Ocean View tables wetlands variance request


Ocean View Board of Adjustment officials on April 20 did everything but tell a couple who owns property in the town that they couldn’t build an already-planned home on the piece of property they bought last year.

After BoA Chairman Dick Logue voiced his displeasure with the proposed plan and its intrusion on neighboring wetlands, the board voted 2-1 to table the variance request submitted by John C. McMillan. The variance would have allowed him to build a home within the town’s 25-foot wetlands buffer, but the board instead asked McMillan to develop a “less intrusive plan.”

The only problem is that, “I’m really at a loss at what less intrusive might be,” McMillan said.

McMillan and his wife said they were unaware of the September 2005 town wetlands ordinance when they bough the property at 4 Tingle Street for $425,000 late that same month.

After buying the parcel, the McMillans then developed a plan to build a home on it that does not violate state or federal wetland laws, according to Dr. Evelyn Maurmeyer, the president of CEM Inc., a Lewes-based environmental consulting agency.

Maurmeyer said that the plan met all regulations set forth by the Army Corps of Engineers regarding wetlands, as well as those of all other state and federal agencies.

Shortly after developing the plan, though, the McMillans discovered that it would violate the town’s wetland ordinance in more ways than one. The planned home is not only intruding on the buffer, but pilings from a deck off of the second floor would be driven into the federal wetlands on the property, according to the plan presented at the board meeting.

Most of the planned 3,100-square-foot home, in fact, intrudes on the 25-foot buffer set by the town. McMillan voiced displeasure at the meeting, saying that the real estate agents who sold him the property didn’t mention the ordinance.

“I think there’s a limit that potential buyers should go to know things,” McMillan said. “I didn’t think that when we bought this property, I was buying problem.”

Logue, however, didn’t think that ignorance of the law was a reason to grant the variance.

“This town took many years to get an ordinance to protect the wetlands,” he said. And, “Right away, we have someone coming in that wants to build in the wetlands and destroy what we did.”

“When you create a hardship yourself, there is no hardship. I understand the investment, but someone should have had enough sense to look at what you are building,” Logue told McMillan.

Without violating the wetland buffer, only 20-by-25 feet of the land is build-able — not nearly a big enough parcel on which to build the planned home, McMillan said. Board Member William Olsen suggested what “less intrusive” might be, telling McMillan and his wife, who was in attendance, that he would rather grant a variance from the town’s setbacks rather than wetlands ordinances.

Despite Olsen’s suggestion, the board could not grant such a variance last week, because the hearing was filed and advertised for a variance from the wetlands law alone and could not be amended.

“The wetlands are more sacred than setbacks,” said Olsen, who cast the dissenting vote on April 20. “I would prefer that we shift the whole structure. What can we do to help him out?” Olsen asked.

The majority answer: nothing — at least not last week.