In the Shadow of the Steeple
Who is Brother Ronald Giannone, and what drives him to do the things he does?
(page 8 of 10)
The biggest headache for Giannone is an empty lot on Wilmington’s East Side, where he’s trying to build a permanent housing facility for seniors.
In 2007 the ministry purchased property at 625 E. 10th St. for $350,000. The initial plan was to build row homes for low-income residents. Then the economy tanked. Banks denied construction loans, and the market couldn’t support the plan. Giannone explored the possibility of building another facility like Sacred Heart Village, which would include 24-hour security and surveillance cameras. The building would be called Sacred Heart Village II.
According to documents provided by HUD, the Wilmington City Council supported the need for Sacred Heart II. The resolution, dated Oct. 21, 2010, stated, “The East Side of Wilmington is sorely lacking a housing facility dedicated solely to senior citizens ... Low income senior citizens currently living on the East Side of Wilmington would greatly benefit from having a senior living facility in their community.”
The ministry raised $7.1 million, a combination of a $4.2 million grant from HUD, donations from foundations, and a promise of $375,000 from the city of Wilmington. Mayor Williams had visited the site and reacted favorably to the concept. Giannone and others went door to door, and 118 people in the neighborhood signed a petition supporting the facility. Seven East Siders even completed pre-applications.
Plans were moving quickly until Cecelia and Jewel Hoey, who own several properties on the East Side, opposed construction. They took their complaints to the zoning board, which voted in the ministry’s favor. The Hoeys unsuccessfully appealed to the Superior Court the board’s granting of a use variance. They had argued that the center’s location would be disruptive in a neighborhood zoned for single-family housing, according to court records, but the Superior Court upheld the variance.
The Hoeys then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the zoning board. The Hoeys lost on remand to the zoning board, and appealed again to the Superior Court. Attorney Richard Abbott, who was hired by the Hoeys in January 2013, which was after the second appeal was filed in Superior Court, says that that court ruled against the Hoeys on Aug. 29, 2013. Abbott says his clients are considering whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court again.