Frankford considers third land planner

Frankford Town Council may be narrowing in on a partnership with a land-use planner, following the town’s third visit from such a professional. In recent months, Kyle Gulbronson (URS) and Chris Jakubiak (Jakubiak & Associates) have stopped by town hall to introduce themselves, and Council President Robert Daisey said Dave Nutter (Nutter Associates) made three at the Nov. 7 council meeting.

According to Council Vice President T. Maynard Esender, council seemed to be leaning toward Nutter. Daisey said the Salisbury-based firm had done some work around Sussex, (Kimmeytown, Ellendale, Laurel) and had an early hand in civic development around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

He and Esender indicated Nutter had experience in grants and funding, which could be a big factor for a little town (with a relatively small budget) like Frankford.

Council is working its way through another comprehensive plan update, Daisey pointed out, and the state has indicated it will encourage growth within town borders, rather than granting its blessing on any projects near the outskirts, or in new annexations.

However, he said several of the long-time owners weren’t interested in doing much with their land — in fact, Daisey said there seemed to be less going on around Frankford now than when he moved to town (from Dagsboro), nearly 30 years ago.

“But if we can plan out the interior of our town, that might help some of these families say, ‘That’s going to look good on my property. I think I can live with this on my land,’” Daisey suggested.

Whether the town starts working with a professional planner before the ongoing comprehensive plan update is complete, or afterward, that process is well on its way to completion. A recent Frankford community planning questionnaire generated a relatively low response rate, but the residents who did write back seemed to share some common agreement.

From the summary on housing types and styles, “single-family homes on modest lots, similar to existing neighborhoods,” won the day. Single-families on large lots came in second, townhouses and apartments receiving a lukewarm reception.

Residents panned mixed use or manufactured housing. And “large, older homes converted to apartments” garnered a resounding Bronx cheer, perhaps reflecting landlord-tenant issues around Frankford.

Although Daisey couldn’t say for sure how many tenants were occupying some of the rental properties around town, he and other council members have commented in the past regarding what some see as an exploitation of those renters. Concordantly, high occupancies tend to strain water and sewer systems, and have a tendency to generate extra traffic and trash — potentially affecting neighboring property values.

Daisey said council was working to put teeth in certain town ordinances in an effort to address the situation.

Survey responses solidified around crime/safety, property maintenance, pedestrian and bike safety.

• Nearly 74 percent of respondents ranked crime/safety “extremely important,” with another 22 percent rating it “important.”

• Fully 93 percent of respondents suggested property maintenance was either important or extremely important.

• Pedestrian and bike safety garnered 91 percent as either important or extremely important.

Regarding what elements made for a nice neighborhood, there was again strong consensus in several areas.

• Nearby neighborhood shopping desirable or highly desirable, 79 percent;

• Parks and open space desirable or highly desirable, 77 percent;

• Mature trees, landscaping — desirable or highly desirable accounted for 77 percent;

• Historic homes should be maintained and preserved, rather than torn down and replaced — agree or strongly agree, 71 percent.

Most respondents felt central water and wastewater were either desirable or highly desirable (combined, 90 percent), and Daisey allowed these were certainly the main governing elements on any plans for the future the town might be assembling.

On a related topic, he said council had contacted engineering firm Davis, Bowen & Friedel (DBF), in pursuit of some hard answers on what to do next at the new water plant. “They’re gathering information about what we need to do, to proceed with the balance of work,” he said.

Construction crews (Bering Construction) wrapped it up there more than a year and a half ago, but it very quickly became apparent the water plant would not work as designed.

Daisey was quick to note he had no problem with Bering, and indeed he said the town planned to extend their relationship with the contractors for the balance of work.

However, the plant was designed to backwash the silty byproduct of water “finishing” into county sewer, and Daisey suggested that was unlikely to become feasible, ever.

What happened remains a subject of considerable conjecture, but apparently, there was a communications breakdown somewhere between the town, the engineering firm that designed the plant, and the Sussex County engineering department.

Meanwhile, the old water plant continues to limp along, but Daisey suggested it was getting to the point where there wasn’t much left to attach new patches to. Esender freely admitted the quality of town water left much to be desired, and residents have lodged numerous complaints in recent months, especially regarding rust stains on clothes and in appliances.

As council members have noted in the past, the town’s best wells are already hooked into the new plant — the old plant is running on the second stringers.

Daisey said DBF would now take over the establishment of a plan for what to do with the silty sediment at the new water plant. He said he couldn’t offer a rock-solid estimate for when they might be able to bring the idling plant online, but optimistically forecast a six-month timeline.

Frankford supplies drinking water to three local schools – Frankford Elementary, the new Indian River High School and the newly-renamed John M. Clayton School.