Possible zoning changes for early learning center discussed

The Millsboro Town Council met this week to discuss whether it will consider changing town zoning to allow for an early childhood development center on West State Street.

“It is our passion to bring our education and experience to the town of Millsboro, to offer the families of Millsboro a large, quality early learning center for their children,” wrote Richard and Jennifer Spinks in their November 2013 request to the Town.

The property that the Spinkses hope to renovate for the early learning center is located at 209 West State Street, which is zoned Medium-Density Residential. Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox said the town code currently does not allow for a daycare facility in that zone.

Schrider-Fox said that, if the council would be interested in allowing the Spinkses to operate the business in that zone, they could either amend the zoning ordinance to allow for such a use throughout the MR zone, or amend the code to allow for such a business to be an allowable conditional use, which would require individual approval of each application.

“The conditional use would give the town council more control,” explained Schrider-Fox.

She added that she would recommend the council look at the town’s current definitions of daycare facilities, to see if they feel that definition would fit the Spinkses’ potential learning center, or if a new definition would need to be created.

“I would like to see us do something. It’d be nice to have it occupied, and there’s always a need for daycare,” said Mayor Robert Bryan.

“In town, with it being people buying their home in a residential zone, they’re not thinking that a business is going to be next-door to them,” said Councilman Tim Hodges. “We’re probably better off doing a conditional-use change than the blanket changing of code, so that it doesn’t affect people’s enjoyment of their homes.”

Richard Spinks said he and his wife owned and operated three early learning centers in West Virginia, where he is from originally. He said those facilities cared for children ranging from infants to 12-year-olds. The facilities, he said, worked with the State, as well as Head Start programs, to develop a curriculum for all the children. He noted that all the employees were trained educators.

“We don’t necessarily call ourselves a daycare, per say,” he said. “It is our premise that we are a private school.”

He added that they believe the facility would more accurately be classified as a school, rather than a daycare center, and hopes to work with Delaware legislators to develop a pre-kindergarden program for the state.

Currently, schools and nursing homes are allowed in the MR zones in town. Schrider-Fox said that the Town does not have a definition within its code for “school.” However, as it has done previously, the Town could rely on the State’s definition.

“There is a creative curriculum for infants and toddlers,” said Jennifer Spinks, who has a degree in elementary education, with a concentration in early childhood education, from Salisbury University. “It is a school for even the youngest of infants.”

The Spinkses said that they hope to demolish the building that currently sits on the property and build a state-of-the-art center, complete with security cameras and a playground. They added that the believed West State Street would be a great fit for their facility because it is a “kid-friendly zone” with the Little League complex, Millsboro Public Library and Boy Scout hut nearby.

“We’ve heard from several individuals that the town of Millsboro is a very business-friendly town,” said Richard Spinks.

“If the council is moving forward in any way, maybe we need a committee to sit down and figure out what they want to do,” said Hodges.

“It sounds like we may need to amend more than just our zoning. There are several pieces within the zoning code that it would affect,” said Councilman John Thoroughgood. “I see buses. I see traffic. I see some issues.”

Spinks asked the council to move expeditiously, as the center could take approximately 16 months to complete, and if they cannot start soon, they will have to search for another location.

The council voted 5-0 to table their decision until their February meeting. A committee chaired by Thoroughgood, with Michelle Truitt and Jim Petruzella also serving, will give a presentation to council prior to their decision.

If the council choses to allow for a conditional use of a daycare facility within the MR zoning, the earliest the Spinkses’ application could be granted would be in April.

In other Millsboro news:

• The council unanimously approved a request by Kamesh Patel on behalf of HPRP Inc. to combine two parcels located on the corner of Main and State streets. The building on the corner that houses the Corner Store, a package store, will eventually be demolished, with the business moving to the brick building located on the combined parcel.

• The Town is seeking volunteers to spend some time in the town museum one day each month. Bryan said the Town hopes to have the museum open to the public on the first Monday of every month, if enough people offer to be volunteer docents.

• Ron O’Neil of the Millsboro Volunteer Fire Company said that the company responded to 74 fewer calls in 2013 than in 2012, for a total of 263 calls.

“That’s a good thing,” said O’Neil.

However, he added, the number of EMS calls was up by 166 calls, for a total of 2,015 calls. He said that number of calls equates to an EMS call every 3.9 hours.

“We have some very dedicated people who take care of that EMS coverage,” he noted.

• On June 24, the Great Race, a vintage car competitive controlled-speed endurance road rally will roll through Millsboro.

“We thought it would be nice if the town would welcome these people in on their way to Florida from Maine,” Bryan said.

Bryan added that he has raised money from area businesses to help feed 225 people associated with the race and that more than 80 cars have already registered for the event.

Each car will stop at the Millsboro Town Center for an hour to grab lunch and chat with car enthusiasts about their vehicles.

“If anyone is interesting in helping, we’ll need some volunteers,” he said. “We’re going to need a lot more help. … Come and welcome them on.”

• The Millsboro Town Council will meet next on Monday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m., at town hall.