Millville considers adopting impact fee

Millville’s town council announced while working on its 2007 fiscal-year budget recently that it will consider implementing an impact fee. The fee would accompany building permits for additions and new construction, to help pay for services in the small coastal town.

Although the town doesn’t offer public water or sewage, the fee would help fund Millville’s volunteer fire department and build its fund for a police department, which will undoubtedly be needed in the future, considering the town’s development boom, according to mayor Gary Willey and town planner Kyle Gulbronson of URS.

“All the new people coming into the town are going to require services, such as police. The fire companies need to update their equipment. The town hall will have to add their additional staff,” Willey said. “For those reasons, we’re going to have to generate some money.”

Currently — though they are not yet approved — about 3,000 homes to be developed on Route 17 are going through the town’s planning approval system. Millville by the Sea alone — if developed as proposed — would add 2,495 homes to the town, which now has less than 1,000 homes.

Taking that development into consideration, Gulbronson has looked into drafting an ordinance that would implement impact fees in Millville. Last week, the land planner supplied Willey with a recently-approved Dagsboro ordinance, which established a fee in the nearby town.

The Dagsboro ordinance would be similar to the one Millville would likely adopt because it implemented a fee only for emergency-services purposes, such as police and fire. Dagsboro, like Millville, doesn’t yet supply public water or sewage, so it couldn’t charge developers for those services.

For fire protection, for instance, the Dagsboro ordinance charges developers of new residential and non-residential structures .25 percent of the total construction contract. There is also a ceiling on the impact fees, which are transferred quarterly “to the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company to be used for capital equipment and facilities to enhance fire protection,” according to the town’s impact fee law.

Millville town officials would likely write similar sections for fire and police protection, Gulbronson said. Currently, the town only makes a $5,000 donation to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company each year to help pay for its services. (Neighboring towns served by the MVFC ambulance service also make annual donations, as does the county.) And Millville only started building a fund for its own police department in November, using transfer tax revenues to help grow the fund.

There is currently just more than $26,000 in the police fund, according to Millville Town Manager Linda Collins. But with transfer taxes continually rising on the sale and resale pattern of the town’s booming development, plus the likely implementation of the impact fee, it will grow quickly — much to the liking of Collins.

“Eventually, we will definitely need a police force,” Collins said. “That’s one of the town’s top priorities. Right now, we depend on the state and Ocean View.”

Gulbronson said, however, that the town could run into the same problems Dagsboro encountered when considering the impact fee. The Millville Volunteer Fire Company, for example, serves more than just Millville. But with the possible implementation of a fee, Millville residents might shoulder a heavier burden on funding the company than other neighboring residents who use the services just as much.

That is just one of the issues the town might face in the next couple weeks as it continues to consider the fee, which was discussed only briefly at Tuesday’s town council meeting.

Willey said the town officials will hold a more lengthy conversation on the fee at April’s meeting, before possibly introducing an ordinance by way of a public hearing in May. But Gulbronson said that the growing town will look to get an ordinance into place soon, before Millville continues to grow beyond its level of services.

“There’s a large town being created where it was just a very small town,” Gulbronson said. “As that happens, town government is going to be asked to do a lot.”