Ocean View considers public works options

Ocean View Town Council members and staff spent the latter part of an Aug. 16 workshop studying the possibility of a Department of Public Works (DPW) facility on lands near the town hall — but they couldn’t seem to make it fit.

The town owns several contiguous parcels between Central and West avenues, but the large parcel north of town hall is deed restricted, and can only be used for parkland.

Town Manager Kathy Roth has been looking into the possibility of swapping those deed restrictions onto one of the other parcels. The people she’d spoken with at the state level seemed amenable, Roth added.

If council members could indeed exercise that option, they might be able to place the DPW building near the northern edge of the deed-restricted parklands (north of town hall).

Preliminary sketch plans showed the building on parcels of three sizes, but the trade-out option would free up little more than 15,000 square feet (which is the minimum size for a buildable lot).

Roth suggested they could fit the building on a lot that size, but it would be a squeeze.

Council considered shaving some land from the Shores property (next to the Cooper property) to make the difference, but Roth noted problems with that option.

For one thing, the house on that parcel is nonconforming (encroaches into the setbacks along Central Avenue), so the town can’t make any changes to the lot — for another, the lot is little more than minimum size.

The DPW, or Administrative Official/DPW Supervisor Charlie McMullen anyway, is currently using the 103-year-old Shores house for an office. The rest of the DPW crew typically huddled in the garage, he half-joked.

Roth suggested they could possibly get a little more room to maneuver by moving the proposed storage bins (for gravel, salt, sand, etc.) to another location, and sticking with the five-bay garage on the 15,000-square-foot lot.

However, strictly speaking, the town didn’t permit such storage bins except as an accessory use to a primary building, McMullen pointed out.

Roth offered another option, with some reluctance — sell the Shores property (which the town acquired three years ago) and start looking for a parcel somewhere else in town. “I hate to keep putting (McMullen) off, but maybe we need to keep looking at this until we can find a better place to put it,” she said.

The town discussed a few parcels currently on the market, especially looking southward. As Council Member Eric Magill noted, the town’s plans for future growth increasingly placed town hall and surrounds near the northern border.

However, Council Member Bill Wichmann made another point — based on his professional experience as a supervisor, it was best to keep operations centralized, he said. Things tended to go downhill fast with the supervisor’s office at one end of town and the garage at the other end of town.

In addition, one of the DPW’s primary responsibilities was for the upkeep of John West Park, so it made sense to keep operations close to that location, he said.

Eventually, council members decided to ask one of the local real estate agents to take a look at the property and give them some idea of what it might sell for.

In other business, council considered a completed bid package for drainage work around town, and a nearly-completed bid package for the new police station (slated for Central Avenue, near Bear Trap).

Mayor Gary Meredith introduced two ordinances, which will appear for first reading at the September council meeting (Sept. 6). The first would entitle part-time employees to holiday pay (Ocean View observes 12 official holidays a year), if those employees have worked for the town for more than 10 years.

The second would require applicants to turn in site plans by the 15th day of the month, prior to the month in which the meeting will be scheduled.

McMullen will review the plans “for completeness, and if complete,” pass them to the town’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) for their perusal in advance of said meeting.

Council also considered details associated with what will be a “request for proposal” for a pending property tax reassessment. The town will be negotiating a contract with qualified appraisers for that work in coming months.

And finally, Meredith reviewed a letter he’d received from Sussex County Administrator Bob Stickels, regarding the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT’s) recent budget problems, and a potential threat to local revenues — specifically, revenues from real estate transfer taxes.

As Roth reminded everyone, the annual Capital Transportation Program meeting was coming up again soon (Thursday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., DelDOT Administration Building in Georgetown, near the Department of Motor Vehicles). Stickels traditionally presents the county’s list of top transportation priorities at this meeting.