rendering of the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring is shown. (Machado and Silvetti Associates)

Among the many adverse pressures is the county’s onerous regulatory process for obtaining design approvals and permits. Project developers and their design teams must navigate a gantlet that typically entails expenditures of large amounts of time and money, not to mention frustration.

Moreover, the county’s laws and regulations avoid addressing aesthetic issues and often obstruct aesthetic invention. Zoning ordinances mostly set forth physical limits rather than standards and guidelines for achieving outstanding architecture and urban design.

The Montgomery County Planning Department — part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission — sponsored the awards ceremony jointly with the Potomac Valley chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This allowed the county’s inaugural awards event and the AIA chapter’s yearly design awards presentation to be combined in a single celebratory program.

However, this new design awards program is only one step in the county planning department’s year-old Design Excellence Initiative. The department’s professional staff is exploring the creation of community design guidelines, which are essential for a rigorous yet efficient and fair design review process, which Montgomery County lacks.

Indeed, every county and municipality should develop design guidelines and institute systematic design review. This is the most effective way to enhance the quality of buildings as well as the quality of the public realm, the urban and suburban environments where buildings reside and which buildings help shape.

A rendering of the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring is shown. (Courtesy of The Montgomery County Planning Board )

A properly structured and administered design review process signals to real estate investors, and to design and construction professionals, that the general public and public representatives care about design quality, about more than just meeting zoning and building code requirements.

Moreover, knowing that project design per se will be judged, project sponsors are more motivated to hire talented, highly qualified designers. This is a wise business decision as well as a commitment to design excellence. Reputable, award-winning designers are more likely to create designs appealing to reviewers whose critical analyses and suggestions such designers appreciate and respect.

Site planning and landscaping, building massing and geometry, scale and proportion, materials and colors, textures and details, use of light — these are among the fundamental aesthetic attributes that an awards jury assesses.

But you won’t find most of these attributes cited in Montgomery County’s zoning regulations and building codes.

Roger K. Lewis is a practicing architect, a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland and a regular guest commentator on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU (88.5 FM).

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Aquatica water gardening company swims across the street in village of Wales

Aquatica, a water gardening company, is moving to a new location in the village of Wales — across the street.

Owner Dean Pipito made a presentation of his plans regarding landscaping, signage, and his business plan of operation to the village plan commission Oct. 27. The commissioners accepted the proposal and recommended it to the village board, which accepted it Nov. 2.

“Everything is moving across the street,” Pipito said.

Aquatica, which has been at its current location at 230 James St. since 2003, will take over the old Genesee Fireplace Company location, a one-story light industrial building, at 227 James St. Pipito said when the building came up for sale it was “a good opportunity.”

Pipito said one of the main reasons for the move is because he’s downsizing. He said the “water feature trend has cooled off over the years.”

“One of the things Aquatica is well known for is our eye for landscaping,” Pipito said, opening his presentation. “Even though we’re waterscape people, our landscaping is second to none.”

Pipito said he wants to have a “presentation” out front so people can see what Aquatica does.

He said his wife works for Stein’s Gardens and Gifts and will be getting plants to put out front. The signage will be the same with gooseneck lighting, he said.

Pipito said many people do U-turns in the lot and this move would help deter that as well.

“What’s not to like?” asked village President Jeffery Flaws.

Pipito said Aquatica is nationally known. He said he serves all of Wisconsin and northern Illinois primarily.

According to the Aquatica website, the company was founded by Pipito in 2000 and originally was located in Oconomowoc. It says Aquatica is in the top 10 out of 63,000 national contractors. It also says Aquatica is one of the few certified aquascape contractors nationwide.

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Ann Arbor council votes 10-1 to hire sharpshooters to kill deer in city parks

Ann Arbor officials have made a final decision to bring sharpshooters into city parks to kill 100 deer this winter.

In two separate 10-1 votes Thursday night, the City Council took action to move forward with a cull to address concerns about deer overpopulation.

The council’s decision came following two and a half hours of public commentary. Dozens spoke and most expressed opposition to killing deer.

In addition to temporarily lifting ordinance restrictions on firing guns in parks, the council approved an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, also known as USDA-APHIS, to carry out the cull this winter at a cost of up to $35,000.

City officials say USDA-APHIS has trained sharpshooters on staff who have experience safely culling deer in urban areas. The venison will go to a local food bank.

The city’s goal is to decrease complaints from residents about deer, including damage to landscaping and gardens, and to support biological diversity in natural areas where city officials believe deer are damaging the ecosystem.

Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said deer have badly damaged the arbor vitae on the property where he works.

“Up to about five feet high, they are browsed right down to the core,” he said. “All of that vegetation is gone. And then after about five feet high, then you see vegetation. Now those arbor vitae would not have grown to their current eight feet tall had they been getting this level of deer browsing for their entire life. We see in our landscape evidence that the deer browsing pressure has increased.”

Many residents and animal rights advocates made pleas to council, arguing landscaping isn’t more important than the lives of deer.

