Ocean View designs business district

The Ocean View Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission has started work on what will eventually become a design template for the newly rezoned business district along Route 26.

The P&Z met on Sept. 15 to hash out some of the details. Kyle Gulbronson (URS), Ocean View’s planning consultant, opened with suggestions for a comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, system of sidewalks.

As Gulbronson pointed out, the town would have sidewalks one way or another — whether the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) built them as part of (delayed) improvements along Route 26, or whether the town required individual property owners to build them.

However, as Commission Member Joe Evans pointed out, property owners along Route 26 might not know what they wanted to do with their land, yet. “If you don’t know how many entrances you’re going to have, why would you lay (sidewalks) down if you’d just have to tear them up again to put in a driveway,” Evans asked.

Gulbronson agreed it was a problem, but suggested an intermittent sidewalk system was something no resident would want to see.

Commission Member Perry Mitchell brought up the issue of streetlamps — did the town want the standard issue, or something a little nicer? Commission Chair Dick Logue suggested this, too, would best be coordinated with DelDOT. Pending consensus, the town could pay the difference between standard and fancy, he said.

Gulbronson said towns typically set a standard, but with some room for variation – a choice of four different models, perhaps.

Logue shifted gears, suggesting the commission focus on what existed along Route 26 presently, and what the town could expect to see there in the future. “Sure, you might have a nice Victorian sitting there, but it gets termites and the owners tear it down — we need to look at standards for what comes in next,” he said.

Gulbronson recommended some design standards — pitched versus flat roofs, or a requirement that any wall longer than 50 feet feature some type of articulation (a bump-our or alcove, for instance).

For additions to existing buildings, he recommended a 50-percent expansion as a threshold for adaptation of the new design standards.

Town Manager Kathy Roth brought up the issue of residential uses along Route 26. While the town has rezoned everything along Route 26 as General Business (GB), GB grants by right anything permitted in the Residential (R) districts as well.

“We don’t want the back of people’s houses toward the road,” Roth noted, suggesting a requirement those homes either face the road, or lay sidelong.

Gulbronson recommended everything face the road, and whether single-family homes, townhouses or businesses, and suggested the town might want to consider requiring a consistent theme (everything appearing residential, for instance).

Logue asked him to what extend the town could legally require builders use certain materials, and Gulbronson said there were different opinions on the subject. “Elements that are easily incorporated, and add value to both the property and the town, usually stand up,” he said. “Where you require specific architectural features, you run into problems. The way to phrase it is, “if you have an expanse of roofline greater than 70 feet, you have to have some kind of feature.’ Don’t say, ‘You have to have a dormer.’”

Commission Member Garland Saville broached stormwater management. “If we’re going lot by lot with drainage — I don’t think we want a bunch of ponds in everybody’s front yard,” he said.

Others voiced agreement, but Logue suggested forcing them into backyards could impact the tree buffer between the GB district and adjacent residential neighborhoods. This brought up another issue – the town had a 30-foot requirement for commercial uses, but if property owners built townhouses along Route 26, they’d only need to plant/maintain a 15-foot landscaped buffer between their projects and outlying single-family homes.

There was a conflict in height restrictions as well – Ocean View permits 35-foot buildings in residential districts, but 42-foot buildings in commercial.

Logue recommended the commission make the alignment of these disparities top priority, and staff is currently working up draft ordinances for council’s consideration.