Ocean View denies exception for wildlife-learning center

The Ocean View Board of Adjustment voted 4-0, with one abstention, to deny an application for a special exception that would have allowed for a wildlife-learning center on a General Business-1 (GB-1) parcel in town.

Barn Hill Preserve, a business that offers educational animal programs while focusing on conservation education for diverse audiences, had been hoping to open a new location within Ocean View, adjacent to the Salted Rim restaurant.

During the July 19 hearing, Board of Adjustment Member John Reddington moved to deny the application, stating that the application does not fit within the seven findings required to approve a special exception.

“This application is not in harmony with the purposes of the comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan calls for the continued operation of existing commercial uses and promoting and encouraging restaurants, retail stores and recreational uses. I don’t think that the wildlife learning center, as proposed, is the type of recreational use the plan intended.”

Reddington said he does not believe the application is “in harmony” with the general character of the neighborhood.

“The neighborhood is small-scale retail and restaurant uses, as well as existing or proposed nearby residential properties. The proposal is for a seasonal operation of an animal education center,” he noted.

“Even though the applicants propose to enclose the animals, keep the center clean and select animals which are not as noisy as other animals, there is nothing else like this in the town or this neighborhood. It is unlikely that the applicants can control all noise and odors coming from the center without interfering with the peaceful enjoyment or economic values of surrounding properties.”

Reddington also said he believed the project would negatively impact traffic on Atlantic Avenue.

“The project entrance will be almost directly across from the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Tyler Avenue — the entrance to Savannah’s Landing. There is no traffic light at this intersection. Atlantic Avenue is the major east-west road in and out of Bethany Beach.

“During the summer months — the time when the center proposes to be open — Atlantic Avenue is the most congested. People coming from the west or leaving the center to go east toward Bethany Beach will have to cross oncoming traffic. This proposed center will only make the traffic situation worse.”

The board voted 4-0 to deny the application, with new member Greg Neuner abstaining, as he had not been serving on the board at the time of the previous hearings on the application.

Bonkey’s approved for third location

That same evening, the Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission approved a site plan for Bonkey’s Ice Cream & Snoballs to open a new location, at 44 Atlantic Avenue. The business already operates a location on Route 26 in Millville, as well as one off Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach.

Jim Lober, P.E., director of engineering for Kercher Engineering, said that a number of issues with the plan that had been discussed at the June Planning & Zoning meeting had been addressed, including parking delineation.

Lober said all parking spaces on asphalt need to be paint-striped, and for those on gravel, each should have a bumper.

“A grading plan would need to be provided for the new walkway and handicapped spaces proposed for the dwelling at the rear of the property,” said Lober. “Those handicapped spaces in the rear of the dwelling need to be paved in order to be ADA-compliant.”

He added that the Town would need some correspondence from the Sussex Conservation District to confirm that they have approved the amount of disturbance on the site or that they’ve confirmed the amount of disturbance is below their threshold.

The commission approved the site plan unanimously, with the condition that those items be addressed prior to moving forward.

P&Z recommends special-exception process for mini-golf

The commission on July 19 also discussed a proposed ordinance to amend town code to allow miniature golf courses as a special exception in GB-1 and GB-2 commercial districts.

The ordinance, if ultimately approved by the town council, would allow for miniature golf courses in those districts through special-exception approval.

The proposed ordinance was prompted by an inquiry from the Adams family, who are looking to open a course at 3 Atlantic Avenue; however, Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader emphasized that that does not mean the ordinance is to be decided upon based on that particular site.

Ocean View resident Brenda McIntyre said she would be opposed to a particular golf course near Town Road.

“Why would we want to do this? ... I do not want Ocean View to turn into Bethany Beach. We are a residential community,” she said. “I suggest they take it up to Bethany.”

Rebecca Adams, who hopes to develop a miniature golf course in town, said she believed it would be something positive in town.

“We feel that something like this would be a good family activity that would provide entertainment for people here,” she said.

Commissioner Norman Amendt noted that Route 26 is “pretty much commercial.”

“I think a little thing like this would be good for Ocean View,” he said.

Commissioner Kent Kiddle asked why the Town would need to make this a specific part of the ordinance allowing for such a business within town.

“If something is not listed as a permitted use or as a special exception subject to conditional uses in this Town, then it is prohibited,” explained Schrader. “Under the terms of things permitted in GB-districts, this is not listed as a permitted use.

“However, as I understand from my conversations with council, because of the things that are unique to miniature golf courses — whether it’s parking, lighting, concession stands, maybe hours of operation — if you make it a permitted use, then the person who is making that application on any tract of land on 26 that is zoned General Business, really all we do is review the site plan and say, ‘Have a nice day. Good luck — we hope you don’t fail.’

“If we make it a special-use exception, then we have the opportunity through the Board of Adjustment to make conditions on the application that could minimize or eliminate the effects of a miniature golf course to neighboring properties.”

Schrader said that just because the ordinance could be recommended for approval or adopted does not guarantee there will be a subsequent application.

“What it does mean is the people who want to put a miniature golf courses in this town have the opportunity to make a business decision to make the application and sees where it takes them.”

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend the proposed ordinance be approved. The ordinance is expected to be brought before the town council at its September meeting.

By Maria Counts
Staff Reporter