Millville considering residency requirements

The Millville Town Council will have a full plate at their Tuesday, Oct. 26, council workshop. Many items discussed at this week’s meeting will be revisited at the workshop for more consideration. On the agenda will be a continued discussion of design standards, possible amendments to Planning and Zoning Commission members’ residency requirements, and residency status requirements for voters.

Currently, Millville Planning and Zoning Commission members don’t have to be “bona fide” residents of the town, only property owners there. Councilman Gerry Hocker said this, in theory, could mean that “all five members of the committee could not live in the town nor in the state,” and could not vote in town elections, yet would be on an advisory committee of the town.

Councilman Richard Thomas agreed with Hocker, saying he thinks the P&Z is doing an excellent job but that members should be residents of the town. Councilmen Mike Jeffers and Jon Subity expressed more openness to keeping the status quo.

“I haven’t heard a good argument,” said Subity of the proposed change. “They are appointed. They are volunteer and are in an advisory role. It’s on the council’s shoulders to act and vote appropriately.”

Jeffers said he shared Subity’s sentiments but could agree with Hocker, as well. He said the town just doesn’t have the necessary resource of residents who have the desire to give their time for the positions.

“If we had a larger pool of people to pull from… But I don’t see how we could limit it based on the number of people we have and the number of people that are interested. I couldn’t see at this time a reason to make a change,” said Jeffers.

Mayor Don Minyon added that he could see both sides, as well, but he noted that, for three years in a row, the committee has elected their one part-time resident member to be their leader, so they “must have respect for him.”

Minyon then brought up the notion that non-resident property owners might be given the right to vote and serve on committees but not on the council. That is the case in other area towns. But that would require a charter change.

“You can be a renter here for 90 days and [vote], but a property owner can’t. It can be up for discussion,” said Minyon.

Hocker said that Millville would then have to “consider districts and term limits.” He said, “Technically, whoever owns Millville By the Sea would have 3,000 votes” if they didn’t do so.

“I’m not 100 percent either way, but I thought it would be good to discuss,” added Minyon.

The council on Tuesday also discussed three components of the town’s Design Standards: Section 3, “Commercial Building Design”; Section 4, Residential Design within Mixed-Use Development, Location of Garage; and Section 5, Location of Parking, Standards.

Minyon asked that Jeffers and Hocker come to the next council workshop with new language, or with reasons to strike current language regarding garages, since both had issues with how the current language seems restrictive.

“It’s nice to have a garage setback, but this will be the driving factor,” said Jeffers. “It will be restrictive, and I don’t think a garage should be the driving factor of where a house gets set on the lot.”

He also wondered aloud why standards would include 5 feet of concrete out from the garage, and questioned whether asphalt wouldn’t accomplish the same thing. He said they would probably need to define an “attached garage,” as well.

The council also discussed Section 5, which currently requires the location of parking to be behind all businesses, in hopes of creating a more uniform look in the commercial areas. Several members said they thought that, since the makeup of the town is not that of a Lewes or Berlin or similar town and many of their businesses are already non-conforming, the language needs to be looked at again.

“My concern is for safety,” said Hocker, “of employees leaving at night. Plus, having businesses closer to the road to allow for more parking and future right-of-ways might create problems. But I wasn’t in favor mainly because of safety issues.”

“So, that’s not just design standards but code as well?” asked the mayor, to which Hocker answered in the affirmative.

Town Manager Debbie Botchie said it had been “strongly suggested” to the town that they have all parking be in the rear of commercial establishments, but, she added, “If you read the code, that’s not what it says. We were under the impression that parking is not permitted [in the front], but it is.” Instead, she explained, there are rules about parking within setbacks in the front of businesses.

“It looks great, feels great in established towns,” offered Jeffers of the rear-yard parking requirement. “But it would be somewhat difficult to see it take shape, because we do have so many legally non-conforming [businesses] and parking in the back really hinders them because you don’t see activity.

“It would be a huge shift for the town to get used to,” Jeffers added, “but I think it’s appealing. Over the long term, it would really turn us into a walkable, contiguous town. I don’t know what the answer is.”

Hocker said he feels that Millville is a “pass-through town” and will “never be a Lewes or a Berlin.” He pointed out that the only new commercial building built in the town after the Millville Town Center was Artisan’s Bank, so there haven’t been a lot of new buildings to which the standards would apply.

Councilman Jon Subity added, “I like the way it is worded. I would prefer to have parking in the back, where it makes sense. And where it doesn’t make sense, I don’t want to push it on people.”

The council decided that the standards for garages and parking would be discussed again at the Oct. 26 workshop, in addition to the Planning and Zoning Commission membership qualifications and voter qualifications, and the town’s holiday decorations. At that time, they will also once again discuss public safety and the idea of police services being provided by the Town of Ocean View.

In other news:

• The council held a public hearing on a conditional use for a Level II childcare center (six children or fewer) proposed to be located on Reba Road. The childcare center, which currently has four children attending, has existed for some time and the applicant, Jennifer Mills-Mozingo, apologized for her “ignorance” of the town code.

Minyon said later that her state inspector “took the blame” for not telling Mills-Mozingo that she needed to check with the town about zoning regulations, and stated that, most of the time, the state inspectors will make sure the businesses are in compliance with any town codes.

After discussing possibly having the applicant come in for a yearly or a two-year review for her conditional use, the council ultimately decided they would grant the conditional use with conditions provided by Planning and Zoning, which included a fence.

Citing the recourse the town can take if code violations existed, in revocation of any conditional use, the council decided they did not need further restrictions, such as a yearly or two-year review.

• The town council also voted to approve a minor subdivision for Ruth Brienen and Harry Dale, for parcel 134-12.00-365.00, to change one lot into three at 32180 Windmill Drive.

• The council discussed, and will in discuss again in further detail at their workshop, several options for exterior holiday decorations.