Millville tightens MBTS traffic requirements as manager leaves

With their management company heading out the door, Millville Town Center, LLC, got permission to continue building in Millville by the Sea.

After requiring a revamped traffic plan, Millville Town Council approved final site plan for Phase 1, the first 19 homes in the southeast of Sea Star Village (formerly Topsail Village). That came with the condition of a Town-approved traffic calming plan, plus construction access to the property.

This pleased a roomful of MBTS residents at Nov. 8 meeting.

It also aligned with what managing company Miller & Smith had already been brainstorming, said Chuck Ellison Jr., a company vice president.

“We’re taking a holistic look at whole neighborhood,” Ellison said.

But residents emphasized the traffic safety, traffic volume and road maintenance.

In performing his own traffic study, resident Dwight Yeager said one road averaged 134 vehicles in a 12-hour period in November. So residents proposed another access road within MBTS, perhaps within a nearby flag-pole shaped lot owned by Millville Town Center.

For resident Wally Bartus, the issue is “literally physical access. … We’ve had a problem not just with construction vehicles, but just general residential traffic and visitors coming through.”

Residents have asked for, and gotten some, traffic-calming devices, like speed bumps. (A traffic-impact statement was created when MBTS was first proposed, but that was likely in the early 2000s.)

Residents also want better enforcement for construction vehicles. Construction traffic is supposed to use existing traffic roads, which will be extended for later phases of Sea Star Village. Construction roads are marked as such, Ellison said.

Yeager said his complaints to truck drivers aren’t taken well, and when he complained to the developer, he was just given the construction company’s phone number to complain to them.

He said that’s not the residents’ job to enforce.

Police typically only patrol for major traffic violations. But residents need to report other wrongdoing.

“I need to have the day and the time when you see them down that road so I can call … whoever that supplier is,” said Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans. “If we’re gonna put this in the public works agreement … I still have to have data.”

Residents also need to inform their own contractors about the construction access road, Evans said.

A future public works agreement will allow the Town to take a more proactive stance on traffic.

But by January, the managing company of Miller & Smith will be out of the picture. The overall ownership remains the same, with Millville Town Center, LLC.

“We as a company made a decision to terminate the contract to manage [MBTS],” Ellison said.

He said the Town will be informed of the new management structure when completed, and by the transition date.

Councilmember Steve Small was concerned that the Town has no indication, just eight weeks from New Year’s.

“The structure is being developed as we speak,” Ellison said.

“If we don’t have that kind of information by the end of the year, that would put us in a very awkward position with freezing things there,” Small said.

“I hope you will bear with them a little bit,” Ellison said of Millville Town Center. “They weren’t expecting us to make a business decision in the three-month window,” in which the contract may be terminated.

Small suggested tabling the discussion until the new management company is chosen and settled.

But Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said residents will get relief sooner if traffic-calming measures are required before construction starts.

Small, Susan Brewer and Mayor Bob Gordon finally approved the final site plan with traffic conditions. (MBTS resident Steve Maneri recused himself from the discussion, and Valerie Faden was absent.)

“Construction can’t start until they meet the approval,” promised Kyle Gulbronson, Millville’s AECOM planner.

The citizens were satisfied.

Ellison said they’ve got technical approvals for sewer, water, soil conservation and fire marshal. Groundbreaking would likely occur in the first quarter of 2017.

Leaving town?

There’s a fee for that.

Realizing that Millville has no fee for de-annexation, Town Council added and approved an addition to the Fee Schedule.

Any zoning change, including annexation, has administrative costs tied in. There are attorney fees, advertising, administrative time and map changes.

Councilmembers didn’t feel that the Town should pay for someone to leave, so the new costs are similar to annexation fees: application fee of $500 (less than 1 acre) or $850 (at least 1 acre), plus a $3,500 escrow account for all fees (leftover funds are reimbursed to the applicant).

Steve Small suggested that he was trying to negotiate with a potential developer or landowner to annex into town. So he favors a reduction in annexation fees (a topic that wasn’t on the agenda for discussion).

“It’s not the Town’s position to go out” and solicit land for annexation, said Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans, and Brewer agreed.

But they ask about fees and then ask if the Town is willing to negotiate, Small said.

“Your fees are established,” Evans said.

Despite encouraging that de-annexation fees be higher than annexation fees, Small voted against the measure after he saw that it would still pass without him. Otherwise, he would have abstained.

In other news, sign regulations were tightened, as Town Council unanimously approved Ordinance 17-04. It added and clarified prohibited signs; allowed “OPEN” signs to have any language, as long as they’re removed after business hours; and gives the code enforcement officer power to remove or give $25 citations for “bandit signs,” like real estate-size signs. Changes were made to Town Code, Chapter 155, Article IX, “Sign Regulations.”

The next Town Council workshop is tentatively schedule for Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m.