Mandated by Delaware state code, all municipal governments must develop and regularly update a “road map for the future” through a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).
The Town of Ocean View kicked off its CLUP review with a public workshop last month. The event drew 97 participants to John West Park, who helped give Town staff a better idea of what residents would like to see in the future.
“Kyle Gulbronson, the lead planner from AECOM, said it was the best turnout he’s seen in the 25 years he’s been doing this,” said Ocean View Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Cimino. “I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of people we had and the amount of interest. At some points there, there were more people than we could talk to at one time. Folks were standing, waiting to talk to us about different boards… All in all, it was a great experience.”
“We were very pleased with the engagement and with how thankful the community was for us to provide them the opportunity,” added Town Manager Carol Houck. “That came across quite a bit with discussions with people. They had a great opportunity to meet the staff because we all took different boards.
“We tend to do this kind of thing in council chambers or municipal facility. But we did it in the park, so it was a more relaxing atmosphere. The weather was cooperative. People were already coming to vote, so I think it checked off a couple boxes for them.”
At the April workshop, stations were set up to give an overview of the CLUP, and get opinions on transportation options, community character, and livability.
“While some of these displays were straightforward, other ones weren’t as straightforward. Folks had different interpretations of the stations than we had intended,” said Cimino.
As an example, Houck said she was working at the transportation station, with a board that had a picture of a bus shelter as a visual reference, rather than an actual suggestion of what could be brought to town.
“We think that may have impacted a lot of the red,” she said.
Earlier this year, the Town reached out to DART, a division of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) which provides public transportation services.
“We asked them for a meeting,” said Houck. “We walked out in the town in some areas of concern. They had already been thinking there were some things they need to address along the corridor. It’s the beginning of a conversation. Transportation and transit are things you have to think about… It’s definitely higher on the list for this town.”
“That was separate from the Comp Plan but seemed natural to add it as part of our Comprehensive Land Use update,” said Cimino. “We’ve identified it as something we’d like to do, much like the main street corridor, getting more businesses here, having municipal parking lots to support businesses, so folks have places to park.”
Houck said DART explained if an area doesn’t have facilities which would allow people to bike or walk to transit where it’s provided, public transit will not be successful.
“DART told us that in Delaware once people get in their car, they’re going to just keep going,” she said. “We have to circle it and come up with a whole package of what we can accomplish.”
“If you think about the bike ability and walkability of our community, we definitely have some improvement to make,” said Cimino. “We’re already working on that.
“The need for sidewalks in the community was strongly identified. It gave us an idea to talk to folks and tell them about our pilot program where we’re going to construct sidewalks from SR-26 to John West Park. Right now we’re in the feasibility study stage of that. We’ll see how that hits.”
Some participants said they would be willing to pay money if the Town provided a shuttle to the beach.
“Some of the larger communities have their own,” noted Hock. “We might be able to do a pilot program. We could buy a used shuttle a year from now and give it a try without investing a whole lot… Just stick our foot in and see.”
Transportation and community character were closely related, said Houck, noting residents were interested in more hiker/biker trails and having the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control expand the canal trails.
“There are things we can engage DelDOT and DNREC in on behalf of our constituents,” said Cimino.
He added that planned communities were a topic of concern for many residents.
“Overwhelmingly the comment was, ‘we don’t need any more planned communities here. We have enough.’”
Houck said through further discussion with residents, the issues were more with housing, density, and congestion, rather than a problem with planned communities overall.
Jill Oliver, Assistant to the Director of Planning, Zoning & Development, manned the livability board at the workshop, which focused on housing, transportation and health.
“This board touches what people’s priorities are and how that translates to what they think their community’s priority should be,” she explained. “Housing was split with density concerns. Some people were in favor of affordable housing options whereas some people thought there was enough housing, period.”
In terms of environment, participants were excited about clean air and water.
“A lot of people come up with ideas to help with the trash and littering that we so often see along our roadways,” said Oliver. “We had some people suggest some community cleanups, town organized cleanups and additional no littering signs, which I thought was a great idea.”
Residents were very excited about the new Beebe health campus on Route 17.
“They think it’ll help attract additional doctors to Ocean View as well. It seemed the majority of folks were looking to see more dermatologists in the area, which makes sense because we’re so close to the beach.”
Oliver said many residents were quick to give suggestions and ideas on how to improve the Town — including growing their working relationship with neighboring communities.
“I think the other suggestion a few people mentioned, which I thought was really valuable, is that they would like to see us work more closely with our neighbors, especially the Town of Millville to pool our resources and energy to do big things for the area. I think that’s a really exciting suggestion.”
Those who participated in the workshop were entered into a drawing, and a number of residents won gift cards to Ocean View businesses.
“People were really excited about it,” said Houck.
“All the money is going back into the community,” added Cimino.
The information collected at the workshop will be compiled into a summary and posted on the Town’s website.
The next step is to send a survey out to all the Town’s residents.
“We’ll also be incorporating some questions from DART because there’s some things they need to know before they implement any additional services to our area. It’s kind of a win-win for us and them,” said Houck. “I don’t think they’ve been granted the opportunity to get questions like this answered. ‘Where do people in our community need to get to for work?
“Where do they need to get to for their healthcare needs? Where would they like to get to for their recreational needs?’”
Houck said the survey could go out with the tax bill and Town newsletter, but may be sent separately.
“Now they’re engaged and we need to keep them engaged throughout the rest of the process,” she added of residents.
Data from participating residents will continue to be collected, with the Town sharing that information with other entities such as DART, DelDOT, DNREC and Sussex County.
“We’ve already engaged with them to discuss what they think their issues are in this area. We’re trying to align what we’re hearing are concerns so hopefully we can check off boxes together to make improvements,” said Houck.
The public will be kept in the loop throughout the process with more public outreach opportunities in the future.
“As we go through, we’ll be continually updating council on the process and the first thing will be an update on our workshop at the May 14 council meeting,” said Cimino.
There will also be a presence at Town sponsored events in the park.
“At some point in time we also want to engage people who don’t live here. We want to understand why are they here, what’s attracting them, what’s bringing them over the line, so to speak,” said Houck.
While the Town is in the beginning stages of updating the plan, staff said they are excited for the process and what it means for the Town’s future.
“I think in general right now in Ocean View, there’s a real positive energy. I hope other people can sense that — our residents and neighbors,” said Oliver. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
For more information on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan update and future community engagement opportunities, visit www.oceanviewde.com or call (302) 539-9797.
By Maria Counts