Millville approves plan for Barrington Park

Millville Town Council members on Tuesday unanimously agreed to approve the final site plan for the Barrington Park community, which will feature 547 residential units on 158 acres nestled between Burbage Road, Route 17 and Substation Road.

The community, which is developed by Beazer Homes, is adjacent to their Doves Landing community, which is just to the north, off Burbage and Route 17. Barrington Park will comprise 287 single-family homes, 148 townhomes and 112 condominium units.

Amenities will include a clubhouse, 49,000 feet of sidewalks, 15 acres of ponds and 48 acres of open and forested area — bringing the plan to 69 acres, or 43 percent of open space overall. Some 10 acres will be preserved as forested area.

Beazer’s Lincoln Davis told council members on Aug. 14 that the company was contributing to or performing a number of improvements to area infrastructure as part of the project.

They will be paying for 45 percent of the cost of upgrades to the Beaver Dam Sewer District that has recently been expanded as part of the neighboring Millville By the Sea Community, along Beaver Dam Road and Burbage Road, as well as a “major portion” of the planned expansion of sewer along Route 26.

The company will also be conducting improvements to Burbage Road and Windmill Lane, which will be widened and be refitted with a new asphalt overlay; and Roxana Road (Route 17), which will also get a new surface. The road work is slated to be done after sewer expansion in the area is completed, and in preparation for the planned Route 26 revamp, during which some of the roads are expected to serve as detours and alternate routes to Route 26, thus seeing heavier traffic than normal.

Also being improved are four intersections, all of which will get traffic signals under the plan for development in the area in the near future. The new signals will be located at the intersections of Burbage and Windmill, Burbage and Route 17, and Windmill and Route 26, as well as on Route 17, at the entrance to the Doves Landing community, where a new Home Depot store is also slated to be built.

Bennett questions abidance to landscape plans

Davis told the council that landscape plans at Barrington Park call for plants native to Sussex County, with anywhere from six to 15 plans (shrubs, trees and ornamental grasses) per unit, depending on type, ranging from six or more at the townhomes and condominiums to as many as 15 for the single-family homes.

The subject raised concerns for Councilwoman Joan Bennett, who asked whether Davis was committing Beazer to the landscape and buffer plans as presented, or whether they were merely part of the presentation. Bennett echoed the concerns of Creekside resident Robert Wynette, who asked whether the council could force a developer to live up to the promises made to the town or to buyers.

Wynette noted his own problems with Creekside developers Ryan Homes, citing dead trees and holes in the roadways as indications that they were not living up to the picture they had painted when proposing or selling that development.

“I’ve had bad experiences in the past with developers living up to their promises,” he said, later asking town officials to meet with Ryan Homes representatives regarding the problem. (Mayor Donald Minyon said he and Code Enforcement Officer Bill Winter would tour the community on Thursday to get a feel for the problems and would be happy to meet with the developers to talk about the issues.)

Bennett said she was taking Davis’ presentation to the council as the basis of her vote for approving the final site plan for Barrington Park and she wanted Davis to assure her that they would create the vision presented to the council.

Davis, however, said he felt the demand to meet specific guidelines was something best addressed through specific ordinances that the town would develop to cover all new communities. Bennett countered that a “one size fits all” requirement wasn’t something she thought would work for the town.

Attorney Terence Jaywork, who represents several area towns, sat in on the Aug. 14 meeting as a partner in the firm of Hudson, Jones, Jaywork and Fisher, which has been selected as Millville’s new legal representation. Associate Seth Thompson will oversee things in Millville for the firm.

Jaywork threw himself into the new role on Tuesday, quickly analyzing that Barrington Park does not fall under Millville’s new subdivision ordinance that requires a landscaping plan for new communities. Instead, he said, it fell under the ordinance that existed prior to the passage of the new legislation in June, wherein no landscape plan was required. Sussex County also requires no landscape plan for communities outside town limits.

With that in mind, Jaywork advised the council, “If there were no trees, you could take legal action. But if he’s in the ballpark, probably not.”

Davis emphasized that he wanted to work with the town and that the plans, as presented, were what the developers planned to put in place. Those plans also include irrigation for the entire community, he noted, as well as vegetated buffers and berms to protect neighbors.

Councilwoman Kami Banks also questioned Davis about plans for parking in the community, citing a recent shift to require 2.5 parking spaces per unit — an increase from the two spaces per unit previously required.

Davis said the plan for Barrington Park had been designed with the two-space requirement in mind, but an excess of parking above that figure had still been included — a total of 1,245 spaces, compared to a minimum of 1,094. Most of the parking at Barrington Park is in the driveways and garages of owners’ respective units. Condominium units have two spaces allotted in a parking area near the units, while a few parallel spaces have been provided for some of the townhome units.

Addressing Banks’ concern and that of Councilman Richard Thomas, a volunteer firefighter, Davis said the community had not been designed to allow for on-street parking and that homeowners restrictions were likely to prohibit such parking when they were developed.

Models to be constructed starting in February

Barrington Park has already obtained all but two of the lengthy list of permits and permissions needed to proceed with building the community.

The Millville council previously granted its preliminary approval, back in 2005. Since then the state fire marshal’s office, water authorities, Tidewater Utilities, Sussex County engineering department, Soil Conservation District and town engineer have all signed off on the plans.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state wetlands authorities found no impacts from the project on their respective wetland oversight areas. And the Delaware Department of Transportation has even issued the temporary construction entrance permits needed to get under way.

All that remained Tuesday for the project to begin construction was a final site plan approval from Millville and the final entrance permits from DelDOT, which can be applied for once Millville grants that approval.

Council members did so on Tuesday night, voting 5-0 to approve the final site plan. Davis said the first earth-moving activities on the site should take place sometime in September, with the construction of amenities to begin in November and model homes to begin construction in February of 2008.

The council postponed a public hearing on the proposed Ocean Medical Imaging facility in Millville from Tuesday’s agenda, as the applicants were not ready for their presentation.

Need for town police appears to be growing

Wynette also complained of recent incidents of vandalism in his neighborhood – most notably of the painting graffiti and of a swastika, which he and Bennett labeled as a hate crime.

“Delaware has a very strong hate-crimes law,” Bennett noted, using the incident and some other recent reports of problems with vandalism and loitering at the Millville Town Center as the centerpiece for her argument that the town needs to take immediate steps toward forming its own police department.

“We need to explore, seriously, the issue of town police,” Bennett said. “The economic development and growth of this town depend upon it.”

“I formally request the formation of an exploratory committee,” she stated, with a goal moving to form a police department 18 months from now.

Minyon, who has acknowledged the eventual need to form a Millville Police Department, accepted Bennett’s request but said he still felt the time was not right for the town.

“We have no room for police service in our budget,” he said, to Bennett’s polite disagreement.

Minyon said the estimated cost to start up the department was $250,000, while Thomas noted an estimated cost of $144 per man-hour to run the neighboring Ocean View police department. Minyon said Millville is only taking in $53,000 per year in property tax — not nearly enough to run a police department. Property tax increases might need to be considered, he said.

There, Bennett also begged to differ, noting that the town can use transfer tax revenues — which it is expecting to be significant for the foreseeable future — to fund public safety costs such as police service. Millville currently has $2.5 million in transfer tax in the bank.

Minyon said he felt transfer tax revenues were not a consistent enough resource to rely upon for daily operating expenses, such as police, pointing to Ocean View’s depleted coffers in the wake of the construction of that town’s new police station and a slowdown in the real estate market. He said he would like the town to reexamine its revenue before deciding to proceed with forming a police department.

The mayor on Tuesday also said he would be open to exploring a policing arrangement with Ocean View, as was suggested by Wynette. It was not the first time that notion has been floated, but implementing it would require the approval of state authorities as well as Ocean View.

The idea could be of benefit to both towns, with Ocean View currently seeing a lower rate of transfer tax revenue than it had once anticipated and Millville — at least for the moment — well flush with such monies. Ocean View’s new police building was also built with future expansion in mind, even though its current staff of officers is not expected to grow in the immediate future.

Whether such an arrangement will be the answer to Millville’s policing issues has yet to be seen. As it stands now, response times from state police covering the area ranges between 20 minutes and more than an hour, depending on the proximity of the closest available trooper.

That has Millville residents — and officials — concerned. But the council remains at loggerheads over whether now is the right time for the town to take matters into their own hands and pursue town police service. No action was taken this week.

Also on Aug. 14:

• Thomas reported that the town had received $77,151 in general fund revenue in July, along with $46,000 in transfer tax revenue. The town paid out $38,983. He praised Acting Town Manager Debbie Botchie and finance/administrative assistant Rick Wright for their help with the town’s financial picture. Botchie reported that some 91 percent of the town’s property taxes had been collected since bills went out in May; 86 percent of its business license fees have also been collected.

• Council members unanimously adopted the previously proposed “community room policy” for public use of town hall facilities. The room now has an official capacity: 112 people.

• The council also unanimously adopted a policy for use of the newly purchased town vehicle, a Ford F-150 pick-up truck that will be used by the town’s code enforcement officer and other town staff as needed.

• Botchie reported that the town’s first Web site was nearing completion. Council members are to review the finished site before it goes live to the public later this month.

• Minyon said the council planned to discuss creating a policy regarding cell phone towers at their upcoming council workshop on Aug. 28.”