Millville council considers sign update and peddler fees

The Millville Town Council discussed a little of everything during two April meetings, with topics ranging from food trucks to cell phone towers.

Food trucks and other vendors don’t currently have a permitting system in town. On April 26, the council considered a proposal to regulate them a bit more.

Food trucks are flat-out forbidden from just parking in town during lunchtime.

Under the proposed ordinance, if a business wanted to host a customer appreciation day, for example, individual vendors would have to apply for a $25 peddler’s license at Town Hall for every event they do.

However, if a nonprofit church or fire company wanted to have a festival with food trucks and craft vendors, for example, that would be permitted for no extra charge.

“Food vendor trucks is an up-and-coming [thing] these days,” said Town Manager Debbie Botchie. “These individuals would have to come into the Town and purchase an event license. We find it very unfair that food trucks can come into a municipality … and sell their wares. They don’t pay” any permit or tax or income tax to the Town, she said.

Discussion of the issue will continue at the May council meeting. The proposed ordinance is just aimed at special events. Language will be added to exclude from the regulations yard sales and non-profits, such as Girl Scouts selling cookies at a grocery store.

Signage regs updated, height restrictions don’t get far

While cleaning up the Town’s signage regulations on April 12, the council considered some last-minute changes to the height limit that didn’t go far.

“This ordinance doesn’t touch the height restrictions,” said Town Solicitor Seth Thompson.

But new Councilman Steve Small suggested council change height restrictions from 20 feet to 16 feet in the C2-Town Commercial District.

“I’m trying to shrink the signs in Millville,” Small said.

Thompson recommended council consider that as a separate ordinance. Firstly, he said, the math needs to be reworked because businesses are allowed a certain square footage. Reducing the height would just make the signs wider, he said.

Although a height limit vote would be legally permitted under the public notice for the signage ordinance, Thompson warned that the public perception might be that Millville tried to pull a bait-and-switch. It might seem fairer to tackle that topic separately, so people have time to prepare for discussion, he warned.

Botchie agreed that that many businesses would want to comment. She suggested sending the matter to the Committee for Charter & Ordinance Review.

Small said he expected his suggestion to be voted down, and he withdrew the motion rather than discuss it further. In return, he voted against the entire ordinance.

“I wanted very much to support this bill,” but it does too little in proactively protecting the town’s small-town character, Small said.

“I will vote against this measure not because I oppose its thrust, but because I do not think it goes far enough,” Small said. “I don’t think we need a 20-foot sign in this town. I’m willing to listen to arguments, but I don’t think it’s required. … I think we’re missing an opportunity to go forward.”

With Councilwoman Susan Brewer absent, the final vote was 3-1-1.

The council approved other updates to the sign regulations in Ordinance 16-06, including stronger definitions for different kinds of signs, including bulletin boards, changeable signs, electronic variable message boards and political signs.

Electronic variable message boards are still prohibited everywhere, except for municipal, fire and police buildings, and where they were pre-existing before Millville’s code on the signage existed.

In the residential district, the maximum size of future outdoor bulletin boards (indirectly illuminated) will decrease from 10 square feet to 9 square feet at any church, school, hospital, municipal building or similar nonprofit. Relating to a church or school, indirectly illuminated changeable signs had their maximum size reduced from 48 square feet to 32 square feet.

In other Millville Town Council news:

• The Town wants to address wireless communications towers in Ordinance 16-05.

“The FCC says you can’t ban wireless communications facilities in your town, but you can regulate them,” Thompson said on April 26. “This lays out a more specific framework.”

The draft can be read at Town Hall during business hours. A public hearing will be scheduled for June.

• Millville got a giant check from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) on April 12. The Town won a $200,000 matching grant from DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Trails Program, which helped pay the $800,000 cost for 4.91 acres of future parkland at 32517 Dukes Drive.

Grants Coordinator Bob Ehemann complimented the thoroughness and responsiveness of executive assistant Matt Amerling’s grant application and Botchie’s enthusiasm and advocacy for the town overall.

“Parks are places where memories are made,” whether kids are playing, learning to ride a bike or finding community service opportunities, Ehemann said.

• The council on April 12 unanimously approved a preliminary site plan submitted by A Shade Above for 35722 Atlantic Avenue, to tear down the vacant residential unit and build a new retail establishment on Route 26 between Artisan Bank and First Shore Federal Bank.

This is the business’s first storefront, as they currently provide window design services only at customers’ homes. The Board of Adjustment (BOA) had already approved several variances, easing setback and buffer requirements on the quarter-acre lot.

• Patricia Moulder is the Town’s new volunteer coordinator.

The town council will meet again on Tuesday, May 10, at 7 p.m.