Millville considers annexation of proposed residential development

The Town of Millville may be growing by 31-plus acres, after receiving a Petition for Annexation submitted by Howard Robert Hickman Revocable Trust and Dr. James W. Schiff.

The property consists of 31.32 acres located at 32525 Dukes Drive, with the proposed use being a single-family-home development of 94 homes.

Town Manager Debbie Botchie informed those in attendance at a June 28 meeting that there are many actions and steps that must be taken prior to such a petition coming before the Town’s Annexation Committee.

She noted that the property is consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and that the land is contiguous with a common boarder of the Town. The property is currently zoned AR-1 in Sussex County but owners’ requested an R-Residential zoning if it is annexed into Millville.

A Preliminary Land User Service application has been filed with the Office of State Planning, regarding the proposed development. The Town later received a comment letter stating that, “while the property is under Sussex County jurisdiction, it is adjacent to both the Town of Ocean View and the Town of Millville. In addition, the Town of Millville is proposing a municipal park adjacent to this property. The owner should consider annexation into this town.”

On March 30, a Petition of Annexation was submitted to the Town of Millville. A municipal annexation plan was completed, and letters were sent out to service providers in the area regarding the potential annexation and development.

On June 14, certified letters requesting return receipts were mailed to 22 property owners within 100-foot radius of the proposed property to be annexed, regarding the June 28 meeting. Of the 22 letters, 15 return receipts were received.

Phillip Tolliver of Morris & Richie Associates Inc., representing the Hickman Trust and Schiff, said it had initially been intended to be a Sussex County project.

“This project could be done as a County project, but it doesn’t make sense because it touches. It’s in the Town of Millville’s Comp Plan for future annexation area.

“If this project were done as a County project, you’ll still have State troopers responding to it, emergency services and so forth, yet there wouldn’t be the revenue going to the Town, because it would be a County project.”

Tolliver said the plan is to incorporate buffers throughout the project, specifically between the back ends of the lots, so they don’t butt up against the neighboring property.

“It’s extremely important to us to keep as many trees as possible, because that lends a sense of maturation to the project.”

The project would include an “invitability factor,” said Tolliver, where those entering the development will not be looking into someone’s home, but rather a clubhouse facility.

Tolliver said he has met with Sussex County Engineer Hanz Medlarz regarding services to the property. He noted capacity was built into a nearby regional pump station just north of the project.

Tolliver said there are no wetlands on the site; however, there are a number of tax ditches. The roads for the development would be maintained by the home owners association, but would be public roads built to Delaware Department of Transportation standards.

He said the idea currently is to build an upscale community; however, what would be build would be market-driven, thus upscale is not guaranteed.

Windmill Drive resident Karen Lucas asked Tolliver what the plan is for the turn lane into the development.

“DelDOT has done a lot of work on Route 26 and Windmill… What we are proposing and what looks like is going to be accepted is a bypass lane and two through-lanes.”

Lucas said summer traffic is only getting worse on Windmill, noting it can be a “cluster.”

Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said entrances would be at the discretion of DelDOT.

The annexation, he said, is simply dealing with whether or not the property in question will become part of the Town.

“Then it would go through the normal process, in terms of the subdivision approval, site plan approval and all of that,” he said. “It’s still helpful to kind of see an illustration as far as what most likely will end up there but there will be more of a process, and that process involves public comment.”

Windmill Drive resident Todd Vickers asked if there was a projection as to how much fill would be brought onto the property when its is being developed. Tolliver said that, in looking at preliminary plans, they hope to not bring any fill onto the property.

Carolyn Townsend asked what will happen to the graveyard that is on the property in question.

“One of them says, ‘Here lies to God one unworthy soul.’ Can you imagine?”

Tolliver said they hired an archeologist to go through the entire area to ensure there were just the two known plots.

“There’s a wooded area that will stay undisturbed. There’s an old fence there. We’re going to reestablish the fence around it, and then we have buffer beyond that, even, that’s wooded, undisturbed property.”

He added that community members will still have the ability to visit the plots; however, it will be easier, because they can park outside the area, on the development’s streets, and walk to the plot.

Tolliver said that, in his estimation, there’s significant benefit to annexing into Millville, as the process would be faster than that of the County.

“Sussex County — they’re saying it could be a year backlog just to get on an agenda for a preliminary plan.”

He said working with the Town and Botchie has been a “delight.”

“We’re eager to get jobs going. This is all local market… stimulate the local economy.”

Thompson noted that, if the property were to be annexed into the Town, those residents would get to vote in Town elections, run for Town office and enjoy its services, such as police hours contracted with the Delaware State Police and ambulance service at a discounted rate.

“For the Town’s part, this development is going to get built, either in Sussex County or Millville, so why not in Millville?” said Botchie. “They’re right next to the park. They’re going to use the park. So, why not have the Town realize the tax revenues to help with the maintenance of the park? That’s the way I have to think, because I have to control the budget. The Town will benefit from the transfer taxes, and that’s huge. They pay for police protection, which we have 20 hours a week, which would patrol this development as well.”

She added that, if the property were to be annexed into the Town, it would be looked at as controlled growth.

“They would have to follow our regulations. They would have to have certain amenities in there, sidewalks… You’re going to have to deal with DelDOT either way. For me, as the town manager, I see way more advantages if they come into Millville than build in Sussex County.”

The committee adjourned at the close of the hearing and will reconvene to compose a written recommendation to the town council. The recommendation must be made within 90 days of the hearing. Thompson noted that the report will be written in an open meeting; however, no additional public comment may be made at that time. There will then be a public hearing, allowing for public comment, at the council level.

If annexed into the Town, the property owners would have to bring in their preliminary plan for the development to be reviewed by the Town’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

The last time a property was annexed into the Town of Millville was in 2007.

Tolliver said that, if everything aligns perfectly, ground could be broken on the development at the end of the first quarter of 2019.

Botchie said the Town will not send out any additional letters; however, public notices of related meetings will be published in the Coastal Point and on the Town’s website.