Millville tackles zoning request, possible ARB

At their Jan. 10 meeting, Millville Town Council members unanimously approved, 5-0, a change of zoning request from Jon and Wendy Binnix. The couple said they were requesting the change of zoning from residential to commercial for their property at 422 Atlantic Avenue in order to use the property as a satellite office for their construction business.

The former Marilyn’s Magic Shears had already been granted a conditional use for operation as a beauty shop. Councilman Tim Droney noted that it was a double-lot, with some 300 feet of road frontage. The property sits opposite Railway Avenue.

In response to Councilman Gerry Hocker’s inquiry as to renovations plans, the Binnixes said they planned only minimal interior renovations, to allow for operation as an office. The only signage they plan is a small sign in the window, saying they didn’t really want it to be obvious that it was an office. No exterior renovations were planned, they added in response to Droney’s question about whether it would be kept in its historic appearance.

Mayor Gary Willey noted that the zoning change was in keeping with the town’s trend toward rezoning residential properties along Atlantic Avenue as commercial.

The approval preceded a stipulation-laden, unanimous approval of a lot-combining and commercial rezoning of property for Artisan’s Bank at Atlantic Avenue and Cedar Drive.

Resident Joan Bennett, in the wake of the two approvals, inquired as to whether the town had any ability to force commercial property owners to retroactively comply with any ordinances the town might impose in the future regarding architectural or preservation requirements.

While she said nothing could be done retroactively, town attorney Mary Robin Schrider-Fox said she and Willey had been discussing just those kinds of ordinance changes recently, suggesting that she needed to do some “homework” in preparation for possible drafting of some ordinances before many more re-zoning requests are approved.

While Schrider-Fox said an architectural review board (ARB) might not be needed to allow for future growth of the town while maintaining such architectural requirements, Willey welcomed the suggestion. Schrider-Fox said she felt dealing with issues of scale and rhythm (controlling how neighboring properties look according to existing buildings) would be sufficient.

Willey, though, allowed for the possibility of both solutions working in conjunction. “I think it’s a great idea to have an ARB, but we need an ordinance to set the guidelines,” he said.

The sore spot of the town’s concern over architecture has remained the Halpern Eye Center building, with its modern steel-and-glass design. Willey noted the building had not been within Millville when it was approved, while Schrider-Fox said it was too tall and angular to be within the scale and rhythm of the rest of the community — an example of how a proposed ordinance alone could control such construction in the future.

On that subject, Willey noted a Peninsula Regional Medical Center cardiac-care facility would soon be coming to Millville. The cardiac office will be the upstairs tenant at the Halpern building, primarily accessed through an elevator, to the likely relief of the patients, councilmen noted.

Also at the Jan. 9 meeting, council members unanimously approved a resolution regarding the copying of materials requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The resolution, unveiled at their December meeting, not only allows for such copying but sets fees associated with it under the act.

Centennial Committee member Cami Banks reported to the council on the progress of planning the town’s May 20 celebration. The parade is set to run through a half-mile to mile of the town, down Route 26, ending at the Millville Fire Hall. Banks noted that the committee would be applying to DelDOT for the closing of Route 26 for the duration of the parade, with the exact time still to be determined.

The committee is collecting donations to support the event, Banks also reported, with a solicitation letter due to go out to local businesses in the coming days.

Schrider-Fox inquired as to whether businesses outside the town would be included in the solicitation effort, suggesting her firm, Tunnell and Raysor PA, would be a solid candidate, even though it is located outside the town.

Banks also requested that local community groups that want to participate in the parade contact the town to sign up. In addition to the parade, she said the event will also include live entertainment and refreshments at the fire hall, and T-shirts commemorating the event will be offered.

In making his administrative announcements, Willey noted an addition to the three properties already being considered by the U.S. Postal Service for the new Ocean View/Millville post office.

He said developers of Millville By-the-Sea had offered a large parcel there, adding to the options being considered by the USPS. Already in the mix were a parcel in unincorporated Clarksville, on Route 26; a Cedar Avenue parcel; and property neighboring Bear Trap Dunes, in Ocean View.

Willey said the developer had commented that the price for the proffered parcel made it a good deal, but a decision has not yet been made by the USPS.

The mayor also noted a letter had been sent from the town voicing its opposition to proposed regulations on municipal elections. Willey said Millville had never had any problems running its elections and joined other local towns in resisting any new requirements.