Ocean View looks to welcome in unincorporated areas

The Town of Ocean View is looking to invite communities in the unincorporated areas within the town and just outside its borders to apply to be annexed into the town.

“What we would like to do is regularize our Town’s outline,” explained Councilman Bob Lawless. “There are areas within the present geographic limits of political Ocean View that are not in our town, like Lord Baltimore Landing, right next to the Melson building. It is not in the political town of Ocean View.

“They have an Ocean View post office address. They’re right next to our administrative and police headquarters, but they’re not in our town. That doesn’t make any sense — not to me, anyway.”

Lawless said that, due to the Town’s past reputation, there were many developments that did not request to be annexed into the town.

“There was a time in ancient history when the Town of Ocean View was unwelcoming to new folks coming in. We missed opportunities along the line to say to these people, ‘While you’re building this development, why don’t you come join our town?’” he said. “There were hurdles placed in front of developers that kind of turned them off. Now we’re saying, we look at our town’s map and it is absolutely insane. It looks like you took a bowl of Jell-O and tried to nail it to the wall. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Communities that Lawless said the Town is looking at include Forest Reach, Summerville, Lord Baltimore Landing and Providence.

“They should be in our town, and at some point in the not too distant past, they wanted to be in our town. Let’s reach out to them, and to Summerville and to Providence and a whole bunch of others — all along Muddy Neck — that are contiguous with the town, and are part of the established comprehensive land-use growth area, reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, guys — let’s talk.’”

Lawless said that those communities that would agree to be annexed into the town would receive a number of benefits from joining Ocean View proper.

“What you get when you become part of our political town is our cops become intensely knowledgeable about your community. Ocean View PD goes through my community — I live in Wedgefield — twice a day. They’re not doing house-to-house door-knocking, but they’re looking every day a couple of times,” said Lawless.

“Every cop is through every community in our town every day. They don’t do that in Lord Baltimore; they should. They don’t do it in Forest Reach; I would like them to.”

Lawless said that the town’s police department is a huge asset and offers critical protection to its citizens.

“If, presently, someone that’s part of a community that is not in our town were to call the Ocean View Police Department and say, ‘I heard something three doors away,’ our police department would say call 911 and SusCom (Sussex County emergency dispatch service) would dispatch someone to you.

“If I called OVPD and said, ‘I’ve got a problem,’ there would be a cop within my door within 180 seconds at the outside. It’s really nice, because our cops are not only trained law enforcement officials — they have defibrillators, and they’re very knowledgeable of first aid. That’s what you get with our police department. We say to other communities, ‘Our cops will be all over your community every day.’”

Communities would also get the benefits of the Town’s Public Works Department.

“When we annex a community, we own their streets. We would undertake for them the maintenance and repair of their streets in perpetuity.”

A huge perk of the Public Works Department, said Lawless, was their plowing of roads during various area snowstorms.

“Everybody in an HoA has looked at this past year and gone, ‘Holy guacamole! We spent a lot of money pushing snow around,’ and they did,” he said. “I don’t know what they paid to have Sam from the garden center push snow off their roads, but I assure you it wasn’t inexpensive. If you join us, that’s what you get for your tax dollars.”

Lawless recognized that some of the communities’ roads will not meet standards under Town code; however, he said the Town would work to welcome in any community.

“We’ll have to look at them and say, ‘In order for us to take this, we’re going to have to work something out,’ but those things are open for discussion. Just about anything is open to discussion,” he said. “The fees and costs involved are going to be minimized, but we want you to be a part of our town.”

Lawless said the Town is looking to welcome in whole communities, rather than just individuals.

“We’re not trying to do this on an individual-by-individual basis but community by community. If you live in Summerville or Bethany Breeze and think, ‘Gee, I think it’s a really good idea for us to do this,’ get a hold of your property manager or homeowners association, suggest it to them. If enough of you within a community want to do this, we will work our buns off to make it happen,” he said.

He added that an entire community does not need to agree to join the town in order to become residents.

“If more than 50 percent of residents wanted to join Ocean View, we have a way of doing that, and that makes life so much easier. In my development, we have 90 homes. I can’t get 90 people to agree that the sun comes up in the east.”

Lawless said the Town has been working on the idea through a committee, comprising himself, Councilman Tom Sheeran, Town Manager Dianne Vogel and Town Administrative Official Charles McMullen.

“We’re now trying to figure out, ‘Here’s our will to do this. What do we do next?’” said Lawless. “We want to make sure we have what we have to sell, and prepared to give, and what we need to give them, really clear in our minds, and then we ought to go out to those communities. Maybe we ought to advertise. Maybe lots of stuff. It’s not clear yet. We just know we want to do it.”

Currently, they are discussing what would be the best way to advertise their intentions of welcoming communities into the town, and Lawless added that council members would be willing to speak to homeowners associations and give presentations to those who are interested.

Although the effort is in the beginning stages, Lawless said he hopes unincorporated areas of Sussex County that are in enclaves of Ocean View or on the town’s outskirts will consider applying to be annexed in.

“I think there’s going to be some skepticism, but let’s open the door and talk. If the people from a homeowners association want to get together at any time, call me, call the office, call anybody, and we’ll figure out a way to sit down and talk about it. There’s nothing to be lost by anybody making an approach saying, ‘Let’s talk.’”

Communities interested in joining the town of Ocean View can call the town administrative offices, at (302) 539-9797.