The Ocean View Town Council this week voted to approve an ordinance that would allow through the granting of a special exception, miniature-golf courses in the Town’s General Business-1 district. Prior to the vote, mini-golf courses were not an allowable commercial use in the town.
Prior to the vote on Oct. 9, the Town held a second public hearing on the proposed ordinance.
Resident Trisha Supik stated she was opposed to the proposed ordinance, noting that it would open the door to allow for multiple courses in town.
“If we’re only thinking about this one little piece, we’re not thinking as broadly as we should,” she said, referencing the request from property owner Rebecca Adams, who had contacted the Town in April requesting miniature-golf courses be made a permitted use.
Supik also voice her concerns that a mini-golf course could increase traffic in an already-congested area. She added that she felt the council should take into consideration that Route 26 will already be impacted by the soon-to-be-constructed Beebe Healthcare satellite emergency facility planned on Route 17.
Resident Brenda McIntyre quoted the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), giving a history of the Town, from farming to a community of retirees.
“Yes, we have visitors. They come in and out for a week or so. I still think they prefer to go up into town to the boardwalk to Bethany or go down to Ocean City or Rehoboth.”
McIntyre clarified that she was opposing any future miniature-golf course that could be placed near the Assawoman Canal.
“There are going to be other facilities that go up with the course,” she said, noting that parking, concessions and restrooms would need to be considered.
“How is this different from the Barnhill Preserve?” she said of the previously proposed animal education park, which also saw opposition and was ultimately denied approval by the council. “Ask yourselves that.”
Adams said she and her husband want what’s best for Ocean View.
“Miniature golf does provide a lot of benefits to the people that are here. It is healthy outdoor entertainment. It promotes a friendly community atmosphere. It will be good for the other businesses. It does not cause a large amount of noise… It would be a healthy activity for youth, instead of doing something else that’s probably not really healthy.”
Councilman Frank Twardzik said he had researched the effects of miniature-golf courses and found that there are pro leagues and professional associations for players. Having specifically searched for associated crime or disadvantages to the public regarding miniature-golf courses, Twardzik said he could not find any.
Councilman Tom Maly said he believed there would be numerous positives associated with having a miniature-golf course in town.
“This is going to be something a lot of the residents can use when they have visitors. One of the advantages, too, is this could be the only miniature-golf course in the area where you won’t have to pay to park when you go.”
“I think this was left out intentionally in the permitted uses because, at that time, when we went through the CLUP, the people want to preserve the small-town atmosphere,” said Councilman Bill Olsen, who opposed the proposed change. “I don’t see the benefit the Town’s going to derive from it.”
The proposed ordinance originally proposed that miniature-golf courses could be permitted in both the GB-1 and GB-2 districts; however, Mayor Walter Curran moved to limit them to GB-1 only.
But even with the new ordinance in place, opening a mini-golf course wouldn’t be a done deal. Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader explained that the proposed ordinance said that anyone who owned GB-1 property and wished to open a miniature-golf course would have to go before the Board of Adjustment for the Town of Ocean View in order to get approval.
In order for the special exception to be approved, the Board would have to make seven special findings, including that the use would “be in harmony with the general character of the neighborhood, considering density, design, bulk and scale of the proposed structure.”
The council this week voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance, allowing miniature-golf courses in GB-1 districts in the town, through the granting of a special exception. Olsen voted against the ordinance.
During the Tuesday meeting, the Town also held a first reading of an ordinance to repeal a portion of Ocean View’s code related to property assessment, its methods and the appointment of a Board of Assessment.
Curran would later go onto say that the Town’s prior move to the Sussex County system of valuations for tax assessment purposes was not the right one, but the Town is actively working to correct it for next year, he said.
“By law, the ‘tax rate’ must be consistent across the board for everyone. The assessed value is different for every property but should be consistent and close for similar properties located in similar areas.”
Bids for the services of new assessors were opened at the end of September and given to the council. The council held a workshop to review those bids prior to the regular council meeting on Tuesday and found they needed to make an addendum to the current bid documents.
Curran said the Town has the assessed values for properties in the town for the 2017 calendar year.
“We would need the assessor to create new assessed values only for any property that came into the rolls as new or had permitted work done in June 2017 and October 2017 through April 30, 2018. That will give us a clean, full-year assessed property list to work with.”
Curran said some “reverse-engineering” would then need to be done to change back to a revenue-neutral property tax, have a balanced budget and ensure the tax rate is consistent.
“There are bound to be people who protest and will appeal — most likely those who didn’t pay their fair share in the current FY2019 billing, and we will deal with that through the appeal process,” he said.
A second reading of the ordinance and discussion of bids for assessment services is scheduled for the Town’s November council meeting.
In other Town news:
• The Town recognized Finance Director Sandra Peck, who will be leaving her position to work for the Town of Milford. Peck joined the Town staff in January of 2017. Peck received a plaque in appreciation of her service to the Town.
“Too short a time, but a great time and a great job,” said Curran.
Peck will be replaced by Dawn Mitchell Marks.
• Ashley Stern of PKS & Company P.A., the Town’s auditing firm, said the Town received for its past fiscal year the highest level of opinion a CPA can give.
“It’s kudos to the Town. Your financial statements are free of material misstatement, is what we’re saying,” said Stern.
Stern said the Town’s net financial position has increased, mostly due to capital projects. She added that the Town’s governmental expenses — general administration (41 percent), public safety (36 percent) and public works (23 percent) are consistent in what they see in other towns “across the board.”
Noting an unassigned-fund balance totaling $1,705,072, or 28 percent, Stern said the amount shows a “really strong health of a town.”
• The Town of Ocean View will hold its annual Cops & Goblins festival in John West Park on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., with a rain date of Oct. 28.
By Maria Counts