Millville gets public park offer, sets standards for MBTS

The Town of Millville is building momentum with weekly farmers’ markets and annual festivals. But after years of squeezing such events into the town hall parking lot and private property nearby, Millville might finally get its own parkland.

The corporate owners of Millville By the Sea community are willing to donate two acres along Route 17, the town council announced in January. In August of 2014, the Town had published an official notice seeking landowners who might be interested in donating two or more acres of property to the Town. In September, Miller & Smith Vice President Chuck Ellison signed the letter announcing MBTS’s intent.

“We’re working out logistics, like signing an agreement,” said Town Solicitor Seth Thompson, who will prepare a draft for an upcoming council meeting.

With more room, Millville wouldn’t have to contain its farmers’ markets to the town hall parking lot or depend on the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s land for bigger festivals.

But while the Town figures out logistics, Town Manager Debbie Botchie is already brainstorming big things.

She said she envisions a two-acre “Market Greene” that could host farmers’ markets, the Great Pumpkin Festival and more.

An indoor pavilion could house events year-round, including the December Holiday Market.

Live music could be performed at the outdoor bandstand, and a playground, parking lot, concessions and restrooms would make things easier for families using the facilities.

This is just the first draft of ideas, but Botchie said grant opportunities are available.

“We’ve been extra-conservative, because we want to go back into the community,” Botchie said, in terms of the Town’s spending and savings.

After tweaking the Town/MBTS agreement, Millville must plan how to arrange the amenities on a plot still surrounded by MBTS lots.

Building standards for MBTS

Also this week, the town council laid down some big-picture rules for MBTS.

The council approved a revised Schematic Master Plan and Development Performance Standards (DPS) for the community.

“We feel the DPS will provide regulatory control and protections the Town will need, while allowing the developer to adjust to economic changes,” wrote the Town Planning & Zoning Commission after a more-than-two-hour meeting at which it approved the document.

“This is what council would look to at the next subdivision application,” Thompson said. “‘What are the requirements?’ It has to go along with the master plan … make sure they’re complying with the zoning,” said Thompson.

The goal was “to develop a set of standards that guides the development of MBTS, but also provides the flexibility to adapt to the changing times,” Ellison told the council. “So you could review plans and say, ‘Yes, this new plan does meet our standards.’ … You have the right level of control, but also flexibility.”

“But the good thing is we’ve got seven years of history behind us. We know what works well, what doesn’t work well,” said Town Engineer Kyle Gulbronson of URS.

Town code allows Millville to create standards for the community but previously they were done individually for every phase. The new standards will last for the duration of development.

“We are going to be here for some time. That’s why it’s important to have master plans and performance standards,” Ellison said.

The original Schematic Master Plan for MBTS was approved in February of 2006. Since then, the Town has seen many modifications, including a change in developers, revisions to phases, adjustments to economic changes and trends in housing products.

The schematic works akin to a zoning ordinance, so any future developer who may work on MBTS would still be required to follow those rules. The performance standards would apply throughout that process.

The new Master Plan has blank spots on Route 17, Powell Farm Road and Burbage Road. Rather than try to anticipate exactly what to build in 10 years, they’ll fill in the map with subdivision plans as the time comes.

The pages show what has been done (neighborhoods, amenities, community center); the traffic network for bikes, vehicles and pedestrians; and what may come (such as the Beebe Healthcare property, which is no longer owned by Millville Town Center, but whose potential future development could be crucial to MBTS).

Ellison discussed some of the changes. Residential density remains the same, he said, but open space drops slightly because the size of the property decreased.

He gave an example of the Town’s controlled flexibility.

“What things are really important? Having side yard is important. … Lot size was not important,” Ellison said. “We don’t have any specific lot size, but must have 20 feet of driveway and 7-foot minimum side yard.

Councilmembers agreed that the move was overdue and commended the draft-writing team.

Resident Richard Shoobridge wished neighborhood residents were kept in the loop with changes. In Sand Dollar Village, for example, he said, another road was supposed to come in for bicycle safety.

Thompson said there is a proposed bike path nearby.

When asked what’s next, Ellison said developers are continuing Summerwind Village (around 84 lots) and Lakeside village (about 45 lots). That will be a few years in the making. There was no specific decision on what will follow. Ellison said he expects to present the next submissions to the Town in early summer.

The town council had ceased to accept subdivision plans until these documents were approved, which they were, in a 4-0-1 vote, with Councilman Steve Maneri recusing himself.

Gulbronson estimated that the Town/developer committee has been drafting the documents for nearly two years.

“I think it was needed. The world as we knew it has changed. I think the revised master plan does good job,” he said.