Selbyville approves limited well ordinance

Selbyville Town Council members voted on Monday, Oct. 6, to add a new subsection D — Wells — to Chapter 195 of the town code, regarding water. The new code adds the ability for property owners to add or use private wells on their property for certain approved uses, with permission from the town and state environmental agency.

The amendment permits wells to be used only for three purposes: (1) for geothermal heating, (2) for agricultural purposes on properties of 10 or more acres that are primarily used for agriculture and (3) for the filling of ponds in developments and subdivisions.

The code also requires the well facilities to be available for and pass inspection, and for them to be capped if the properties are redeveloped for residential use or subdivided. The town can also restrict use of wells in the event of a water emergency.

The amendment passed on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Richard Duncan Sr. absent.

Council members noted in making their votes that, while some residents had requested to be allowed to use private wells for residential “agricultural” uses such as watering lawns, the council opposed that idea based on the potential damage to town property and neighboring private property, due to the high iron content in the area’s aquifers, which is known to leave red-brown stains on sidewalks and homes.

“If the wind is blowing, you can really nail your neighbor’s house,” said Mayor Clifton Murray. “So, for the time being, I can’t see it being a benefit.”

“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the town to have wells in the town that no one is monitoring,” added Councilman Jay Murray.

The mayor also pointed out the difference between the state designation of wells for “agricultural use,” which includes the watering of residential lawns, and the town’s designation of town-permitted true agricultural use – which relates only to the raising of livestock and crops on a large property designated as being in agricultural use.

“The state may issue a permit, but you can only do it if the town allows,” Councilman Murray emphasized, noting that the council members themselves were not exempted from watering their lawns via the town’s central water system, since only those among them who are farmers by trade — Mayor Murray, specifically — are eligible for an agricultural permit under the new code.

Hearing set for R-4 rezoning

Also on Oct. 6:

• Council members voted 4-0 to hold a public hearing on Nov. 3, prior to their 7 p.m. regular meeting, on a resolution to rezone 35 properties from the town’s R-3 residential zone to the newer R-4 zone.

The R-4 zoning allows property owners and developers more flexibility on lot size without increasing overall permitted density. R-3 lots must be a half-acre or larger, while R-4 lots can be as small as 12,000 square feet, with the resulting extra space being “open space.”

“We’re basically doing away with the R-3 district,” said Mayor Murray. “That’s the bottom line.”

• Town Manager Robert Dickerson noted that the town’s seasonal decline in water use had already begun to be noticed, with town employees currently working to install a chlorine injection system in preparation for the completion of the town’s water and sewer system expansion project in the coming weeks.

He also reported that the town plans to send all residents of the expansion areas on Routes 17 and 54 a letter with details on hooking up to the systems as soon as a completion date has been finalized on the last segment of the project, on Route 54. The contractor’s target date for that completion is Nov. 14. Properties on Route 17 are already able to connect to the systems.

Property owners in both areas are being encouraged to contact the town and town engineers Davis, Bowen and Friedel soon about any problems with the system or restoration work, so that it can be addressed with the contractor prior to that date.

Dickerson also noted that he is in the process of applying for a permit for the town to add a backup well to its water supply.

• The council unanimously approved the move of Arrow Safety Device Company to two buildings at the town’s industrial park. The previously Georgetown, Del., and Mt. Holly, N.J.-based business recently received a loan from Sussex County to consolidate the business, add employees and relocate to the Selbyville industrial park, where at least 18 employees will be based for sales and indoor assembly work. “This is a feather in our cap,” Councilman G. Frank Smith III said of the move by the established business to Selbyville.

• Smith obtained agreement from fellow council members that Mountaire Inc. should consider applying to the town for a conditional use that would put the company back in compliance the zoning on a portion of the company’s property that has been used for a “cooling shed” and truck parking for many years.

The councilman said his research into the issue in the last month had indicated that Mountaire had never formally applied for such use, even though the intent for the parcel and the cooling shed had apparently always been, at least in part, to control manure runoff and odor from parked live-haul trucks.

With work at the poultry processor having doubled from one shift to two in recent years, and an estimated 300,000 chickens now transported to the plant and killed daily, Smith said he expected that state environmental officials had perhaps not yet considered the impact of the increased amount of manure sitting on the site, even though runoff to Sandy Branch is permitted.

“This is getting a little out of hand,” Smith said.

“It’s a violation of the permitted use they have,” added Jay Murray. “And it has increased the odor.”