Sabra Sanzotta, a representative for Save the Deer Ann Arbor, asked council to take a step back and wait until there’s more data about deer population trends. She said that requires at least two data points and the city really only has one. An aerial survey conducted this year found 168 deer in and around the city.

Ann Arbor resident Karen Cass Anderson said the issue is tearing the community apart, pitting neighbor against neighbor. She said an annual culling program will be an endless cycle of killing and divisiveness.

Mayor Christopher Taylor was the lone dissenting vote, citing a lack of community consensus on the issue.

“I continue to believe the cull is too divisive an issue to support,” he said. “It comes, of course, from the killing of the deer. And also, too, from the sanctioned discharge of firearms in our parks. Each of these actions, I think, is inconsistent with the ethos, with the core values, of so many in the community, and that shooting in the parks will alter and degrade too many residents’ conception of their city and their home for me to support.”

Council Member Jane Lumm, who brought the issue to council, offered a public apology to her colleagues for how difficult and divisive an issue it has become.

“I commend you all,” she said, thanking council members for sticking with it and following through on approving the cull.

“It really is the responsible thing to do,” she said. “And you know, would we all love consensus? Would we all prefer that we had other options? Absolutely.”

Taylor, even as he voted against the cull, argued the city was left with little choice if it wanted to address concerns about deer overpopulation at this time.

“There has been a great deal of data gathered on this, and a great deal of work done by residents and staff and council,” he said. “In fairness to my colleagues, there are no interventionist, nonlethal methods that are plainly and readily available to work successfully in this environment.”

He said there are possibilities for fertility control programs, but they’re not approved presently and not demonstrated to be effective.

“And that’s the way it is,” he said, noting he has empathy for residents who have complaints about deer on their properties.

It’s expected this winter’s cull will be limited to wards 1 and 2, including the north and east sides of the city.

City officials emphasize there will be no shooting on private property, only on city-owned property where public access will be restricted.

Culls will be conducted at night with silenced firearms, and all shots are expected to be fired from above toward the ground.

Other than trained sharpshooters, city officials say no other hunters, residents or visitors will be allowed to discharge firearms in the city.

The cull is expected to be carried out sometime between January and March, though exact dates and locations haven’t been decided.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, suggested the city might not want to advertise when and where the cull will take place because there might be people who will try to disrupt or interfere with it.

Council Member Sabra Briere, who has been a reluctant supporter of culling, agreed with other council members that deer are damaging the city’s natural areas.

“The reason we see more and more deer in our neighborhoods is because the deer are pushing away from where they were because there isn’t enough food there,” she said. “I think that’s particularly so with the North Campus deer herd.”

Council Member Kirk Westphal, D-2nd Ward, said he doesn’t like guns and he has young children who use the parks, so culling wasn’t an easy decision. But he said city residents already are culling deer with their cars, with roughly 40 to 50 deer-involved crashes reported to police in Ann Arbor each year.

“This is not a decision any of us takes lightly,” he said.

Kunselman, who attended his last meeting as a council member Thursday night, said he never imagined council would be dealing with deer culling. He personally thanked Lumm for her courage to take on the issue, and he said it was unrealistic to expect consensus on such an emotional issue.

City officials plan to continue to explore future options for deer fertility control with the Humane Society of the United States.

Ryan Stanton covers the city beat for The Ann Arbor News. Reach him at

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Find Out More about Water-wise Gardens and Professional Landscaping Services …

Find Out More about Water-wise Gardens and Professional Landscaping Services from Marijke Honig

Marijke Honig is a botanist and the author of Indigenous Plant Palettes: a guide to plant selection, and she is also the co-owner of Beyer Honig Landscaping.

Beyer Honig has been in operation since 2004, and specialises in water-wise landscaping. The team is flexible and gets actively involved in installation.

Read more about Beyer Honig Landscaping:

We share a common interest in creating sustainable landscapes, providing a professional service and having fun in our work. For us the process of interacting with clients and staff, sharing ideas, creative design and the hands-on installation on site is as important as the finished product.

We believe skills transfer and staff empowerment is a key part of our work, and we encourage our team to value and take pride in their work. Our installation team is called Co-Creators.

View some pictures from their gallery:

Read Honig’s eight basic principles of water-wise gardening:

Reduce your lawn area
Lawns guzzle water. So decide how much lawn space you need for outdoor entertaining, children and pets and replace excess lawn with hardy groundcovers or a water-wise flower bed.

Improve the soil
Whatever your soil type, you can improve its water-holding capacity by digging in plenty of compost. This also encourages earthworm activity and soil micro-organisms, which improves soil aeration and water penetration. For this reason we like to use generous amounts of compost during soil preparation.

Book details

Cats: Lifestyle, Nature, Non-fiction, South Africa
Tags: a guide to plant selection, English, garden, horticulture, Indigenous Plant Palettes, Landscaping, Lifestyle, Marijke Honig, Misc, Nature, Non-fiction, Quivertree, Quivertree Publications, South Africa
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