Beebe Healthcare’s proposed South Coastal Campus Emergency Department and Cancer Center got a final nod from the Millville Town Council this week.
Although the final site plan approved by the town council at its Tuesday, Oct. 9, meeting does contain a few conditions, officials from the Town and representatives from Beebe said they don’t expect them to get in the way of starting construction on the project.
Millville’s Planning & Zoning Commission voted 3-0 on Aug. 17 to approve the site plan for the 41,000-square-foot building. Conditions to the approval included submission of a signage plan, accepting the encroachment of parking spaces near the cancer center into 0.2 percent of the 75-foot buffer zone, and attaching a note to the plans indicating that any future expansion of the building and parking must be approved administratively by the Town.
The buffer zone, according to Millville By the Sea project manager Al Ruble, was a holdover from before Millville by the Sea traded the property on Route 17 to Beebe for a piece of land on the opposite side of the road. The land was originally intended for a “town center” associated with Millville By the Sea and “has nothing to do with wetlands, nothing to do with any state or federal agencies,” Ruble said. It was put in place to keep buildings from being built too close together.
The buffer issue came into play when plans were completed for a “healing garden” that will be located adjacent to the infusion center in the cancer-treatment wing of the building. Town Manager Debbie Botchie lauded the plans for the garden, citing her experience when her brother went through cancer treatments in a sparse facility with nothing to look at but a television screen.
Alex Sydnor, Beebe’s vice president for external affairs, said the new medical facility will fill a growing need in the southeastern part of Sussex County. He said there are 387 new cases of cancer each year in the area between the Indian River Inlet and the Delaware-Maryland border bounded on the west by Route 113 and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean.
Sydnor also said the new South Coastal Emergency Department is anticipating 15,000 visitors per year — about a third of which would have gone to the Lewes facility instead.
He said Beebe is working to “optimize the use of the property” with future expansion in mind, although there are no current plans for expansion of the facility. Sydnor said plans for landscaping on the property are “well-articulated” and extensive, adding that “there will be no meatball shrubs of Walmart” in the plans.
Mark Loukides, Beebe’s vice president for facilities, said the hospital wants to start construction on the South Coastal project “as soon as yesterday.” Loukides said he anticipates finishing construction in early 2020, but that there will be a lag of several months before the center opens while all the systems needed to access patient records and provide quality care are installed and tested.
In other business at the Oct. 9 meeting, the council approved a measure that streamlines the Town’s system of dealing with violations such as too-tall grass and unkempt properties.
“It makes it easier for the Town to enforce its ordinances,” Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said.
The new ordinance sets the fine for an initial violation at $99, which can be levied five days after a property owner receives notice of the violation. Each subsequent violation will carry a fine of $250.
The council decided to soften the ordinance a bit by substituting the word “may” for the original “shall” in several place, which Council Member Ron Belinko said he believes shows “compassion” in situations where property maintenance is neglected because of a hardship.
A public hearing on the ordinance was held before the vote — necessary because the new ordinance affects the Town’s zoning ordinances. The ordinance was also discussed at the council’s Aug. 28 workshop meeting.
The council on Oct. 9 also approved an ordinance addressing the maintenance of garbage receptacles and commercial trash bins, allowing the Town to cite property owners whose trash receptacles are overflowing to the point they can’t be properly closed, or where trash is piled next to full receptacles.
There will be a special meeting of Millville’s Comprehensive Plan Committee on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. While it is not a public hearing, the public is welcome to attend.
By Kerin Magill