The Ocean View Historical Society on Tuesday, Oct. 10, was given the go-head by the Ocean View Town Council for its future education building, to be called Hall’s Store.
The building would be located on the society’s complex at 39 Central Avenue — a property that was leased to the historical society by the Town in May of 2010, for 15 years, with the option to extend the lease for five years, at a cost of $1.
The society came before the Ocean View Board of Adjustment last month to request a variance that would allow the society’s new building to exceed the maximum 35 percent lot coverage by 18 percent. In the process of getting reviewed by Sussex Conservation District, the property at 39 Central was clumped in with the Town’s surrounding 4.3 acres.
At the Oct. 10 council meeting, members of the society presented the council with information regarding the project.
“The historical society has done a great job. If I may quote [Administrative Official] Charlie [McMullen], ‘It has been a great marriage between the society and the town. We have something the town should be proud of, we have something that could be even better,’” said former mayor Gordon Wood. “My objective tonight is to ask the council to make sure we don’t get caught up, administratively, having to wait for this meeting, having to wait for that meeting… Try to fast-track it.”
Former OVHS president Richard Nippes said the area for the building has already been cleared and is ready for the replica of Hall’s Store to be built. He said the society has already raised $100,000 to begin construction, and is expecting to receive the rest of the funds from grants.
“This building, I think, is going to attract many visitors, because the front of that building is going to be a replica of Hall’s Store, which was a general store built in 1820 and gave the name of the town, Hall’s Store, until 1889, until the town became Ocean View.
“Many people are going to want to come and see what an old general store actually looked like,” he said.
Nippes also called attention to the group’s recent partnership with Contractors for a Cause, a nonprofit organization of local contractors who have united to give back to the community.
“We are absolutely blessed that Contractors for a Cause has decided this is a fantastic project for them,” said Nippes. “They’re going to be the ones who are building it. They’re hoping to use contractors from the area to build the whole project. It will be a spectacular thing.”
McMullen said that if the council were to allow the historical society to move forward with the Sussex Conservation District’s review of the complex’s stormwater management, future reviews for the Town could be more stringent.
If approved, the society would go before the Planning & Zoning Commission for a preliminary site-plan review, which could happen as early as November.
Councilman Bill Olsen cautioned that the approval could cut down on future improvements to the park, which would impact what future councils could do.
“The new thing nowadays is pickleball. Right away, you’re using up all that square footage,” he said.
Councilman Frank Twardzik said he, too, was unsure about allowing the society to move forward as is.
“I don’t want to surrender the rights of future councils,” he said. “We have no idea what we may do down the road… In 2003, we purchased this property at 39 Central Avenue for $289,000. We also purchased 41 Central for $287,500. The original intent was solely to expand the park.
“Shortly after the purchases is when the historical society became interested in the property at 39 Central Avenue. So, in essence, we gave them a gift of $289,000 by leasing them that property.”
Mayor Walter Curran said he disagreed that voting in favor would be surrendering the rights of future councils.
“What you’re doing is most likely adding some cost, should they choose to do something… I don’t see it that way.”
Councilwoman Carol Bodine said she was in favor of the society moving forward, because the society brings people a lot of pleasure.
The council voted 3-2, with Twardzik and Olsen opposed, to allow the society to go ahead with the construction of Hall’s Store, with the variance granted by the Board of Adjustment, without returning to Sussex Conservation District to have the property reviewed as a separate parcel.
By Maria Counts