Frankford approves subdivision after scrambling for quorum

An atypical Planning & Zoning meeting was held in the Town of Frankford on July 6, planned to review two applications — one for a temporary office building, the other a minor subdivision.

The meeting started almost 30 minutes late, as there was not a quorum of members. While Commissioners Duane Beck and Ronald Hall were in attendance, Dora Bell-Isler and Jason Taylor were not present.

Two other residents, Albert Franklin and Sabrina Simms, were contacted to come to the meeting and sit in for the absent members. There was no discussion as to whether the two had seen information related to the application prior to the meeting. Neither was sworn in.

According to Delaware Code Title 22 § 701, “A planning commission established hereunder shall consist of not less than 5 nor more than 9 members. Such members shall in cities be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council, and in towns where there is not a mayor shall be elected by the town commissioners.

“When a planning commission is first established the members thereof shall be appointed or elected for terms of such length and shall be so arranged that the term of at least 1 member shall expire each year and their successor shall be appointed or elected for terms of 2 to 5 years each.”

Town Solicitor Chad Lingenfelder was not present for the meeting; however, two council members were in attendance, as was consultant Kyle Gulbronson of AECOM.

On the Town’s website, the last Planning & Zoning meeting held prior to July 6 was listed as March 19, 2014. As of the Coastal Point’s Wednesday deadline, town officials could not give a specific date as to when the planning commission members were appointed by the mayor and council but said they were looking into it, as well as when the terms of the commissioners expire.

At that meeting, the group voted to recommend approval of a minor subdivision, requested by Dean Esham, located on Green Street, with one side being left vacant and the other to be used as an overflow parking lot for the library. Subsequently, at Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve the minor subdivision.

The commission also recommended the council approve a site plan for a three-unit, 2,130-square-foot modular office building that would have offices, a conference room and restroom facilities, with the provision that the skirting be approved by the Town and resemble a permanent foundation base.

The council voted unanimously to approve the site plan, which would be approved for two years following the issuance of a permit.

The council had planned to hold a first reading to amend Ordinance 34, which would raise water rates in the town, and Ordinance 35, related to drilling wells within town limits; however, the items were not properly noticed. The council did, however, go on to discuss the items at length.

The water rates would be increased to $12.68 per 1,000 gallons used, with a monthly charge of $3 per dwelling unit.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to increase water being provided to the residents in the town of Frankford, due to the loss of use from Mountaire,” said Council President Joanne Bacon. “Even though the current rate is $8.75 per 1,000 gallons, no official ordinance was passed by the Town of Frankford, and only temporary resolutions were enacted, raising the water rate to $5, and again to $8.75 between 2000 and 2016.”

Councilman Greg Welch said the council came up with the amount of gallons the Town needs to pump to make the water department operate in the black and divided it by the rate, which is how the $12.68 came to be. He said the deficit is $71,000 at this time.

“We are going to closely monitor it and drop it as soon as we can.”

Councilman Marty Presley said the council had also discussed creating a sunset provision for the rate increase.

Resident Liz Carpenter asked the council if they’ve considered selling the water department to Tidewater.

“It’s a cancer,” she said. “Frankly, this water rate hike further serves to devalue my property. Now I’m even less likely to sell my house.”

Presley said the sunset provision is not written in the proposed ordinance but that the council would add it. He also said the increase would be “temporary” and would be reduced as fast as possible.

Esham told the council they should not sell a utility, but said if Mountaire was the cause of the loss of revenue, the Town should look at recouping those funds by other means.

“If Mountaire is really putting an extra $250 a year on every resident in town, they need to pay. They’re not a good neighbor; they’re not an asset to the town,” he said. “If they were a good neighbor and doing something wrong, that would be one thing, but they’re not a good neighbor… Stick it to them. You put a 2 percent tax on rentals, make an industrial tax.”

“I don’t think that’s fair to do that to someone who’s been here,” said Wesley Hayes. “If they were up and leave right now, where would we be right now?”

Carpenter asked if there were any conversations regarding long-term strategic planning. Presley said the Town has taken some starting steps with such things as the Envision Frankford group and purchasing land for park parking. He said the Town can look at revising its Comprehensive Plan to better reflect the growth the Town hopes to see in future years.

The two soon-to-be-proposed ordinances are expected to be on the Aug. 1 council agenda.

In other Town news:

• The council said they received a preliminary audit report from the State and will be responding as soon as possible.

• Police Chief Michael Warchol who announced he would be leaving the Town to move to Baltimore and will most likely leave in the middle of August. Currently, there are five applicants who will be interviewed by the chief and two members of the council.