The Millville Town Council received a report on its comprehensive plan at its Tuesday, June 11 meeting — one of the final steps in the process of updating the plan, which is a blueprint for development for the town. State law requires towns to update their comprehensive plans every 10 years.
The update was presented by Debbie Pfeil of KCI Technologies, who said the Town had received mostly positive feedback on its plan from state agencies that had reviewed it.
Those state agencies met on April 24 regarding their feedback on the plan, Pfeil said. Two issues were raised, one highlighting the difficulty of predicting population changes. The state pointed to two predictions included in Millville’s plan — one by the American Communities Survey, which predicted a population of 1,709 within five years, and one by Delaware Population Consortium, predicting 1,012 residents for Millville by 2050.
The American Communities Survey, Pfeil said, is a “census track.” She said the Town needs to either pick one of the predictions or come up with their own number. “I never recommend coming up with your own number,” she advised.
“It’s very hard to validate how fast you’re growing and where you’re growing,” Pfeil said. “You have a lot of site plans, you have a lot of development happening, so that number could be higher or lower,” she said. “We could have another development coming up with 1,000 people.”
Pfeil said she will meet with state planning officials to come up with a population projection that will best indicate Millville’s future growth.
The second issue is a state requirement that municipalities address affordable housing needs — which was not a requirement when the Town started its comprehensive plan update process. Pfeil told the council they can address that issue through ordinance changes, although the Town must have a statement regarding affordable housing in its comprehensive plan.
State planners also recommended that Millville coordinate development along Route 26 with its neighbor, Ocean View.
Pfeil also said state officials said they felt the Town’s 35 action items included in the plan were too many, because it’s unclear “When are you going to do them? How are you going to do them?” She added that her response to the State is, “When are you going to fund it?”
She suggested that when the Town finalizes its budget each year, it should look at the comprehensive plan anew and ask itself “What can we afford to do in this next year?”
State officials want the Town to identify three to five projects it wants to move forward on in the next two years, Pfeil said.
While Millville Mayor Robert Gordon said he was “disappointed” with the number of concerns expressed by state officials, Pfeil said regarding the officials’ comments, “That’s probably the smallest [number] I’ve seen. I’ve seen up to 50 pages” of state comments on comprehensive plans submitted by other towns, she said.
The next step for the comprehensive plan, Pfeil said, is updating the plan with changes mentioned in her June 11 presentation.
“I do feel that they’re minor,” she said. Since public comments closed that same day, and because Pfeil said she didn’t want to “put the Town in a corner” regarding any changes built into the plan, the changes will intentionally be neutral.
Pfeil said the final steps in the process involve approval by the governor. Final adoption of the plan by the town council will probably be possible in August, she said. After adoption, the Town then has 18 months to update its zoning code to bring it into compliance with the updated comprehensive plan.
In other business at the June 11 meeting, the town council approved unanimously a change to its charter that will allow the Town to collect a lodging tax of up to 3 percent, in addition to any state lodging tax, for rooms in a hotel, motel or “tourist home” — which means a bed-and-breakfast type business.
Town Solicitor Seth Thompson said there were no such businesses in town, but Council Member Sharon Brienza chuckled and said, “I can tell you — we have them.”
The next council meeting will be a workshop meeting on Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m., which is a one-time change from the normal 7 p.m. start time.
By Kerin Magill