Millville by the Sea inching to groundbreaking

Millville town council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the final site plan review of Phase I of the Millville by the Sea development, which, when finished, will add 2,495 homes to the town on a 606-acre plot on Route 17.

Al Ruble — the community’s project manager — said they hope to start land development for the 195-unit Phase I in October. Building would not start until the first of next year. Ruble and his staff are still looking for final approval from county and state agencies before returning to the town for building permits for Phase I.

“We’re in with agencies now,” Ruble said. “Everything is progressing through, so far so good. Once we obtain the various permits from the state and county levels, we’ll go back to Millville and hopefully get their blessing for their permit.”

Kyle Gulbronson — the town’s land planner, with URS — said that Millville by the Sea will also have to take care of some technicalities in the plan before returning to council.

In a letter addressed to the developers, he spoke of some engineering and technical issues. There were, for instance, some inconsistencies with lot numbers, among other minor issues, Gulbronson said.

“With the overall designing and planning, they’ve done a good job,” Gulbronson said. “But there may have to be some additional changes made.”

The town will also have to receive documentation of the county and state agencies’ approvals before granting building permits, he added. Still, although there are some loose ends in the planning of Phase I, Mayor Gary Willey said that he and town council are ready to move forward after working with the developers on the plan for about four years.

“They guaranteed that they would meet all of the restrictions that URS brought up,” Willey said. “With doing that, it gives them the green light. It is a big step for the town. It will bring in revenue and it will start the ball rolling.”

The first phase of the monstrous development will include single-family homes and townhouses. Also, along with the building of those 195 units, the developers will start to build part of what will become the commercial town center of the development.

Up to five model homes and a welcome center will be built along with Phase I to give potential buyers and town residents an idea of what the community might look like when completed, maybe more than a decade from now, Ruble said.

The three to five homes will provide a model of what the community’s streets will look like and the temporary welcome center will house all of the plans. Those model homes and the welcome center, however, will be turned into commercial properties after about three years, once the family center is built along with Phase II.

“You’re sort of killing two birds with one stone,” Ruble said. “We’d like to be able to get (the welcome center) established and use that as a point where potential customers can come in … and be able to mock up what a typical streetscape will look like.”

RPC height restrictions questioned

In April, Millville town council will likely vote to change the height restriction in a residential planned community (RPC) from 35 to 42 feet. The latter is already the Sussex County restriction on RPC’s, so Willey said it shouldn’t be an issue for residents. Having the lower restriction, though, has been an issue for developers, he added.

“Every RPC district’s (developer) so far has come to us and it’s been an issue,” Willey said. “Being the county standards are 42 (feet), we can live with that.”

Council discussed changing the ordinance at Tuesday’s council meeting but will advertise in the local newspapers before revisiting the issue in a public hearing in April.

“With some of the models the developers are presenting, that puts a burden on them to build within the 35-foot (restriction),” Willey said.