Changes to OV map pending as procedure reviewed
This week, the Ocean View Town Council held a second public hearing on the proposed repeal of the town’s existing zoning map, making way for the Town to enact a new map, in accordance with the town’s 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).
Foxwoods resident Joe Capone spoke on behalf of the property owners in his development and stated that they opposed the town rezoning a 10-acre parcel owned by Russell Archut, as well as three additional residential parcels on Woodland Avenue.
“In essence, what we’re asking you all to say is simply to say, for the subject parcels, a portion of Mr. Archut’s property and the three residential properties on Woodland … is to leave those four parcels as they are. They’re currently zoned R-1.”
Capone pointed out that the front of the Archut property is already zoned for commercial use, which his development does not oppose. He added that the “simplest” way to achieve what he and other residents are requesting would be to offer an amendment to change Maps 6A and 6B to reflect the existing zoning.
“Then, when it comes time to pass the new zoning map for the town, the new zoning map will be consistent with the 2010 CLUP, and the 2010 CLUP will be internally consistent — the texts and maps will match.”
Councilman Tom Sheeran asked what the process would be to create and potentially pass such an amendment to alter the CLUP.
“My only thought on it is I sympathize with the people in Foxwoods... But I don’t know the procedures. If we make that change now, is that going to cost us money, is that going to delay us?”
Capone said that he had spoken with Constance Holland, director of the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination, and stated that she had informed him that the Town would not have to rush the 18-month deadline for the Town to adopt the updated zoning map.
“Ms. Holland assured me that that was a soft deadline… That there is no reason we couldn’t proceed in the remedy that we’ve suggested, and it wouldn’t violate any State Planning rules or regulations in that regard.”
Capone also stated that Holland had told him the amendment would not have to be reviewed by the Governor’s Office, which is part of the CLUP adoption process.
Public Works Director Charlie McMullen said that he had been given a different opinion from Bryan Hall, the circuit rider planner for Sussex County from the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination, who had worked with the Town on the CLUP.
“My main concern was to find out what would happen if we were to go back and request an amendment to it. I was informed by Mr. Hall that we would have to go through, basically, what we did when we adopted the amendment to this Comprehensive Land Use Plan — we would have to hold public hearings as we did previously, we would have to send it once again to the Office of State Planning and follow the guidelines as set forth in it, and it would have to be certified by the Governor’s Office once again.”
McMullen also quoted from Delaware Code, which states that comprehensive plans, amendments or revisions “shall be submitted to the governor or designee at such time as the plan is made available for public review.”
“You say it’s just a matter of simply amending the Comp Plan that would allow for this to take place,” added Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader, to Capone. “That would require the preparation of the new map, a new ordinance would have to be introduced to the Planning & Zoning Commission and go through the public hearing process.
“There are recommendations to be made by the Planning & Zoning Commission to be made to the Town Council for its consideration, and then it would have to go through two readings, just as this particular ordinance has,” Schrader emphasized.
“Just to make sure you understand when you say, ‘simply prepare an amendment,’ it would be about 120 days before that amendment would be before this town council and be right for either adoption or objection. “
Capone said he meant to emphasize that the whole CLUP did not have to be rewritten, but rather only a revision of two sections, to have the maps match the text within the CLUP.
Jack Taylor, a resident on Woodland Avenue whose property would be affected by the zoning change, said that he had submitted a letter to Wood in August of 2010, opposing the change.
“There is also the idea of doing the right thing and correcting a mistake,” he said, regarding the additional time required to amend the CLUP.
Taylor added that the change in zoning would increase traffic on Woodland Avenue, which already has traffic issues.
“I’m kind of mixed on this myself, if you want to know the truth,” said Councilman Tom Sheeran. “I wouldn’t like somebody coming in and also declaring my home commercial,” he added, receiving a “hallelujah” in response from a hearing attendee.
Schrader noted that the Town had received a letter from Russell Archut, who stated that he and his Realtor had met with McMullen to review how the proposed zoning changes would affect his parcel.
“After reviewing information from that meeting and the applicable section of the town code, we feel that the new zoning classification will be restrictive and not allow for the property’s highest and best use,” wrote Archut.
“We believe the existing GB zoning along Route 26 is appropriate and should remain unchanged. However, the remainder of the parcel that fronts on Central and Woodland avenues lends itself better to be residential. As owners of the property, we ask council to retain the existing zoning along Route 26 and reconsider its plan to rezone the rest of the parcel to General Business.”
Councilman Geoff Christ added that he had received a call from resident Steve Cobb, who could not attend the meeting, but who had wanted to voice his support of the residents in Foxwoods.
