Ocean View P&Z okays school

Lord Baltimore Elementary School is tricky.
Part of the property lays in Ocean View, part lays in Millville, part in unincorporated Sussex County.

So who approves the renovation project planned for Lord Baltimore?

Apparently, Ocean View.

Indian River School District’s Greg Weer (building and grounds, construction) and engineer Ed Tennefoss (Davis, Bowen & Friedel) approached the town on Feb. 17, at the Ocean View Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.

Naturally, the question regarding what the Ocean View P&Z could legally approve came up rather early in the discussion.

Weer said Sussex County had indicated a desire to let Ocean View review and set conditions on the entire plan, and he intended to obtain a written document to that affect.

He planned to wait until the district had a chance to review the project (at the Feb. 22 school board meeting) before petitioning Millville for the same treatment.

Construction will unlikely impact Millville’s jurisdiction, toward the rear (south edge) and west (Old School Lane).

Nevertheless, Town Attorney Dennis Schrader reminded the commission members they could only address the portion of the project currently within town limits.

Weer said he hoped to begin construction work in June, after moving some of the school equipment over to the old Indian River High School.

Elementary students will spend next year at that location, while the construction work is underway.

He asked if the P&Z could go ahead and grant preliminary approval, pending annexation of the county side of the school.

However, as Schrader pointed out, that annexation might not take place until June, and the town would need to complete that business before granting any formal approval, or even recommending conditions.

“It’s not so much whether the district will or won’t built something (on the county portion) that we won’t approve, but until then, we can only do the part that’s in town,” Schrader explained.

However, as further discussion revealed, simply annexing the county land into Ocean View wouldn’t be enough.

P&Z Chairman Dick Logue asked about a landscaping plan, which wasn’t part of Tennefoss’ presentation.

1) Ocean View’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan calls for rezoning of all the parcels along Route 26 as General Business (GB).

2) If the town made a change of zone part of the annexation, GB zoning would give the P&Z a mechanism for landscaping review.

3) However, schools are not listed anywhere in town code, even as a special exception use — the nearest comparable use would be a daycare center, according to Schrader.

In the meantime, the P&Z unanimously approved the Ocean View portion of Tennefoss’ plans, as a preliminary.

Ultimately, and before the project can be reviewed as a whole for final site plan approval, the town will need to annex the county portion, change the zoning to GB and add schools to the list of allowable uses in the GB district.

“When it comes back through as an annexation recommendation, I’ll see if I can’t get someone on council to modify the GB ordinance to allow schools,” Schrader said.

Several P&Z members expressed reservations regarding draft and adoption of the various ordinances before June.

Weer expressed a desire to move ahead, and said he could start work on asbestos abatement in June, while those processes continued forward.

Also pending, Tennefoss said he’d submitted for various agency permits, but was still waiting on those approvals.

Part of the renovation project includes a large pull-off area along Route 26, for fire trucks, and a reconfigured bus drop-off.

According to the plan, a new, one-way bus lane will enter the property from Route 26 near the eastern border, and wrap around the existing structures.

All buses will exit westward onto Old School Lane, although some will certainly reenter Route 26 shortly thereafter.

Tennefoss said he was waiting for Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) approvals on those changes.

Elsewhere around the site, the existing bus lane between the two main buildings will be enclosed, as will the walkway from the main building to the gymnasium.

• The detached kindergarten building will be incorporated into the main structure.
• The project will add a handful of new classrooms, as the kitchen and cafeteria move into the kindergarten building. A new main entrance and administrative area will abut the existing kindergarten area.
• The existing cafeteria is slated to become a library and computer room.
• Elsewhere on the grounds, Weer noted a proposed system of geothermal wells under the recess fields, but said the fields would appear unchanged afterwards.
• Weer said the district planned to keep the new construction facing Route 26 “predominantly brick,” although they planned to use alternative materials elsewhere.