Millville approves 114-townhome plan

Millville Town Council members on Dec. 12 gave their unanimous approval to the preliminary plan for Windhurst Manor, a 114-townhome subdivision on 24.5 acres off the west side of Windmill Drive. The “Martin-Howard” property was annexed into the town and granted zoning approval in April.

The preliminary plan calls for a P-shaped loop road off Windmill Drive, with 27 clusters of four townhomes each placed along both sides of the roadway, including inside the center loop. (Two clusters of three townhomes each complete the 114 units.) The plan works out to 4.65 units per acre in density.

As proposed, the community will also feature a community clubhouse with pool and a 1-acre central open space, all inside the loop of the roadway. Windhurst Manor will be served by central water and sewer, and by the Millville Volunteer Fire Company for emergency services.

Zack Crouch of Davis, Bowen and Friedel presented the new preliminary plan for Millville Associates LLC, the developers of Windhurst Manor. Crouch noted that the property is “all wooded now” and said the design for the community had been intended to preserve as many trees as possible, with buffers on the edges to protect adjacent property owners. He said the choice to develop townhomes had also been a move to preserve as much open space as possible.

Two stormwater management ponds are planned on one side of the property, but town planner Kyle Gulbronson of URS pointed out that — in a rare move — state Preliminary Land Use Service review had netted the recommendation from Conservation District officials for smaller ponds than proposed.

Crouch said developers were in touch with officials on the issue and were also looking at alternative methods of stormwater management, though plans still called for the ponds, for now.

Federal wetlands and tax ditches on the property also pose a problem, making it unlikely to realize the single remaining request of the town — an emergency access road connecting the community to the neighboring Barrington Park to the west.

Gulbronson said the request was meant to address the issue of the single entrance into the community, from Windmill Drive. “This site makes it difficult to do that,” he allowed of the emergency access request.

Couch said that while Windhurst Manor developers might request approval for a vehicle entrance across the wetlands, getting such a plan into place was doubly difficult because Barrington Park developers would also have to make a similar request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and tax ditch association, with both approvals needing to be granted by both agencies.

Interim Mayor Tim Droney was still hoping that such an emergency vehicle access would be created, while noting that it was undesirable that such an access would become a regular drive-through for cars in the community.

As an alternative, Gulbronson proposed a pedestrian connection between the two communities — something for which it would be easier to get permits. But he also pointed out that state officials had expressed no concerns about emergency access during the PLUS review. Crouch said fire hydrants were also planned, reducing the potential emergency concerns.

Windhurst Manor is also awaiting approval by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) for its entrance off Windmill Drive. Crouch said improvements to the road were planned on conjunction with other developers building communities in that area, including a deceleration lane leading into the subdivision, but no turn lanes were currently planned. “Windmill Drive is in bad shape now,” he said.

Town officials expressed concern about what the impact of improvements to Route 26 might mean for Windmill Drive if it is used as a local alternative during the roadway project, and Crouch said developers would keep in touch with DelDOT on the issue and make adjustments if needed to avoid negative impact on Windmill Drive.

Beyond the emergency access, Gulbronson said a letter from the town in the PLUS process had included a number of other concerns — all of which had been addressed in subsequent changes to the preliminary plan by the developers. “The plan is in good shape,” he said, praising the efforts to retain trees and buffers, and saying the plan met all needs for preliminary approval.

With that, council members voted unanimously, 5-0, to grant approval to the preliminary plan for Windhurst Manor.

Gulbronson also noted that there is currently no time limit in town code for submission of a final plan — a fact confirmed by Town Solicitor Mary Robin Schrieder-Fox. The town will await a final plan to see the decisions made on the stormwater management and emergency access issues.

Board of Adjustments members seated

Millville Town Council members also moved on Dec. 12 to seat its first-ever Board of Adjustments. Droney made note of the momentous occasion, saying, “This is the first time we’ll have a Board of Adjustments in our 100-year history.”

Board members will have the authority to approve special exceptions and grant variances on construction application in the town. Three residents applied to sit on the board and were appointed on Tuesday with a unanimous vote of the council: John Northway, Grace Wolfe and newcomer Nancy Maupai.

Notably, Maupai herself has a pending request set to go before the board. She will not sit on the board during that hearing, instead getting her own hearing before the other two members. In the case of a tie, Droney will cast the deciding vote in that hearing.

De-annexation vote set

Droney also on Dec. 12 set a date for a special election in the town, with unanimous approval of the council. The votes cast in the March 3, 2007, special election will determine whether the town will de-annex a portion of the property of the Lord Baltimore Elementary School, which is primarily in neighboring Ocean View.

Millville is considering the de-annexation in order to allow Ocean View to annex the entire school property and thus, finally, have it entirely within a single jurisdiction.

Originally, the school had property in Ocean View, Millville and unincorporated Sussex County. That third portion of the property was annexed into Ocean View prior to renovations at the school, leaving only the Millville portion outside the town.

Droney noted that the special election has different voting requirements from the usual town elections — allowing property owners, as well as residents, to vote on March 3 on the matter of the de-annexation.

Also set for that day is that town’s regular election, in which only town residents can vote. Droney said that should a regular election be required in 2007 to elect council members, two voting machines will be brought in — one for each of the questions and sets of qualified voters.

Also on the annexation front, council members voted unanimously to begin investigations into the possible annexation of Phases 3-A and 3-B of Millville by the Sea (the lands of the Millville Town Center LLC partnership).

The property in question includes a section of land west of Powell Farm Road, as well as the property on the southwest corner of Route 17 and Peppers Corner Road. The issue will go to the Annexation Committee, comprising Council Members Don Minyon, Gerry Hocker and Richard Thomas. No action will be taken on the annexation until PLUS review results are in — expected any day.

Also on Dec. 12:

• Droney announced that ordinances related to the moving of structures and permitted construction hours would be considered as part of the town’s larger ordinance updates, leaving in place for the moment the town’s moratorium on the moving of homes, until a new ordinance is passed. The next meeting with URS on the ordinances is set for Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

• Delaware State Police were contracted to patrol the town from Dec. 1 until Jan. 7, four days each week, four hours each day, on a random schedule. Droney said an additional bill for the 2005-2006 holiday season had been located, elevating the anticipated cost for 2006-2007 above the original $1,000 figure, but he said the same $65-per-hour cost was in place.

• Council members agreed to hold off on making a decision about their usual $5,000 annual donation to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company. Droney noted that the new 10 percent portion of building permit fees for the fire company had netted only $377.05 in the first two months of the new, elevated fee structure, making it unlikely that the final annual amount from permit fees would match the traditional $5,000 figure.

He suggested the town make the standard donation with that in mind, but Deputy Mayor Joan Bennett and the town solicitor issued a caution regarding the town charter and its cap of 3 percent of total real estate taxes for such a donation, with another 3 percent maximum on donations for ambulance services.

Town Clerk Sue Knox suggested the council wait until the end of their fiscal year to decide whether any additional donation, and how much of one, should be given, so as not to exceed those caps. Droney noted anticipated increases in building permits in the coming months, agreeing that the council should hold off until more numbers are in.

• With a $100 donation given to the South Coastal Library’s capital campaign in 2005, council members unanimously approved the same amount to be given again in 2006.