Ocean View council hears from Thornton

Bob Thornton, owner of the Silver Woods Subdivision and an Ocean View resident, approached the town’s council Tuesday night to gauge the assembly’s receptiveness to annexing his property.

Before drafting and submitting a formal proposal, Thornton wanted to hear the reservations and recommendations of the council. With neither party seeking concrete commitments, the airing-of-concerns exercise was out of the ordinary, according to Council Member Eric Magill.

“I guess what Mr. Thornton is looking for is for someone to nod their head and say, ‘yeah we’re interested,’” said Dennis Schrader, the town solicitor, “and we’ll at least court each other for a while even if we don’t date and get married.”

But Thornton, a law enforcement officer turned developer, said he would consider incorporating any suggestions into his designs, provided the council members did not ask Thornton to limit his blueprints to less than 330 lots.

“I’ve had some folks tell me that there could be some costs associated with this that could adversely impact the town of Ocean View, and I want to be the first one to try to get that out on the table,” Thornton said. “This has to be not just a win-win, but it has to be really positive for Ocean View.”

The 125-acre estate, due south of the Bear Trap Dunes on Beaver Dam Road, could be the future site of 378 single-family units, according to Thornton. Currently under the jurisdiction of Sussex County, the land could assume stiffer building codes but also a more desirable, profitable zip code with a switch. Thornton estimated each lot could sell for a minimum of $700,000 and the entire package could pocket upward of $200 million.

Thornton expects the project’s first phase, structured according to county standards and comprising less than 50 units, to be completed in 12 to 15 months. Construction over the subsequent five or six years, therefore, would constitute improvement to an existing lot.

The sanitary sewer pump system already in place there eventually could accommodate up to 500 homes, Thornton said. And all roads would be privately maintained unless Ocean View agreed to assume responsibility.

Silver Woods, which includes 15 to 20 acres of 404 wetlands, will ultimately house several recreational facilities — though definitely not a tennis court — and a boardwalk-like nature trail.

Under the name Star Light Woods, the grounds became a lawful subdivision in 1986. Buyers saw their lots languish, however, because they did not meet sewer and road ordinances. Beginning in 1997, Thornton entered into negotiation with those owners, who have become a “cheering section,” he said, after assuming their investments were lost.

“It was originally slated as a future luxury mobile home park. So what we’ve done is made agreements that everyone that wants to come into the project and not sell their lot, they’ve agreed to the new covenants and restrictionss as far as what they can and can’t do there,” Thornton said. “In turn we’re providing all of the utilities and infrastructure at no cost to them.”

The town council and Thornton eventually decided to continue discussions throughout the design process, with Schrader and Kyle Gulbronson, Ocean View’s planning consultant, agreeing to offer advice and answer questions from time to time.

In other business, Mayor Gary Meredith issued the first public reading of an ordinance to annex approximately 1.6893 acres of the Indian River School District from Sussex County into the town’s limits. The land is part of the Lord Baltimore Elementary School’s campus, which currently resides in Ocean View, Millville and Sussex County. Ocean View proposes assuming control of a parcel south of State Route 26 and east of Old School Lane, and rezoning it as a General Business District. The next reading of the ordinance will be at the town council meeting on July 5.

Council Member Bill Wichmann advocated taking on a permanent town engineer. In light of the Savannah Road project, which Wichmann called a “mess,” the councilman wants an Ocean View employee to be accountable for future missteps. He agreed to examine further the feasibility of such a hiring.

Lastly, Gulbronson presented options for the site of a new Ocean View public works facility. The building — slated to house tractors, trucks, mowers and more — will abut the current town hall. The property currently contains a house, which served as a temporary town hall last year. Ocean View spent nearly $290,000 to acquire and repair the dwelling. Erecting a public works facility on the site, however, would require borrowing land from the current lot. The new, smaller property, with house, would no longer meet town codes and could not be sold. Gulbronson said Ocean View could consider razing the building or selling the structure to someone who would move it.