Councilwoman Michele Steffens said it was beneficial to hear from Archut and asked if the council could get a clarification from the Office of State Planning as to what process an amendment the CLUP would have to go through.
Council asked Schrader to contact Holland directly to inquire about the process for any further review, and/or remediation or punitive actions that would be taken by the Office of State Planning or other state agencies if the council decided to amend the CLUP.
The council deferred a vote on the change until the March 13 council meeting, so as to give Schrader time to speak with Holland.
Council puts off discussion of police salaries, takes on insurance
Also this week, the council voted to postpone discussions and possible voting on adjustments of police officer salaries.
“I think this should be dealt with in our budget talks for the upcoming year. I think it should consider not just the public safety department, to make sure that we’re retaining quality employees in all departments,” said Christ.
Steffens and Sheeran agreed, and Sheeran added that he believed there should be a professional review of all town employees before addressing compensation.
McMullen thanked the council for recognizing the other members of the staff.
Wood said he did not agree with the rest of the council, that he feels that public safety salaries are a more time-sensitive issue.
“I have put forth this resolution to try and speed up the process and indicate to our police department that the council is doing something now. The objective is competitiveness with other towns, as far as other departments are concerned.”
Wood added that officer Justin Norman had recently tendered his letter of resignation to the Town, citing salary and insurance issues as reasons for leaving the department.
“I don’t know what our others will do, and none of us can predict,” said Wood. “This is not Public Safety versus the rest of the town.”
Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin noted that Norman had served the town for almost nine years and praised him for being a dedicated officer.
“He has given 110 percent during those nine years with us. He was a very valued member of the police department and of the town staff. I would like to publically thank him for his service and wish him well in his new job in Bethany Beach.”
Councilman Bob Lawless requested the council present Norman with a letter of recommendation for his service to the Town.
Resident Elaine Birkmyer said she believed the council should review the salaries of public safety department.
“I just want to stress my disappointment,” she said. “We’ve already lost one officer, I can’t blame him for leaving if he’s going to be making more money elsewhere… This is too important. The times are bad, and there’s a lot of crime in the area.”
Council did, however, discuss the review of insurance provisions for town employees.
“I heard and felt that we have other officers at immediate risk,” said Wood. “And the biggest risk is salary. The second risk is insurance… This is overdue. Our insurance should be looked at regularly.”
Wood appointed Christ as the committee chair on the issue, and offered to serve on the committee, as well, and he asked that citizens of the town also serve.
“We have to look at the insurance coverage for our town overall. We have two councilpersons who have undertaken the task, and we desperately seek expertise from those on council,” added Lawless.
Steffens requested that a member of town staff also sit on the committee, in order to get a better understanding of the employees’ insurance concerns.
Resident George Pickrell said that he had spoken to resident Kathy Vengazo, who had voiced interest in serving on the committee.
In other town news:
• Sheeran provided an update on the town manager search and said that four applicants had undergone a phone interview and two had been interviewed in person.
He added that the council was in the process of making a decision and then making an offer to the candidate of their choice.
“Hopefully, we will have it done, the process completed and the new town manager onboard within the next 60 days at most.”
• The council unanimously approved a new job description for the town manager, consistent with the recommendations made by the University of Delaware’s Institute of Public Administration.
Within the new description, 15 ‘major duties and responsibilities’ are listed, including, “directs and enforces personnel policies,” “confers with department supervisors on all significant matters affecting the Town” and “oversees administrative functions, grants and operations of all town departments.”
Pickrell asked whether the new job description would nullify a clause in McLaughlin’s contract, which stipulates that he reports directly to the mayor.
“Absolutely not. A contract is a contract. Nothing will change,” said Wood. He added that he believed breaking the contract could cost the town $200,000.
Resident Dick Logue questioned why a new job description had been drafted when there was already one in place within the town’s charter.
“I guess I’m a little confused as to why we have to write rules and duties when they are specifically written,” he said, also asking if the charter would have to be changed.
“No,” said Schrader. “I think that what this document was intended to give was some sense of detail.”
• Acting Town Manager Lee Brubaker said that town-wide property reassessments have begun on 2,800 properties. Residents Vince Bertone, Elaine Herbert and Clifford Embley were appointed to the Board of Assessment for a one-year term. The council also approved that the board members receive $100 per day, or $50 per day, as payment for their service to the town.
• Town staff reported receiving a letter from Millville Town Manager Debbie Botchie, thanking the OVPD for aiding in the arrest of Trevone Hall, who has been in connection with a series of armed robberies in the area this winter.