Millville gives Dove Landing another three years to develop

Developers of the Dove Landing planned community have requested — and received — a second three-year extension from the Millville Town Council.

The final site plan for the still-undeveloped community was originally approved in December of 2007. Town code states that subdivisions are deemed null and void after three years unless substantial construction has taken place. Beazer Homes was previously granted a three-year extension for the project in February of 2011.

Located east of Route 26, adjacent to Burbage Road and Route 17, Dove Landing would include 140 single homes, 142 townhouses and 120 condominiums, with open space.

Beazer’s focus in recent years has been on the nearby Bishop’s Landing community, where amenities including a clubhouse and pool will open this summer, said Steve Marsh, an engineer with George, Miles & Buhr.

“So, within three years, we should be able to transfer [that energy] to Dove Landing without … cannibalizing Bishop’s Landing,” Marsh said.

Work has occurred behind the scenes, representatives noted. Since 2011, Beazer spent around $300,000 for the official entrance, as mandated by Delaware Department of Transportation during nearby road improvements.

“Previously, Bishop’s Landing hadn’t started, and the market was very flat,” said Steven Brosbeck of Beazer. “We’ve got a lot of money invested in that dirt over there.”

Beazer has sold 55 homes in Bishop’s Landing and expects another 18 to sell in the next few weeks. Brosbeck intends to move that momentum to Dove Landing within 18 to 24 months, he said.

“There’s only so many dollars, even though we are a publicly traded company.”

“I commend you for requesting to let supply and demand run its course,” said Mayor Gerry Hocker.

Without a cap on possible extensions, Beazer could potentially request a third extension several years from now, and Councilman Bob Gordon said he was concerned that other developers would see this latest extension as a precedent of allowing developers to sit on land.

“Look at what was done in last nine months,” said Brosbeck of the recently completed roadway entrance.

Marsh noted that Dove Landing and Bishop’s Landing were originally one project that was split, and Town Engineer Kyle Gulbronson of URS suggested that this is just an extension or another phase.

Beazer has a “long-term commitment to the Town of Millville,” Brosbeck said.

The Sussex Conservation District approved of the extension, Marsh said.

There is no change in the site plan, and Beazer would have to reapply if they change roads or more than 5 percent of the housing units.

In other Millville news:

• After a quiet public hearing and several prior discussions, the council finally accepted updated guidelines for detached accessory garages. Ordinance 14-02 amends the code to add and define “detached accessory garages” in the R-Residential and C1-Route 26 Corridor/Town Center Commercial Districts. Garages were already allowed, but the dimensions permitted weren’t clear.

“We went back to try to compromise … to find the appropriate size. [Using] a sliding scale if you have a larger lot, you could build a larger accessory garage,” said Gulbronson. “I think we’ve come up with a pretty good solution.”

Any lot less than .75 acres can have a maximum of an 800-square-feet detached garage. Larger properties can have up to 1,200 square feet. Any attic areas are included in that count. The structure cannot fill more than 20 percent of the rear or side yard where it’s located, so as to not overwhelm to neighbors. There are also sliding setbacks based on size. And garages cannot exceed 1.5 stories or 18 feet in height.

The motion passed 4-0-1, with Gordon abstaining.

• Millville will finish what it started in respect to updating sign ordinances. Ordinance 13-02 was adopted on Aug. 14, 2012, but the council never determined a timeline for completion.

They voted this month to draft an amendment (which must undergo public hearing and final council vote) to give businesses five years to come into compliance, from the date the amendment is eventually approved, which could possibly be in the next two months.

The council wanted to allow plenty of time beyond DelDOT’s anticipated three-year Route 26 project.

Town Manager Debbie Botchie said she had met with many businesses, who aren’t happy about the ordinance, but are aware of it. She said she would plan a workshop to show businesses examples of what a conforming sign might look like.

As it stands, if 50 percent of an existing sign is destroyed, it must be rebuilt in compliance with the new code anyway, said Town Solicitor Seth Thompson. Many businesses worked the cost of replacing signage into their land acquisition payments from DelDOT, which should help, Hocker said.

• Botchie said the Route 26 improvement work is beginning at both ends, but currently, clearing and grubbing of plants and trees is occurring in Clarksville, which will include some lane closures. The Town of Millville website will post DelDOT’s weekly updates.

• Dickens Parlour Theatre’s final site plan for their new two-story structure was unanimously approved. The 1,600-square-foot addition would increase downstairs storage and add an upstairs dressing room. Currently, performers must store any equipment outside, in the elements. The new structure would connect to the theater’s west side by an adjacent staircase and overhang. Seating would not be affected. Parking would increase by 1.5 spaces.

The building would be a Beracah Homes structure, raised on pilings, over a pole barn. The upstairs would feature two rooms with two half-baths. Like a raised home at the beach, the downstairs pilings would simply be enclosed for storage.

There will be no cooking facilities, residence area or showers. A building permit must be approved later.

• Millville By the Sea’s final site plan for four building lots in Summerwind Village was approved. The single-family home structures will be used for the next several years as model homes but eventually sold as residences. Soon, MBTS will request signage there to identify the entire Millville By the Sea community.

Resident Richard Shoobridge complained to the council that the Sand Dollar Village community has no identity, signage or features. Chuck Ellison of Miller & Smith noted that they’ve made no signage requests, but they’re looking at Sand Dollar Village, too.