This week, the Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to repeal its existing comprehensive plan map and enact a new map, with the exception of four properties, in accordance with the Town’s 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).
Opposition to the ordinance had been sparked over the proposed rezoning of part of the Archut property and three existing residential properties from residential to commercial zoning. Residents in the Foxwoods Homeowners Association had raised their objections in December at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.
Since then, the residents have sent letters and spoken to the council about their concerns with having the four properties rezoned to commercial. It was suggested that the zoning map, which is required by state law to be enacted within 18 months following the adoption of a revised CLUP, could negatively impact the Town, if the council chose to not approve the ordinance.
“I think there was a feeling on the part of council members that there were financial consequences to the town,” said Mayor Gordon Wood at Tuesday’s meeting. “Ms. Holland,” he added of the director of the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination, “said the Comp Plan must be amended to reflect the council’s decision … and agreed that the town would not feel any immediate financial consequences. … The question then becomes, what is the easiest way?”
Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader told council they could adopt the ordinance in its entirety, reject the ordinance in its entirety, or approve part of it, with the unapproved section to go back through the original process of having the ordinance approved by the state.
“If we were to approve this ordinance as it currently stands, and Mr. Archut and the people who owns the three properties in question came before us and said they’d really like to have this changed from commercial to residential, would they be able to do that after having adopted this ordinance?” asked Councilman Bob Lawless.
“Interpretation given by Court of Chancery is that, while the Comprehensive Plan has the force of law, it is intended to be a guide, rather than a predisposition decision-making for each tract of land … that gives a soft edge to the Comprehensive Plan,” responded Schrader. “If they chose to do so, they could make an application to a down zone of some sort.”
Councilman Tom Sheeran asked if the council had the authority to make physical changes to the ordinance, to change the zoning within the proposed ordinance before its approval.
“We do not have that ability, because it is not an ordinance that has yet been introduced, reviewed, approved, recommended and procedurally brought before you,” said Schrader.
Sheeran motioned to accept the ordinance, excluding the Archut property and three contiguous properties, with that section of the ordinance to be reviewed and resubmitted to the State’s Office of Planning Coordination. The council voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance, with the exception of the four properties, including the Archut tract.
Schrader noted that citizens wanting to stay involved in the happenings of the town should be sure to check the town’s Web site, where agendas for all town meetings are posted, so as to avoid having changes that impact them slip by before they can tell the council how they feel.
“The good people from Foxwoods – I appreciate the situation they find themselves in. I appreciate the high quality of arguments they have made, but there is an element of vigilance on the part of all the citizens of the Town of Ocean View — if you don’t pay close attention to what your government is doing, it’s difficult sometimes to undo something you didn’t want them to do. That is the dilemma that this town council is faced with tonight.”
Foxwoods resident Joe Capone thanked the council for their action, and stated that the Foxwoods residents do take an active interest in town business.
“Thank you for your attention to our issue,” he said. “I just wanted to make the point that, something happened back in 2010 such that we didn’t get letters… We do want to participate. We do check the Web site… We do care. We are the type of people who do pay attention to what go on in this town, and we will continue to do so.”