Royal Farms to move on to final site plan in Ocean View

Last week the Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission met to review a preliminary site plan submitted by Two Farms Inc. for a Royal Farms convenience store and gas station to be located at 54 Atlantic Avenue, on Route 26, adjacent to the new CVS store and Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church.

As the Town had previously been in court regarding the property owner’s request to combine the lots for uses under General Business zoning, Royal Farms was able to have the review done under the Town’s old 2010 code.

The proposed 12-pump gas station, and 3,735 square foot convenience store would share an eastbound entrance from Route 26 and an entrance from West Avenue, both approved by the Delaware Department of Transportation, for the property’s highest possible use. The preliminary site plan indicates there will be 38 parking spaces for both employees and patrons, including two handicapped spots.

Town Administrative Official Charlie McMullen said that he believes with the majority of the traffic entering and exiting the property from West Avenue, it could pose a safety hazard if drivers chose to exit behind the CVS through its prescription drive-thru.

“That causes me some concerns here if people are using this exit here to get out the back entrance quicker,” he said. Suggesting that the commission may want to request additional signage to deter drivers from using that area as a thoroughfare.

“I’d like there to be a restriction so that you can’t drive through there,” said commission chair Walter Curran. “I do think that’s an accident waiting to happen.”

“We understand the concern,” responded Garth Jones, the project’s site engineer, from the Becker Morgan Group. “If additional directional signage needs to be installed we can do that.”

Prior to the meeting, representatives from Mariner’s Bethel and Royal Farms met to discuss the church’s concerns related to the proposed convenience store.

“We’ve met with them, talked about their concerns,” said Jones.

Church officials had requested the Royal Farms erect a fence along the property line, as to separate the store’s parking lot and the church’s cemetery. They also said they were concerned about the store’s intercom system that would potentially play music or make announcements during services.

“Their main concern was about pedestrian traffic, having people cut across the cemetery, which I understand is the oldest part of the cemetery,” said Jones. Adding, “There is an intercom at each pump… There are speakers that will be mounted up in the canopy that will play music. What Royal Farms and the church have agreed to is, when there’s going to be some type of service, they will coordinate with Royal Farms to have it turned off during that time… There’s some flexibility and it seems to be a good compromise.”

Jones said they had also spoken with the church about its concerns regarding security.

“The church doesn’t have any type of security system, we provided them with the approximate locations of the security system. They seemed to be pleased that there would be some cameras pointed toward the cemetery.”

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader asked if the terms discussed between the two parties would be commemorated in a letter of agreement.

“We’d be willing to do that,” said K. William Scott, attorney for the Timmons family, who owns the property.

Schrader also suggested discussing an arrangement regarding the convenience store to keep rubbish, trash cleaned up and out of the church’s cemetery.

“If Royal Farms is to be as good a neighbor as possible… We can memorialize that as well.”

Kathy Roth, a trustee of Mariner’s Bethel, thanked Royal Farms, and spoke in favor of the project. She added that she would like to take Mr. Schrader’s suggestion of a written agreement.

Bill Lucks, broker of record and senior adviser at Sperry Van Ness, a commercial real estate advisor company based in Lewes, spoke on behalf of Royal Farms. Lucks said the convenience store would provide 75 construction jobs, and employ 35 to 40 people, with 15 to 20 fulltime year-round positions, that they would hire from within the community.

“They’re good people and they know their business,” he said.

Ocean View resident Elaine Birkmeyer spoke in support of Royal Farms, and said she’s excited at the possibility of it opening in town.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she said. “Build it and they will come.”

The Ocean View Planning and Zoning Commission approved the preliminary site plan unanimously. Royal Farms must now take the commissions requests and implement them before the final site plan review, which will take place at a later date. If the final site plan is approved, construction of the Royal Farms may commence.