Millville short on transfer tax revenue

Millville Town Manager Linda Collins and Administrative Assistant Debbie Botchie said they regretted having to report at Tuesday night’s council workshop that the town had come up short on year-end projects for transfer tax revenue.

While the previous financial administrator had suggested they could expect they would receive another $65,000 through the end of the fiscal year, they have only received another $52,000 to date — leaving the town $13,000 short on its anticipated funding going into the 2008 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Joan Bennett noted that that meant tapping into the town’s contingency fund simply to balance the books.

Collins said she felt the difference was simply the matter of an overestimate in the figure, but Mayor Don Minyon said he wanted council members to receive a monthly report on the situation from now on, so they could stay on top of any discrepancies.

The shortfall also scuttled discussion of two donation requests, for the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade and toward a Crohn’s disease charity. Bennett suggested the council adopt a flat policy that no more donations requests would be entertained for the 2008 fiscal year, owing to the shortfall and anticipating the move would reduce administrative work on such requests.

There was strong consensus on the issue, with Vice-Mayor Gerry Hocker absent.

Web site, ordinances linger in process

Council members on Tuesday also informally considered two bids to develop a Web site for the town. They weighed bids, from Georgetown’s Inclined and Dover-based Delaware.Net, with a key difference being a $2,000 set-up fee requested by the former.

Councilwoman Kami Banks said she had received a recommendation for Inclined in her own business and was leaning toward that company, but council members were concerned with the set-up cost and decided they needed more input on both firms before making a decision.

Town Manager Linda Collins is aiming to have a Web site up and running — and able to be updated from town hall — by the summer.

Council members were surprised to discover that the latest drafts of their ordinances prohibiting the moving of houses within the town and restricting construction hours were not quite what they had intended.

While they have been endeavoring to get the languishing ordinances adopted, they said Tuesday night that they favored a return to simpler previous drafts that more accurately reflected their intentions.

On Tuesday, they narrowed down a definition of “structure” that will be the key in the prohibition against the moving of houses. Anything larger than a one-car garage — set at a typical 12-by-20 feet — will not be able to be moved within or into the town, though it can be moved out of the town.

Clarification was still needed to bring the construction-hours ordinance up to par, they agreed, aiming to have both ready for a vote at their May council meeting but being somewhat skeptical that could happen.

Zoning, subdivision ordinances near completion

Final revisions are due to the town’s new zoning and subdivision ordinances, as well as its zoning map. But all three items are expected to proceed in the near future — likely at the May council session.

There will be a public hearing on the ordinances, prior to any council vote on adoption. They do need to be adopted before work on a comprehensive plan update can proceed.

The council also still needs to appoint its first Planning Commission — the exact name and function of which is still up for discussion. Collins said she had three citizen volunteers for the commission and that two council members could complete a five-member commission.

Code Enforcement Officer Bill Winter noted that a number of projects had been caught between current ordinances and the proposed ones, with property owners and developers wondering if they were going to have their plans scuttled by the changes in the new ordinances.

Those changes include new setback requirements, which could potentially render some smaller properties on Route 26 unusable for commercial redevelopment, Winter said. He said existing residences could still be renovated for commercial use, but new structures might be hampered by the new ordinances and might push property owners to seek relief or abandon their plans.

Councilwoman Joan Bennett noted that she was concerned about recent zoning change applications that had cited the possible expansion of Route 26 as devaluing adjacent property for residential use, leading to requests for commercial rezoning.

She said she was concerned about the legal basis by which the council could rezone a property based on the potential future action of the state transportation department, when that was the only reason provided on an application. Bennett suggested a more detailed zoning-change process was needed to help provide guidance to applicants and the council in rezoning applications.

Input to be sought for five-year plan

Council members also strongly supported Tuesday night Minyon’s plan to send a new community survey to all town property owners and businesses, inviting public input on financial priorities and ways to fund those priorities. The suggestion came as the town begins work on a five-year plan for its future.

The individual council members were to review the draft questionnaire and make their own suggestions for questions, as well as a timetable for having them returned and tabulated.

Council members also favored developing a formal policy for use of the town hall by resident and non-resident groups.

The hall has been available for such use, with a $100 fee, but the issue of security raised questions about how the use should be arranged in the future. Minyon also said he favored refunding a $100 deposit for residents of Millville who use the hall during regular business hours, less any damages done.

Resident Mark Reeve, Bennett’s husband, took the time Tuesday night to praise the work of the council and town staff, saying, “Every day, you work to make decisions for the betterment of our people.”