Selbyville approves neighborhood business zone at Hudson Road

Selbyville Town Council members on Monday, May 5, approved a conditional use for a 30-acre neighborhood business commercial zone in the town’s R-4 residential district at Hudson Road and Route 54.

The commercial use for Selbyville Town Village LLC will utilize just a third of the 90-acre property east of the town, the rest of which is due to become a residential development. The property has already been annexed into town limits but requires permission from the council for its commercial uses under a new neighborhood business allowance for the town.

Councilman Jay Murray noted that the uses in the neighborhood business zones will be similar to those already permitted in the town’s historical business district, such as medical offices, small-scale retail shops, drugs stores, restaurants and convenience stores. Not permitted would be businesses such as “big-box” stores or heavy commercial uses, he said.

Murray further noted May 5 that the property in question will not be fully utilized for 30 acres of commercial space, owing to restrictive tax ditches, setbacks and entrance requirements.

“It’s a scaled-down version of the general business district,” Murray added of the new conditional use option. “We have a lot of say as to the type of businesses that can go in there,” he emphasized. “Whatever goes in there has to be approved by the town council. … And it was identified as a commercial area in our comprehensive plan a long time ago.”

Mayor Clifton Murray pointed out that the concept of the neighborhood business zones has the ability to potentially reduce the amount of traffic flowing in and out of large residential developments in the town, by providing businesses nearby the new homes where residents can shop, eat, see doctors and conduct other regular business rather than having to travel into other areas of the town or outside its limits.

The residential portion of the project will use the 2.2-units-per-acre density that is standard in the R-4 zone.

“I’d rather have something centralized like this, instead of sporadic — commercial here, commercial there,” said Mayor Murray. He noted that it is likely to be two to three years before the plan for the commercial center comes to fruition, owning to permitting and construction timetables.

“It’s needed in the area,” put in Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle. “The town council will be controlling this. All of it will have to be approved.”

“It will be an asset to the town,” added Councilman G. Frank Smith III, “with the housing and offices there together.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the conditional use.

Changes made to water billing, but no increase — yet

The Selbyville Town Council last Monday also made a major change to how the town bills for its water services, adding an allowance for tenants of properties served by town water to be directly billed for their use of the service.

The town had previously had in place a firm rule that only property owners would be billed for water services, which they would then be responsible for passing on to (and collecting from) any tenants of the property.

With a 5-0 vote on May 5, the council added the option to send water bills to tenants, if property owners request such arrangements from the town in writing. However, property owners — not the tenants — are still the ones who will be held responsible for amounts owed to the town for water service. The town will collect outstanding amounts from the property owner, even if the owner has asked for the bill to be sent to the tenant and even if the town has done so. The property owner could then collect from the tenant.

Council members deferred a scheduled vote on possible water rate increases, in which the increasing costs of treatment chemicals and transportation have been cited as major factors. The council is waiting for more information on a bid related to water system expenses before they pursue the anticipated water rate increase.

“We realize it’s going to have to happen,” noted Tingle.

Selbyville residents also turned out at the May 5 meeting to receive an update on the progress of the installation of new water and sewer systems to areas of the town along Routes 54 and 17.

With the town and state officials pushing contractors to catch up with overdue restoration work in areas where pipes have already been installed, under threat of a stop-work order, residents have been paying close attention to the pace of progress on the projects overall and on the quality of the restoration work near their homes.

Engineer Chuck Hauser of Davis, Bowen and Friedel said efforts were under way to get the Route 17 portion of the project completed by the end of May. He said the pump station for that segment was operational and restoration work done, with tests needed before water hook-ups could begin, likely after the end of May. Work on Route 54, he said, would likely take another four to six months.

Hauser noted that any property owner who believed their property had been damaged during construction or restoration, such as the loss of asphalt paving on driveways in favor of stone placed during restoration, should contact the town to pursue remedies from the contractor.

State transportation officials, Hauser said, were now looking at improving a larger portion of town roadways with paving than they had originally planned. He said the idea now was at least to do a tar-and-chip surface on many of the areas.

Hauser also encouraged residents with problems involving the construction or restoration to contact the town soon, before the project reaches its final walk-through stage, to minimize the list of needed corrections he would hand to the contractors at that time.

Town officials have also been working with residents of some of the town’s newer developments, aiming to ensure that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) features are being properly placed and constructed. Residents had recently expressed concern about the required sidewalk ramps and drainage grates in one community, and Hauser and the town have been working to ensure that they are brought up to standards.

Crimes spark concern over town’s police staffing

Resident Carla Zeigler questioned town officials about Selbyville’s crime rate and police coverage on May 5, complaining that she had not been able to obtain a copy of a police report she needed to be able to prove that she had been the victim of identity theft and wondering if there was a staffing issue.

Zeigler said she’d also noticed an upswing in the number of break-ins in her Barclay Estates neighborhood. A Selbyville native who remembered when the town had a single police officer, she commented, “This is not the Selbyville I know.”

Police Chief W. Scott Collins, the son of that one police officer, said a single officer at the department was assigned to process all felony cases and that there had been a rash of identity thefts in recent years.

But Collins said that he was unaware of any problem getting Zeigler a report or any delay in issuing documents that would let out-of-state law enforcement officials apprehend the suspect in the case. Zeigler acknowledged that she hadn’t previously mentioned the problems to Collins directly and said her concern was primarily over department staffing.

Collins did confirm an apparent swelling in the town’s crime statistics, which he said have grown slowly in recent months but substantially so for crimes involving juvenile offenders.

Over the last four to six weeks, Collins said, a group of three juveniles had apparently been stealing items from more than two dozen unlocked cars. He said the suspects had been arrested on three separate occasions but were always released shortly afterward, owning to their ages, only to continue their crime spree.

Collins said nearly all of the 146 reported items of stolen property had been recovered after the trio’s arrests. Those items included Vera Bradley designer purses, tools, recorded music and other small items, of which only the tools had not been recovered, having been sold to a pawn shop and since sold again.

“The parents did know what was going on,” Collins said. “And it obviously didn’t matter.”

Collins again advised residents to keep their cars locked, since most of the items had been stolen from unlocked vehicles. And he asked anyone seeing anything suspicious in the town to immediately call 911 or the Selbyville Police Department non-emergency number at 436-5085 (option 2) to reach an officer.

In many of the cases of theft, Collins said, victims hadn’t reported the crime for days, and those seeing suspicious activity afterward hadn’t called the police to report it for a number of days afterward either.

In one case, Collins noted, he had himself been working at the police station on a Saturday afternoon when suspicious activity had been witnessed, but the witness had waited until mid-week to report what they had seen. Collins said he expected that he would have been able to apprehend the juveniles in the act of stashing the stolen goods if that report had been made immediately. By the time the report was made, he said, the items had already been relocated by the thieves.

“Even I you’re not sure about it, call it in,” he advised residents.

Collins also noted ongoing problems with graffiti in the town, with juvenile suspects again believed to be involved. He said one arrest had been made in a graffiti incident on McCabe Street, with the culprit subsequently repainting the area as part of their punishment. But, Collins said, the repainted surface had quickly been covered with graffiti once again.

In that case, Collins noted, arrest warrants had been issued for two juvenile suspects, one of whom had since left the state and the other who had not yet turned himself in to police.

Collins emphasized that much of the town’s juvenile crime has been happening not late at night but in the late afternoon, after school, or on Saturday afternoons. In some cases, it has taken place after school dances have ended, he said.

“Lock your cars. Don’t leave valuables in your cars. And report it as soon as you see anything,” he advised residents.

Collins confirmed that he currently has adequate staff by his reckoning, with six full-time and four part-time officers.

“There will be a need for more officers as the town grows, but that growth has been slower than we anticipated,” said Jay Murray, noting that the town’s overall crime rate was actually down in the most recent report.

Hearing set, annexation formalized

Also on May 5:

• Council members set June 2 as the date for a public hearing on an application for rezoning for the Karen Hazzard/Harry Cullen Wall and Floor Covering property, which is uniquely split between commercial and residential zoning, owning to the building’s construction date of 1956 and subsequent changes in town and county zoning maps.

The property is more in the residential zone than the general commercial zone, necessitating a rezoning for the entire property for the commercial use that has existed there for more than 50 years. Town zoning rules state that no property can have more than one use, and zoning traditionally follows the zoning of the larger portion of the property.

• Council members formally ratified last month’s 2-0 vote to approve the annexation of property owned by Lynch Farm Farmers LLC, which had seen Councilman and Mayor Murray abstain due to conflicts of interest, with Tingle absent. On a 3-0 vote, and the Murrays again abstaining, the council again approved the annexation.

• Town Administrator Robert Dickerson reported ongoing efforts to prepare for the town’s annual Old Timer’s Day in June, saying that town staff had been getting together to work on the planning of the annual festival and had received “a lot of interest” from would-be vendors and classic car owners wishing to participate in the car show portion of the event.