Willey gets project passed

A proposal to develop a property owned by Millville Mayor Gary Willey deadlocked the monthly town council meeting Tuesday night for more than 90 minutes. The request eventually won final approval by a 3-1 margin.

“Everything is within code and I don’t see how it can be turned down,” said Willey, who stepped away from the bench due to the clear conflict of interest, and spoke from the audience. “It’s all legal.”

The scrutinized blueprint, offered by Capland LLC, is to be the Millville Town Center’s third phase, a 28-unit, 4.28-acre addendum to the first and second phases, according to Edward Politowski, president of Karins and Associates, the engineering firm responsible for the project.

Once complete, cars will be able to enter and exit the community, which includes a cul-de-sac, only through the Millville Town Center. There will be no connection to the adjacent Duke Avenue.

The first design presented called for 32 town houses. The sewer system’s ability to accommodate all of the units, however, was questionable, so Politowski agreed to reduce the number by four.

The dispute Tuesday derived from some council members’ concerns over housing density in Millville. Councilman Cliff Toomey voiced the strongest reservation and initially motioned to table the proposal until the July meeting. He ultimately broke the 2-2 stalemate — with Council Members Tim Droney and Gerry Hocker voting up and Council Member Richard Thomas voting down — after acquiescing in light of Millville’s RPC zoning ordinance.

To alleviate earlier concerns about spiraling density, the town’s lawyer drafted the ordinance in 2001, when the council was discussing plans for the town center’s first two parcels, which comprise 68 lots over approximately 35 acres. Under the law, properties of 10 acres or more are permitted to place dwellings every 5,000 square feet, or approximately 6.2 per acre. Phase III meets the requirements since it is a legitimate appendix to an existing property by the same proprietor — Capland LLC in this case.

“This is within the limits of what’s allowed in the town of Millville,” said Droney, assuming the role of council president for Willey. “If we don’t approve this, we might as well throw this [RPC document] away.”

Toomey, on the other hand, worried that the owners of existing or incipient developments may sue to get the same deal. Dove’s Landing developers, for example, recently agreed to accept restrictions of 3.78 units per acre.

“The town of Millville needs to take a step back and look at what we’re putting in there,” he said. “Is this what the Millville town people want? If that’s what the Millville town people want, then we’ll give it to them.”

Willey wasted no time countering.

“We haven’t heard any exception here tonight, Cliff,” he said. “Why you’re not acting on this, I don’t understand.”

Other qualms, coming from members of the council and audience, related to traffic congestion and pavement quality. Politowski addressed those fears. The Millville engineer, Politowski said, will oversee the planning process. Karins and Associates, he added, would surpass The Delaware Department of Transportation’s expectations for road regulations and adhere to Sussex County’s preservation policies.

“We don’t just meet those standards,” Politowski said. “We exceed those standards in every case.”

In other Millville business:

• The council approved a request to change the zoning of lot # 1-34-12-42 from residential to commercial;

• Approved a new permit fee schedule;

• Authorized Willey to perform a feasibility study for hiring a police chief;

• And agreed to hire Capital Software to handle the town’s tax invoices.