Selbyville grants exception for Sandy Branch

Selbyville Town Council members voted unanimously May 2 to grant an exemption to the Sandy Branch subdivision that would give the community additional flexibility for the location of its front setbacks.

The exemption was granted under town ordinances allowing exemptions for unusual conditions — specifically the meandering location of the namesake Sandy Branch on the outer, rear boundary of the lots, and the drop-off in topography on its banks.

The town’s Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) had recommended the exemption for all lots in the development, noting that due to an existing “roll curb” and 10-foot grassy area between the street and current property lines, it wouldn’t affect the size of the lots. Rather, it would allow builders to place the homes closer to the front setbacks, resulting in slightly smaller front yards but more expansive (and usable) back yards.

The council, meanwhile, deferred action on the request of James and Chris White to annex their property into the town, on the grounds that town annexation procedures simply didn’t allow it at this time. The Whites’ property is not contiguous with current town boundaries, something that is required for any property to be annexed into the town.

Mayor Clifton Murray noted that the town could bring the property in under a different procedure, but Clarence “Bud” Tingle Jr. said he felt the property would become contiguous with town boundaries in the future, thus making it eligible for annexation. “It’s a matter of time,” Tingle said.

Council members also elected to hold off on making a decision on a request to provide a street entrance to two parcels on Long Street. The other parcels in the original group of lots had been sold off over the years, council members said, leaving the two narrow rear parcels landlocked.

Town Manager Gary Taylor said the council could consider selling part of the paper (un-built) