Millville’s Planning & Zoning Commission, at its Thursday, May 24, meeting, heard about the concept site plan for a 216-unit apartment complex and a 220,000-square-foot assisted-living facility next to Beebe Healthcare’s South Coastal campus, which is currently under construction on Route 17.
The plans were presented by developer Preston Schell, president of Ocean Atlantic Companies, along with a representative of Davis, Bowen & Friedel, which has drawn up the initial concept plans for the dual projects.
There was no vote on the plans on May 24, since they are neither “preliminary” nor “final” site plans at this point. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plans as they come back to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and again if and when they are passed on to the Town Council for its consideration.
The proposed site is a 32.75-acre tract, currently zoned Master Planned Community, adjacent to the location of the Beebe Healthcare campus near the intersection of Route 17 with Powell Farm Road.
The proposed apartments would range from 600-square-foot one-bedroom units to 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom units, according to the plans presented to the planning commission.
The concept calls for the apartment buildings to be oriented around a pond. Proposed amenities include a clubhouse, tot lot and dog park, as well as an outdoor pool and “grill stations” in a patio-lounge setting.
The assisted-living facility would be adjacent to the apartments and will include in-house physical therapy, as well as some medical services. In addition, there would be amenities such as an on-site hair salon. The facility would provide residence to 170 people, according to Schell.
One entrance from Route 17 would lead to both the apartments and the assisted-living facility.
At the end of a PowerPoint presentation on the projects, the developers took question and suggestions from the commission. Commissioner Cathy Schenk suggested the developers consider setting aside “family suites” within the complex for families from out of town visiting residents of the assisted-living facility.
“I agree with you,” said Schell, assuring the commissioners that his company is planning to build a high-quality facility. “My mother would live in this complex,” he said.
One potential wrinkle in Ocean Atlantic’s proposal came when Town Engineer Andrew Lyons told the developers they would be required by current town regulations to construct 12-foot-wide sidewalks in the complex.
“Because these development standards were developed back in 2014, when the Master Plan was still considering the downtown area across the street from you (in Millville By the Sea) … now things are changing,” said Town Manager Debbie Botchie. The planned “downtown area” in Millville By the Sea “is not going to happen,” Botchie said.
“In the [Town’s] development standards, council does have flexibility,” Botchie said. She suggested that the developer come before the Town Council and ask for the sidewalk width requirement to be waived.
Lyons said he was not sure how setbacks and sidewalk requirements would come into play with the assisted-living facility. Fire code issues and setback issues set up a potential design conflict, Schell said.
“Just for purposes of clarity, if either of those are not waived, we will not be pursuing this project,” Schell said of the sidewalk width and setback requirements.
Lyons said “there is a little bit of flexibility” in the Town’s current regulations and that he wanted to let the developers know now so there is time to work the issues out before the project comes back before the Town.
Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Pat Plocek suggested that Ocean Atlantic “sit down with the Town, go through all these items that need to be adjusted or waived, bring back an item to this committee … that way you can go forward instead of piecemealing these items as you come up to them in your design. I’m sure you don’t want to get 50 percent through your design and find out you’ve got to change something,” Plocek said.
“The other option,” Lyons said, “is to update the design standards.”
“That makes more sense,” said Schell, who called it a “cleaner” option for all parties involved.
Botchie said the issues brought up during the meeting “are not the only issues we have seen” with design standards that were approved when Millville By the Sea was first being developed.
Commissioner Marshall Gevinson said he is concerned about traffic the project would generate.
“It seems to me [Route] 17 would be jammed up,” Plocek said, noting that traffic impact studies for the area are “way over 10 years old.”
Botchie said density has actually decreased for the area because of reductions in plans for Millville By the Sea since the last traffic studies.
When the project goes to public hearing, Plocek said, “Traffic is going to be a key issue. … I would get all your ducks in a row,” he advised.
Botchie said she will be meeting with DART officials “very soon” to discuss public transportation issues in the area.
“It’s a very needed service here,” she said.
Schell said he could make land available within the proposed project for a future bus stop.
By Kerin Magill