Ocean View talks land use

Progress, and possible minimum design standards for landscaping, signs and even architecture, dominated the Feb. 15 workshop in Ocean View.

The roundtable discussion on Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) issues attracted the entire town council, the entire Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission, town staff and new hire land use planner Kyle Gulbronson.

Gulbronson started out with a recap of town progress vis-à-vis the 2004 CLUP. “You’ve taken care of some things already,” he pointed out, referencing ordinances to reduce density, add wetlands buffers and require landscaped buffers between businesses and residences.

“Your densities aren’t too far off,” Gulbronson said — other than in the residential-planned community (RPC) overlay.

He said the town’s RPC regulations were “very light,” and the town might want to consider a rewrite, or else just a max cap on density.

Attorney Rob Robinson (standing in for Dennis Schrader) interjected, “You need to decide whether permitting high density is ever a desirable situation.”

Robinson suggested there might be times when the town could use high density as a bargaining chip, to acquire a specific piece of parkland, for instance.

However, town manager Kathy Roth pointed out open space requirements already built into the RPC ordinance.

Gulbronson said the town had already “come out strong” on design standards for the general business (GB) district (eventually, the entire Route 26 corridor will be rezoned GB).

He recommended the town consider carrying those standards over into the residential districts as well. He also suggested the possibility of a historical district, but noted it wouldn’t solve every problem.

“Everyone thinks historical districts keep buildings from being torn down,” Gulbronson said. “They do require people to document and record places that have historical significance, but they can’t stop people from tearing them down.”

Robinson said they had recently prohibited teardowns in Lewes’ historical district, but they were still working through that, and it was complicated.

In addition, many people who were planning to tear down had picked up their permits before the ordinance passed, he said.

The best solution, according to Gulbronson, was to institute minimum design standards, so if a place were to come down, something similar would replace it.

“They don’t tell you what you have to build, but, for example, the pitch of the roof, maybe a porch, landscaping, what kind of lighting,” he explained.

He planned to begin work on a stand-alone document covering the standards.