Selbyville's working on election reforms

With major changes for municipal elections around the state, thanks to legislative reforms on the state level, Selbyville is not alone in having to change how it conducts is annual town council elections. Council members mulled some of their choices at their Oct. 1 meeting and decided to put in place both a board of elections and a set of three election officers to monitor and run their elections, respectively.

Granted, Selbyville hasn’t had council elections in longer than most in the town can remember, because only the incumbents have applied as candidates in recent years. But, just in case there might be a challenger or a retiring incumbent this year, the town still needs to be ready with a new election system in place 60 days prior to election day, in accordance with the new state law.

Council members had a choice between letting town staff continue to run the election, with an overseeing election judge, and selecting a three-member board of elections to work with the three “election officers.”

Monday, they decided firmly in favor of the latter, with Councilman Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. saying he preferred the election responsibilities and decisions not “be all on one set of shoulders” — namely that of the election judge.

The choice comes with one catch for the small town: they’ll have to find three eligible voters who aren’t related to any of the candidates and who are willing to serve on the board of elections. The state law requires that the board members not be directly related to any candidate or be employees of the town, while the election officers can still be town employees.

“Can we find three people in town who aren’t related to any of us?” Mayor Clifton Murray asked with a chuckle. Despite the town’s close family connections, it is expected that the three board members will be found. Town Manager Gary Taylor is currently compiling a list of candidates for the spots, which will be submitted to the council.

The board members will need to receive training from state elections officials prior to March and to be able to respond throughout the year to voter questions about the elections.

Taylor also advised council members on Oct. 1 that they may need to consider changing the date of the town elections, which have traditionally been held on the first Saturday of March.

He said a review of the town’s election laws had revealed that the town might not have time to meet advertising deadlines for the election if the first Saturday were to happen to fall on March 1, for example. The timeline the town uses for events leading up to the election, including some in late February, might leave them short of time in such cases, unless one or both sets of dates are altered.

Neighborhood business district being considered

Selbyville council members on Monday also discussed recommendations from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission that they create a new “neighborhood business” district.

The district is intended to permit uses such as grocery stores, retail shops, professional offices, restaurants and other uses considered compatible with nearby residential zones but not some of the major commercial uses permitted in a standard commercial zone.

Councilman Jay Murray said the zoning initiative had come as a result of consideration for developing the Dunn Farm area, where nearly 30 acres had been targeted for commercial development.

“We weren’t comfortable with 30 acres of commercial there,” he said, saying that some 33 percent of the parcel had been slated for commercial use and that planning commissioners had preferred such use be located on or near a highway.

Council members still need to decide how large a parcel would have to be to qualify for the new district, as well as a maximum percentage of commercial use (versus residential use) that would be permitted on a given parcel.

The Planning and Zoning Commission also recommended that applicants for a change of use be given a shortcut to have their proposed use potentially approved through an application to the P&Z and the approval of the town council, instead of automatically sending the case to the town’s Board of Adjustments.

Applicants could still go to the BoA directly, if they so choose.

The council is looking at creating a neighborhood business district at Hudson’s Crossing, on the south side of Route 54 and the west side of Hudson Road. The area is in the town’s growth area as defined on its comprehensive plan.

Councilman Murray said the district was intended for long-term planning. “The good news is that the town has the ability to see that and direct that,” he said.

“We’re trying to zone properties so we don’t end up with anything unattractive,” Mayor Murray added.

Council members were to review the proposed zoning before possibly taking action at a future meeting.

Sewer expansion project proceeding

Town Engineer Chuck Hauser of Davis, Bowen and Friedel, reported to the council on Monday regarding the progress of sewer installation on Routes 17 and 54. Hauser said work along Route 17 was nearly complete.

Meanwhile, the town has run into a literal stumbling block at the Mountaire property, where a concrete pad used for tractor-trailer parking lies in the way of finishing the sewer installation. The pad has turned out not to be suitable for cutting and repair after the pipes are laid, as originally intended. Instead, the pipe will have to be bored under the pad.

That is expected to cost the town more than $67,000, but Hauser said the $84,000 bid from the project contractor seemed too high. He said he would try to negotiate a compromise with the contractor to aim closer to mid-way between that figure and the $67,500 figure the town paid at other locations. Council members rejected the ideas of re-bidding the work or paying for it on a time-and-materials basis. They authorized Hauser to negotiate on the price.

Hauser also noted some problems with traffic in the construction zone, with sometimes two vehicles moving through the area side by side in the same direction. “People seem to be speeding up through the construction zone,” he said.

Hauser requested additional police assistance with the traffic control in the area, with the reminder of Police Chief Scott Collins about recent increases to traffic fines statewide being noted in the discussion.

Work on the Route 54 segment of the sewer expansion project is expected to begin in the next few weeks. Hauser said the request of a developer for a change to the project where it crosses his property had been investigated and priced but that the developer had decided not to ask for the change at this time.

Councilman G. Frank Smith III reported on Monday that two violations of sewer service limitations by industrial user Mountaire Inc. in August had been resolved without any recommendation for penalties. He said the violations had been tied to a new employee taking the samples in which the violations had been found.

Smith also reported that a recent chlorine problem at Mountaire had had no impact on town systems and had been corrected.

On the water side of the equation, Councilman Richard Duncan Sr. reported that only four “glitches” had been found in the town’s first period of monitoring water meters with new high-tech meters installed earlier this year at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the town.

Taylor said the town might, though, have to consider having a contractor look at one of the town’s wells, which has been losing about 100 gallons of water per hour in the vicinity of a major checkvalve.

Annexations completed and planned for town

Also on Oct. 1:

• Council members unanimously agreed to again support March is Kids Art Month, a project from the Selbyville Community Club. Mayor Murray said he would once again be willing to present awards at the youth art show, and the council gave its approval to moving the event to the first Saturday in March, which would potentially coincide with town elections, if any are held.

• The council approved the annexation of 7.45 acres of property in the R-3 zone off Lighthouse Road, owned by M&M Investments LLC, which includes both Mayor Murray and Councilman Murray as partners. Both abstained from a vote, while the other councilmen voted unanimously for the annexation.

• The council introduced a resolution proposing annexation in the General Commercial district for five small parcels that are to be included with 165 acres of property already planned for the Selbyville Town Center project on Route 113 at the north edge of town’s current boundaries. A public hearing was set for Nov. 5, at the council’s next regular meeting.

• Collins reported that planning for the town’s annual Halloween parade was going smoothly, with plans to close streets at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, with the parade to commence at 7 p.m. Trick-or-treating in the town will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Collins noted a relatively quiet month for police, with a significant number of citations for uninsured motorists and a reminder that a 50 percent surcharge has been added to tickets to help finance state transportation needs.

• Cub and Boy Scouts in attendance at Monday’s meeting as they pursue their citizenship badges were treated to a discussion of several aspects of the town’s operation and greeted by the mayor and council.