After a controversial move by the Town this year to switch to Sussex County property appraisals for its town tax basis, resulting in drastic tax burden shifts for some, property owners in Ocean View may be happy to learn that new property assessments are now under way, and revised tax bills for the 2019 fiscal year are headed their way.
Outgoing Town Manager Dianne Vogel told the town council at its Dec. 11 meeting that she had met with contractor Appraisal Services and provided them with assessment cards for all properties within the town, a spreadsheet of the last full assessment of all parcels completed in December 2017, and a list of new homes and completed improvements through October 2018.
“Field inspectors will need access to several properties for the purpose of assessing new values,” said Vogel, noting that Appraisal Services was provided with ID badges, which they must wear when conducting inspections.
“We have notified our software vendor of the Town’s decision to ‘reverse’ the Fiscal Year 2019 tax billing, remove the Sussex County assessment values, add new assessment values for the FY-19 and then ‘rebill’ the FY19 taxes — all before April 30, 2019, so that a budget amendment can be prepared for FY19.”
Vogel said the new values will be used to bill 2020-fiscal-year tax bills in May 2019. The Town plans to reverse the 2019-fiscal-year tax billing, remove the existing Sussex County assessment information from property tax records, replace the information with the new assessments created by Appraisal Services, and rebill the 2019 fiscal year in April 2019.
“We want the cleanest, easiest way to accomplish these goals while keeping both fiscal years’ data separate — both for our property owners, as well as for all the banks to whom we will need to provide tax information to for both Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020.”
Vogel said the Town will print two tax bills — one for each fiscal year — to keep billing clear to property owners.
Also at the Dec. 11 meeting, Mark F. Dunkle, attorney for Bob Thornton of developer Silverstock LLC spoke on behalf of his client, in favor of a draft ordinance that would allow for hotels/lodging uses in the Town’s Mixed-Use Planned Communities (MXPC) zone, through the granting of a special exception.
“You already have lodging in Ocean View, and it’s pretty dramatic,” said Dunkle.
Dunkle said he acquired a list of the Town’s rental licenses and matched those addresses to properties listed for rent through ResortQuest.
“You have a ‘reservation service’ called ResortQuest, but the hotel is scattered all over the town… in this case, all over one neighborhood,” he said, noting that Bear Trap was one development that had a great deal of nightly and weekly rental properties. “What we think is this is happening, this is legal, but this is a hotel. It’s a virtual hotel… We can get away with 19 of our closest friends to many of these places here.”
Dunkle opined that, with a hotel, everything would be centralized to one building, one parking lot. He noted that, while some properties within Bear Trap are advertised as being able to sleep 20 people, he doubts there is sufficient parking available for all of those guests.
While he did not present any market research, Dunkle said people like choices.
“I think competition is good.”
Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader asked, if the Town did end up allowing for hotel/lodging in MXPC, would Thornton be interested in replacing his planned retirement facility with a hotel?
Dunkle said the hotel would be in addition to the retirement facility, on the adjacent 11-acre parcel.
When asked about police impact of a hotel versus home rentals, Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said he didn’t have on him any specific statistics on crime related to rentals, but noted calls do increase during “senior week,” when high-school seniors traditionally visit the beach near or after their graduation. He recalled one party broken up during senior week a few years ago that had his officers removing 48 people from one home.
He said he believed there would be fewer issues with a hotel than an apartment building.
The council voted 4-0 to defer introducing the ordinance, saying that they would wait for Mayor Walter Curran (who was absent due to illness). The draft ordinance will be on the agenda for the January council meeting.
Following an executive session, the council voted 4-0 to hire Carol Houck as town manager, to replace Vogel as of Jan. 7, 2019. Houck is currently the city manager for Delaware City.
By Maria Counts