Millville to purchase 4.9 acres of land for Dukes Drive park

Millville can now put an address on the proposed park and playground that town officials have so long sought. The Millville Town Council this week voted to pay $800,000 for 4.91 acres of land located at 32517 Dukes Drive.

The land itself is mostly grass at present, with a small border of trees. A single-family house and detached garage, which appear to be in sound condition, are currently located on the property.

“It has the potential to be a very nice park,” said Mayor Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr.

On May 20, the council had authorized Town Manager Debbie Botchie to engage in negotiations with the seller, John Scott Evans Jr., for two parcels of land. The offer was formally presented to the town council to approve at their June 1 meeting. The council voted unanimously (with Steve Maneri absent) on the agreement of sale, which is a binding agreement.

The seller’s parents’ names are to be used in conjunction with the naming of any park built there.

The Town will put down a $5,000 deposit, which will go toward the final sale price of $800,000. The money comes from transfer taxes, which may be used for capital improvements. It’s not being paid for by the regular tax base, Hocker emphasized.

Closing of the sale would occur by August, unless another 60 days are needed for a survey or inspection. There is no transfer tax being imposed, but the Town, as the “purchaser,” pays closing costs, including attorney fees, title insurance, survey and recording fees.

The Town of Millville will also pay for the property’s $265 in property taxes.

The contract period before settlement is relatively short because no financial contingency is needed. There is a Planning & Zoning exemption for municipal purposes, so the Town doesn’t really need to worry about zoning, said Seth Thompson, town solicitor.

Building fees to help fire company

Meanwhile, a new $500 impact fee for new residential and commercial construction was unanimously approved (with Maneri absent). The revenue will fund a grant for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

Beginning July 1, builders will pay the Town for every new primary structure, such as a house or business.

The funds may be used by the fire company to buy new equipment or replace outdated items. The money is not meant to pay salaries or to replace operational expenses.

The MVFC would submit a grant application to the Town each March. Later, it would submit receipts and financial records indicating the money was properly used. If the money was improperly used (such as if the item was returned), the MVFC would repay the money, plus a 5 percent penalty.

Officially, the council approved a resolution to amend the fee schedule for the 2016 fiscal year. If for some reason the MVFC misused the funds, the council could simply approve future fee schedules without the fire company grant.

“It’s done on yearly basis. If they expect to receive money the next year, they have to spend it properly,” Thompson said.

The grant is separate from the 3 percent ambulance and 3 percent fire-service donation that Millville gives annually, based on levied taxes.

After the vote, Hocker read a letter from Gulfstream Homes’ Robert Harris, who wrote to oppose what he called an “unfair … burden on a limited class of people, while everyone benefits from Millville Volunteer Fire Company.” Citing the Town’s own hefty bank reserves, Harris suggested pulling from another fund, or even reducing building fees.

The council stood by its decision.

Because the MVFC is not a Town entity, Millville’s charter only allows 6 percent of levied taxes to be granted to support the fire company. Additionally, the transfer tax revenue is restricted to being used for capital improvements or public safety, which typically means state or town police, Thompson said.

Councilman Harry Kent noted that Ocean View charges a similar amount.

In other Millville Town Council news, the Millville Farmers’ Market will return this year, but this time at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall, instead of next to town hall.

The market is being held on Thursdays, June 18 to Sept. 10, from 8 a.m. to noon.

“I think it should be a good setup over there. I’m thrilled,” said Linda Kent, market manager. “I think we have a very good mix,” including vegetable, bread, coffee, beef, seafood and other vendors, who are still making inquiries.

The next Millville Town Council workshop is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 23, at 7 p.m.