Ocean View considers legislation

Ocean View Town Council members passed three ordinances and studied some draft legislation floating around Dover at the May 3 council meeting.

They unanimously passed ordinances (1) prohibiting multifamilies, duplexes, garden apartments, etc. in subdivisions – except in District 1 (the Route 26 corridor), (2) making public and private schools a permitted use in General Business (GB) districts and (3) following county code regarding handicapped signage and enforcement (making sure businesses put the signs up).

The draft legislation in Dover spoke to the annexation of “enclaves” — that is, areas mostly surrounded by the municipality already. It would give towns the ability to annex those areas “without submitting the question of such annexation for approval either by the residents and/or property owners of such enclave, or by the county government in which such enclave is located.”

There would be a public hearing, announced and advertised, and the enclave would have to be served by at least two municipal utilities.

According to Mayor Gary Meredith, the Sussex County Association of Towns (SCAT) had come out in strong opposition to the draft legislation.

SCAT President Sam Cooper (mayor of Rehoboth Beach) said the main objection was to the wording of the legislation’s stated objectives. From the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC), the legislation “clarifies that municipal annexations must be consistent with the municipality’s certified comprehensive plan.”

Cooper said the word “certified” suggested additional state control, as opposed to “adopted” internally. He interpreted existing code to allow towns to modify their comprehensive plans and make annexations, independent of state recertification.

OSPC Director Connie Holland said the intent had been to refer to the town’s adoption process.

“We wouldn’t want a plan to come to us for certification that hadn’t been adopted by the local jurisdiction,” she explained.

Holland said the OSPC planned to clarify that, and at any rate, 52 out of 57 municipalities had already certified their plans — and the remaining five weren’t currently experiencing growth.

On the other hand, if growing towns did pursue annexation against the state planning grain, she said they might find themselves ineligible for infrastructure funding. Holland said the legislation was meant to create a level playing field for new businesses and homeowners, who come into an annexed area expecting roads, sewer, school bus routes, etc.

In addition, she said bordering municipalities might at some future date run into territorial wars, and the legislation would provide a forum for those debates.

Home rule issues aside, Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said he suspected the notion of permitting towns to annex enclaves (when people in the enclave didn’t necessarily want to be annexed) might offend conservative downstate legislators.

In other business, council debated a final modification to the deed agreement for the land Bear Trap has agreed to donate to the town for the new police station. Council Member Eric Magill had suggested council ask Bear Trap for the right to sell the land, if at such time that parcel ever lapsed from municipal use. The town would offer Bear Trap right of first refusal — however, according to Council Member Bill Wichmann, it was still like telling Santa Claus he had to buy his gifts back.

Wichmann and Council Member Norman Amendt balked at the potential for further project delay, as the revised deed agreement would have to go back to Bear Trap for acceptance or refusal, then back to council for consideration of said acceptance or refusal, etc.

In the end, council voted 4-1 to stick with the deed as written, with Magill casting his in opposition.

Town Manager Kathy Roth noted a clarification on the annual police budget, originally presented as one new SUV. In fact, the police department will take on two-year lease payments for not one, but two SUVs.

According to Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, they planned to replace two Crown Victorias, a 1996 and a 1998, both with in excess of 100,000 miles. Council Member Wade Spanutius questioned the upgrade, noting the scarcity of hills or snow in the area. However, McLaughlin said the SUVs would hold more equipment, which officers presently had to leave in the garage, and the costs were comparable.

No budget adjustment was necessary — Roth said she’d merely presented the second SUV to correct the omission in the annual budget presentations.

Finally, Meredith said the town had set dates for this year’s Concerts in the Park – July 9 and Sept. 2. He thanked Vickie York (in attendance) for providing ice cream at last year’s events, and she accepted a brief round of applause.