The Town of Millsboro just grew a little larger — somewhere between 80 and 100 hotel rooms, and one restaurant, larger.
The Millsboro Town Council voted unanimously on Monday, Aug. 6, to incorporate a 3-plus-acre parcel on Route 113 — the home of the former VFW building. It is owned in trust by builder Jim Parker and his wife, Mary Beth — and Parker’s company, Jim Parker Builders, plans to build a hotel and detached restaurant in that location.
Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox said the Town had heard back from the State concerning the annexation request by the Parkers, and that the effort would fall in line with the Town’s comprehensive land-use plan.
She added that the neighboring properties were zoned highway commercial, which is what Parker said he had hoped to attain for the parcel, and that all it would need at this point would be council approval to make it happen.
The council indeed voted unanimously to make that happen.
Before that vote, there were some concerns raised by some in attendance at the council meeting. Three women from Magnolia Meadows expressed concerns over the need for a hotel in town, the potential for drugs and other criminal activities at the hotel, and an increase in taxes for residents.
“There’s no reason to believe your taxes will go up,” said Councilman Tim Hodges.
When one resident said she had seen that in a newspaper, Town Manager Sheldon Hudson interjected, saying he believed he knew what quote she was referring to in her concern.
“Revenue will go up only because there is another person paying,” said Hudson, gesturing to Parker. “It doesn’t mean the rates are going up for you.”
As for crime and drugs, Councilman Larry Gum pointed out that the area would be safer under the umbrella of Millsboro.
“Right now, that property is unincorporated and doesn’t get immediate coverage from the Millsboro Police Department.”
“That property was basically a public nuisance,” added Police Chief Brian Calloway. “It would make our jobs much easier” if it was under the department’s watch, he said.
Indeed, on April 26, 2013, Delaware State Police (DSP) had investigated a shots-fired complaint in the parking lot of the VFW, which often hosted events at the facility. In September of 2012, the DSP had responded to another shooting in the parking lot, following a private party.
On Tuesday, Parker told the Coastal Point that he understood the concerns about crime but was not deterred.
“Unfortunately, these days, drugs have become a concern everywhere,” said Parker. “I personally have zero tolerance for it and feel as if the atmosphere you create is a huge determining factor with the clientele you attract. Millsboro is a vastly growing town with large corporations like Merck, Mountaire, M&T, just to name a few. We cannot hinder the growth of our town due to the drug epidemic.”
Parker said at Monday’s meeting that a preliminary report suggests the hotel will have between 80 and 100 rooms, be four stories tall and have an elevator, and he has already entered discussions with both hotel and restaurant chains.
He said he couldn’t secure any commitments yet because those businesses wanted to see that water and sewer hookups were imminent, and now he can provide that, with the council’s annexation approval.
Another resident asked about parking and entrances. Parker replied that the Town has certain criteria he would have to meet in regards to parking, and that DelDOT would have final say over entrances and exits.
In other news from Monday’s council meeting:
• The Dirt Road Outlawz are scheduled to perform at Cupola Park on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 6 to 8 p.m.
• The Town had begun investigating how difficult it would be to host movies in the park, and Assistant Town Manager Jamie Burk responded Monday night that licensing fees for movies cost between $350 and $450 per movie, equipment rental costs another $750, and that still doesn’t include procuring the movie itself.
“It will cost well over $1,000 for people to see a movie,” said Burk.
The council voted to not go forward with that, and to pursue more music shows.
• Bob Herrington of Watson Funeral Home approached the council about coming up with a plan to make funeral processions safer. He pointed out two somewhat-recent accidents — one in Dover, and one in Maryland — and suggested that the tradition of the procession might be coming to an end unless there are some parameters.
“Traffic looked different before,” said Herrington, “much different.”
He talked about possibly requiring the families of those who pass away to pay for two off-duty police officers to regulate traffic during processions, or picking set times, to alleviate potential risk. He said he fears that there will be a tragedy, and, “We’re all going to regret it.”
• Calloway introduced John Wharton as the newest member of the Millsboro Police Department. He said 14 recruits began in Wharton’s class at the police academy, and only eight graduated. Wharton finished as class president and gave a stirring speech at graduation, according to Calloway.
• Calloway is also at work trying to build the new police department building. The first step is removing the former re-sale building that sits in the spot where they are hoping to start construction. He said he tried donating the home to different groups and to Habitat for Humanity, but they did not have an interest — largely due to the associated cost with having to work around power lines and traffic downtown.
Hodges suggested the Town put a sign on the property, telling people they can have the house if they agree to move it. After some back-and-forth, it was determined that people will have the option to commit to taking the house by Oct. 31 and must have it removed by Dec. 15. If no one takes the Town up on the offer, they will have it demolished.
• Roger Perry of Gunshooter Enterprises approached the council about the municipal parking lot across the street from his downtown shop.
The way the lot works now is people going east on Main Street can turn into that lot and park in diagonal spaces, but people heading west on Washington Street, on the other side of the lot, have to go up and make a U-turn to come back down Main Street to park.
Perry said he believes that prohibits potential customers from frequenting Main Street shops on that side of the road, and council members and Hudson all agreed. They will discuss having an entrance from Washington Street, and then looking at if the parking lanes should be diagonal or straight, depending on space. Hudson said he would have to clear that with DelDOT but didn’t foresee any problems, since it wouldn’t involve disturbing any sidewalks.
• The final site plan was approved for the new Ashley Furniture store to be built at the corner of Dickerson Road and Route 113. The 27,000-square-foot store’s approval is still contingent on the final go-ahead from DelDOT and with stormwater issues, and all sides were optimistic that should take place in the next week or two.
• Realtor Tammy Rust approached the council about having the Town co-sponsor a building and real estate expo at the Millsboro Civic Center with her organization, the Women’s Council of Realtors. She said she would like to see the Millsboro Police Department offer some bike-safety help, and is also trying to enlist the services of the Millsboro Volunteer Fire Company.
As far as the Town’s contribution, Rust requested the Town waived the fee to use the facility.
The council weighed the request and decided they could approve that if they were to be an actual co-sponsor of the event. Rust had hoped for Sept. 22 for the event, but Hudson told her that date was already booked, so she said she would return to him with a new date.
By Darin J. McCann