Millville continues looking at real estate centers, signage

Temporary residential real estate centers and signs will be discussed again at the Millville Town Council’s June council meeting and workshop, respectively. Both subjects have been discussed at length in recent months, but decisions have yet to be finalized.

The council discussed possibly requiring a $25,000 performance bond for the temporary sales centers, or “trailers,” as they have been referred to in the past.

In March, the council had first heard from representatives of Beazer Homes and George Miles & Burh LLC (GMB) about their request to construct a trailer-type modular sales office inside town limits. Steve Marsh of GMB noted that “trailers” are not allowed as sales offices in current town code related to residential planned communities (RPCs) and that they can’t get a special-use exception, either, because no process for receiving one exists in Millville.

As a result, they needed advice from the council, and proposed Ordinance 13-01 would amend the town’s zoning ordinance; Article X, “Conditional Uses,” to allow for temporary residential real estate centers. Article XIV would be an amendment adding the related terminology to the town code.

Many of the people who came out to attend the public hearing on the issue earlier this month expressed apprehension as to what would happen to the “trailer” if the developer abandoned the project or if the economy turned worse. The council discussed this again, as well, and decided that the language already in the conditional-use portion of the town code — that the conditional use could be renewed after one year but didn’t necessarily have to be — would be sufficient in addressing that. They will discuss the ordinance and possibly vote on it at their June council meeting.

Town Administrator Debbie Botchie and Code Enforcement Official Eric Evans have also presented the council with a draft of amendments to Article XI, Sign Regulations. Over the course of several months, the two have worked with Planning & Zoning commissioners to clarify the sign regulations.

At a meeting last summer, Botchie discussed some of the issues with the current sign ordinance, as it is written.

“The land-use codes — the new ones — were not adopted until 2007. Prior to that, the Giant shopping center was put in, the Food Lion shopping center was put in. And all of the signs at that time, under the old code, were also non-conforming,” said Botchie at that time, noting that each business is allowed one square foot of signage per linear foot of front frontage.

“In 2009, our code states that you can actually go to the businesses and say, ‘Your sign is non-conforming. You now have to change to conform to the code.’ – 98 percent of the town was non-conforming.”

This week, she said some of the suggestions that they have put in the amendment will address those concerns and give businesses a “happy medium” if they should need to replace their existing signs. Other highlights include addressing political signs, flags, wall signs and projection signs, adding a “definitions” section and changing language in places where it was not clear.

At the June council workshop, Botchie will highlight the current regulations and the changes for the council in a PowerPoint presentation, so they can better visualize the possible amendments.