One set of sketches, so many questions.
Officials and representatives of Millville Township LLC presented their sketch plans to the town council and a group of eager residents during the town’s regular council meeting on Tuesday, April 12.
The project, the first of its kind in the area under the MPC zoning category, covers 608 acres along Route 17, from Burbage Road to Pepper’s Corner Road, and will consist of 2,554 units — a little more than 4.2 units an acre.
“That’s in direct contrast to what (Sussex County Council Member) George Cole said the other day (at a breakfast held by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce),” said Mayor Gary Willey. “He said there will be six per acre, and that Millville is ‘out of control.’ That’s just not true.”
The MPC allows for up to eight units per acre, which would permit up to 4,864 units.
Bob Harris, of the Millville Township group, introduced Fred Jarvis, a planner with EDSA, of Columbia, Md. Jarvis presented a slide show of sketches and figures for council and attendees.
Jarvis opened his presentation by explaining what the MPC allows developers to do, and how the Township group is well within guidelines. In addition to the 4.2 units per acre, Jarvis also pointed out that under MPC guidelines, the project could have up to 1,300,266 square feet of commercial space. The Millville project will have 355,400 square feet dedicated to commercial enterprise.
Jarvis also said the project will have well over the 40 percent of green space required under the MPC guidelines when everything is calculated. Included in that green space will be a 6.6-acre parcel tabbed as a municipal site, which the town could use for storage, for example.
The Township group is also reportedly in talks with the Millville Volunteer Fire Co. regarding a parcel of land for a substation. That location has not yet been finalized. Both of these parcels, the one for the town and the one for the fire department, would be deeded to the organizations at no cost, according to Harris.
The centerpiece of the project will be the Millville Town Center, a 19.9-acre parcel along Route 17 in the approximate center of the project. This area will be “pedestrian friendly,” according to Harris, featuring wide sidewalks, shopping and recreational facilities. The highest of dwelling density will be surrounding this area, with one 9.7-acre parcel, C-4, scheduled to have 20-plus dwellings per acre. Jarvis and Harris both estimated it would be approximately five years before work began on the Town Center area.
Density was a major source of discussion throughout the evening.
Council Member Clifton Toomey said he was concerned about the ability for the project to adequately hook into sewer, and about commitments the town council made to residents when initially approving the zoning for the project. Toomey said he believed council committed to not allow more than four units per acre, and that he was under the impression that was the maximum number Sussex County allows.
Harris said he had been in conversations with engineers who advise county council, and those engineers suggest the number should be 4.75 units per acre, thanks to new sewer capacities from the proposed Beaver Dam service area.
Toomey said he wanted that cleared up before the group comes back for further approvals, and reiterated he was still concerned over assurances made to residents restricting the project to four units per acre.
Kyle F. Gulbronson, a project manager with URS, the engineering firm hired by the town to represent them through this process, said he was concerned with the density of the C-4 parcel, and asked that the Township group bring elevation plans with them next time so he could better understand what’s involved.
Gulbronson also opened the door to discussions centering around roads and traffic when he asked when the connecting road through the project would be built. Jarvis said the group was still awaiting word from DelDOT regarding that.
“Until we get that, we don’t really have a timetable on the road,” said Jarvis.
One thing for certain is Route 17 will never be the same, according to Harris.
“Route 17 is going to change in character,” said Harris. “... It will look like Main Street, U.S.A.”
The group is asking DelDOT for two roundabouts, circles in the street to slow down traffic. Harris also suggested wider sidewalks, and a look similar to that of Route 26 in Bethany Beach, except the middle lane will be a solid median, possibly with landscaping.
Houses in the project that border on Route 17 will not have driveways bordering that road, instead there will be alleys running behind the homes, according to Jarvis.
Council Member Tim Droney asked what would happen if the economy changed for the worse halfway through the construction of the project, and there were still many more units to be built.
Harris answered by saying one of the benefits to the MPC is that they can come back later and change the plans, if needed.
After all was said and done, town council approved the conceptual plan unanimously, but asked that their concerns be addressed for the next round of approvals.
Council also approved zoning changes for Bonard Timmons and Kay Wells, from MPC to residential. Timmons has a 3.749-acre parcel in the MPC zone, while Wells has four lots totaling 4.59 acres.
Nancy Steele received approval to change her property at 610 Atlantic Ave. from residential to commercial.
Toomey, who serves as the town treasurer, announced that the new Millville Town Hall is now officially paid off, following a payment of $350,000 in March.
Council also made a $1,000 donation to the Ocean View CHEER Center building fund, and a $5,000 donation to the Millville fire department.
“It’s so nice to be in a financial position to be able to donate to organizations like these,” said Willey.