Ocean View considers increasing some fees, permits

Date Published: 
December 1, 2017

The Ocean View Town Council is considering raising some fees for next year. The council discussed the changes on Nov. 14, holding a first reading, ahead of a final vote anticipated at their Dec. 12 meeting.

One particular permit fee caused frustration among residents and some council members. Mayor Walter Curran protested the proposal for $50 permits on any renovation or repair (even for replacing identical equipment). So, the council proposed that permits not be required for any repair or renovation of less than $5,000.

However, that might not fit current law. All properties in the floodplain must have a building permit for any construction or development, according recent laws that FEMA required towns to write into their own codes.

Ocean View Administrative Official Charlie McMullen had proposed the $50 fee for all households, since FEMA requires it for some. He said it seemed more fair than requiring it only of some people. Other towns, including Fenwick Island, solved the conundrum by requiring permits for any project in the floodplain but waiving the fees if it falls under the typical value threshold.

Additionally, some other fees could increase in the town, such as Planning & Zoning site plan reviews ($850 to $1,000); site plan modifications ($0 to $750); Board of Adjustment appeals ($550 to $750); BOA variance applications ($550 to $750); and permits for fences, sidewalks, driveways, demolitions and moving structures through town.

Some fees could decrease, including BOA special-exception applications ($1,000 to $750);

Resident Liz Reynolds said she believes that excessive fees would discourage business in town. She said several contractors refused to build her a sundeck because they didn’t want to work in Ocean View.

However, it could become easier for the council to change fee schedules in the future, so unpopular prices can be changed more quickly. The council wants to change the code so that future fee schedules will be changed by resolution, not by ordinance. Currently, every ordinance requires two readings before it can be enacted. In contrast, a resolution could be enacted immediately.

“We’re on a deadline here. Once we get this approved, every single item can be changed, added or subtracted without an ordinance change,” Curran said of the draft fee schedule.

In other Ocean View Town Council news:

• The council hopes to save about $225,000 in the next five years by piggybacking off of Sussex County’s property tax invoices, rather than contracting with a company that has historically performed a “less-than-stellar job,” Curran said. The Town would still rely on internal property value assessments, but the collections would be handled by the County, at no cost. Officially, the council passed the first reading of the ordinance to amend Code Chapter 5.

• Narrow roads are cause for concern when street parking conflicts with emergency vehicle access. Resident Burt Reynolds pointed out that Fairway Village roads don’t seem to be as wide as town code requires. But that isn’t uncommon, said town staff, especially when many housing developments were approved before the code was updated.

The solution rests at Town Hall. McMullen said the town manager may require “No parking” signs to be placed along the street, but only after the Town takes over a development’s roads. However, Reynolds was discussing a neighborhood street that is not intended to become a public road, in which case the Town can only suggest that the developer install “No parking” signs.

• In light of recent shootings at church congregations elsewhere in the country, Ocean View Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin briefly discussed church safety. He said emergency safety plans have been long established at Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church and Ocean View Church of Christ.

Meanwhile, he said, the Ocean View Police Department is receiving complaints “almost daily about fraudulent activities,” especially regarding social media and digital accounts.

• Zoning can be a tricky issue when a property is too tiny to fit all the building and parking requirements that Ocean View has for businesses.

Property owners Tim Rhodes and Tim Tribbitt sent the council a letter requesting guidance on what the Town would allow them to build on their quarter-acre lot at 100 Atlantic Avenue. The former Bell telephone building is nonconforming, and the small property could be difficult to develop under town code.

But if the Town doesn’t offer any options for potential zoning, it might be considered a public taking, in which case the Town would have to reimburse the property owners, McMullen said. After debating a possible zoning path to help, council members finally asked that the owners provide a more specific suggestion of what kind of business they might like to open there.

• While the Cops & Goblins Halloween festival was canceled due to weather, the Town is planning to save the supplies and consider some prepaid services as a down-payment for next year.

• Only halfway through the fiscal year, Ocean View has already collected more than the budgeted annual real estate transfer tax. The additional income will be devoted to savings for sidewalks, streets, future capital repairs and the emergency fund, officials said.

The Ocean View Town Council’s next regular meeting is Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.