Dover City Councilman Adam Perza's proposal to rename most of Court, Duke of York and William Penn streets after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in lieu of Division Street seemed to garner support Monday night in City Hall from both sides of the divisive issue.
Perza made his proposal before a full session of Dover City Council's Legislative, Finance & Administration Committee, which met two hours before the start of council's regular meeting. He said renaming the streets in the city's legislative district would have no economic impact on any businesses the way renaming Division Street would would incur a significant cost to several merchants with such things as changes to business cards and Yellowbook advertisements.
Dover City Council had voted in a split, 5-3 vote on Oct. 8 to send the matter of naming Division Street after King back to its Legislative, Finance & Administration Committee for a recommendation within 120 days.
Officials from the state of Delaware and Kent County and several residents and merchants of the city had weighed in on the matter either during public comment in City Hall, U.S. mail or email, Perza said. There was much concern about the street name change's cost to local businesses as well as the fact that the name of Division Street had been around for about 150 years or so.
With those comments in mind, Perza researched city maps and street names and he zeroed in on the Court Street corridor leading into the city from U.S. Route 13. That includes the fork in the legislative district, where Court Street becomes Duke of York on the northern prong and William Penn on the southern prong.
One other street would be rededicated, the small Capital Drive off Court Street, Perza said. That would be renamed Court Street to help ease with the transition.
CITY OF DOVER'S MLK OPTIONS
Dover City Councilman Adam Perza's proposal to rename the Court Street corridor after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. effectively gave the city four options to consider with regard to the MLK Boulevard dilemma:
- The original proposal was to rename Division Street from Route 13 in the East to Saulsbury Road in the West.
- The second proposal was to rename Division Street along the entire Del. Route 8 corridor.
- The Perza proposal would rename most of Court, Duke of York and William Penn streets after King and Capital Drive would become Court Street.
- A fourth option is to rename some city parkland after King.
In comparison, 226 residential properties would be impacted by changing the name of the entire Del. Route 8 corridor while the initial proposal to change some of Division Street would have affected 80 residential properties, Perza said. His plan affected zero, he said. In terms of all properties, 373 would be affected by "the sea to shining sea" proposal, 143 in the smaller proposal and 24 in his proposal, Perza said.
Page 2 of 3 - "All of the residences on the north side of Court Street would retain their Court Street addresses," Perza said. "So, there's no residential impact. The property owners on the southern side of Court Street, which would be eight individuals, would also not be affected. Their street remains Court Street. There would also be no impact to Courtside and Garden Park apartments."
There are no businesses along the corridor from Federal Street to U.S. Route 13, save for businesses such as Wawa and Little Caesar's that have a Route 13 addresses, Perza said.
The only addresses that would be impacted are some state properties, including Delaware Family Court and Delaware Public Archives, Perza said.
"This is an entrance to the legislative corridor," he said. "It attracts attention from Delawareans from New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County [and] legislators from all three counties. It's very prominent and very visible."
Perza emphasized that his Court Street proposal was just a suggestion subject to scrutiny from all involved, including the state of Delaware.
The Perza proposal was met with aplomb from both sides of the debate, namely the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Dover and the merchants and residents who adamantly opposed renaming Division Street.
Legislative committee chairman Councilman Sean Lynn praised Perza for his thoughtful plan and heartily endorsed it.
"For those who don't know, Mr. Perza is an expert conciliator," said Lynn, a partner with Perza in the Dover law firm of Lynn, May, Perza.
Lynn and committee members Councilman David Anderson and Michael Rushe voted to recommend this proposal while Councilman William Hare and Daniel Shevock voted no. Hare and Shevock said they were concerned with relegating council to just one option, but Anderson and Lynn said council had the discretion to consider all of its options.
Hare had also expressed concern about losing the historical nature of the William Penn and Duke of York street names.
About 15 members and friends of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Dover MLK Boulevard Committee marched from West Division Street to City Hall in Dover Monday evening in a show of support for creating a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the city. They arrived at 5 p.m., half an hour before the legislative committee convened.
During public comment, IMA Martin Luther King Boulevard Committee chairwoman Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige said the committee had expressed its support for the Perza proposal in a recent letter to City Council.
"No residences will be impacted. No businesses will be impacted," she said. "On behalf of the IMA, let's do it."
The Rev. Philemon Hill said he was pleased to see reason win the day in heading toward a compromise.
Page 3 of 3 - "We're not like Congress, where everybody has to have his own way," he said.
Among those who had opposed renaming Division Street, Delaware Auto Sales owner Vernon Ingram expressed support for the Perza proposal.
"Mr. Lynn, I agree with you for once," he said.
Edwin Baker Jr. and Paul Davis also liked the Court Street idea. But they expressed concern with William Penn and York streets in separate comments.
"I agree with Councilman Hare," Davis said. "Duke of York and William Penn are part of our history."
With the legislative committee's vote, council has scheduled a Dec. 10 public comment on the matter.