Shining a light on local crime: Selbyville approves new lights

Date Published: 
December 16, 2016

Things will be brightening up for the Bunting’s Mill housing development. After residents described the nearby Polly Branch Road as an “open-air drug market,” they asked the Selbyville Town Council for help and ideas to improve safety.

One month later, Delmarva Power studied the neighborhood and recommended seven additional streetlights, three of which have now been approved.

On Dec. 5, the council approved three new pole lights on Sierra Court and Crowning Court. They can be installed at no cost to the Town, since they’re already near electric transformers. Selbyville would only pay the monthly electric bill.

“Looking down the road, if you would allow us … to do the lighting plan first, this wouldn’t be a problem,” said Doug Hudson, a local resident who happens to work at Delmarva Power.

If more developers would do lighting plans before building, it would be much easier to install pole lights, Hudson said. But once roads and driveways are paved, Delmarva Power has to bore into the ground.

“There’s no cheap way around it,” Hudson said. “It costs $18.84 a foot after [development] for boring.”

Councilman Rick Duncan Sr. asked why developers aren’t installing sufficient lighting beforehand if Delmarva Power installs lights for free, and the Town or developer only pays to lay electric lines.

Usually developers do request lighting plans, but later cut out what they’re unwilling to pay, Hudson said.

When the council members suggested that the Town require lighting plans for new construction, Hudson warned that some homeowner associations sometimes ask to remove poles they can’t afford to light. However, at least the electric hook-up would still be available if they later wanted that light.

Delmarva Power also proposed four more lights, which would cost $13,386. Council members agreed to address that in their next budget cycle.

Drugs and Polly Branch

Local police have taken steps to block off a heroin hotspot on east Polly Branch Road. It’s a tricky spot because the property is just outside town limits (and the Selbyville Police Department’s jurisdiction), and the nearest Delaware State Police barracks is in Georgetown.

Heroin and opioids have been a challenge for every area police agency in recent years.

“There is not a neighborhood — I don’t care if it’s Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club or the smallest trailer park — that isn’t dealing with addiction or heroin,” said M/Cpl. Teryl Carlisle of DSP Troop 7 in Lewes. “Heroin doesn’t follow any racial demographic, age demographic.”

Heroin seems to be everywhere, he said, and much crime is heroin-related, such as burglaries.

He mentioned that the current trend in dealing with heroin is less prosecution and more treatment.

Generally, Polly Branch Road hasn’t changed in decades, but is actually calmer and less violent, Carlisle said.

But residents should always call the police if they see something suspicious or questionable. Crimes will be added to Delaware’s crime maps, so police know where to target future patrols.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Carlisle said.

While the hotspot on the road is outside of SPD jurisdiction, both ends of Polly Branch are in town limits, noted Selbyville Police Chief W. Scott Collins, so Selbyville police try to deter criminal activity by patrolling the street ends.

Meanwhile, they’re increasing business and road patrols to reduce shoplifting and DUIs this season.

Grants available for home repair

The Town of Selbyville will continue participating in a grant program that helps people keep their homes.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is available for low- to moderate-income residents who need home repairs. The most typical housing rehab projects cover doors, windows, electricity, plumbing and more.

The houses must be owner-occupied, not rental units, and the Town facilitates the application process through Sussex County.

“We’ve done a lot of work here in Selbyville in the past few years,” said Mike Jones of Sussex County’s Community Development Housing Office.

In 15 years, more 90 Selbyville homes have benefitted from more than $800,000 in projects, Jones said. The program is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. About $2.2 million of the federal HUD money is awarded to Kent and Sussex counties on a competitive basis, Jones said.

The grants are a free program for residents, not a loan. There’s never any money paid back (unless the residents move before associated the five- or 10-year lien expires).

The goal is to keep people in their own homes.

Mayor Clifton Murray agreed, “It’s been a very good program for Selbyville.”

The town council unanimously voted to continue participating. Grant applications for the current cycle are due Feb. 28.

Individuals can call (302) 855-7777 to learn more. The office is also online at www.sussexcountyde.gov/community-development-housing.

In other Selbyville news:

• Fire companies need more than pumper trucks nowadays, and the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company is eligible for grant money to purchase a new Kubota utility vehicle. The multi-terrain vehicle could carry a medical stretcher and emergency water.

The town council this week approved the Town acting as a third party to transfer money to purchase the vehicle from local legislators’ Community Transportation Fund to the SVFC, per grant regulations.

• The Town’s water report mirrored last month’s report: The new water treatment facility is on track to be completed by April.

Meanwhile, Town officials said they are happy that the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) count is still under the limit. But the Office of Drinking Water won’t consider Selbyville to be officially compliant until the one-year average is completely under the maximum.

• More flexibility may be coming to the Town’s Residential District. The council will host a public hearing at their Jan. 9 meeting to consider amending Zoning Ordinance 200-21 to expand the list of conditional uses permitted in the R-1 Residential District.

Currently, the code only allows conditional uses of customary home occupations or private swimming or tennis clubs. A new section would also allow “residential, neighborhood, commercial, business, office, or light industrial uses, when such use will benefit the neighborhood in which the use is placed and will not adversely affect the public health, safety or welfare of the citizens of the Town and when the purposes of this chapter are more fully met by issuing a conditional use permit.”

• The Town must begin preparing the 10-year update to its comprehensive plan. Previously Selbyville officials had agreed to hire the KCI planning company to help, provided KCI wins state grant money to fund the contract. Apparently, the grant was mislabeled, so KCI reworked the application, at no cost to the Town, to meet the new November deadline, said Town Administrator Stacey Long.

The council approved KCI’s recommendation to offer to contribute $500 toward the project cost, if the Town wins the grant. Council members decided it would “sweeten the pot” for a project they’ll have to do regardless, and this is the chance to win thousands of dollars in grant funds.

• A new quilting business will open on Church Street next to town hall. The council briefly discussed the parking options, saying customers could park behind the property or use municipal parking in town, including at town hall.

The Selbyville Town Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m.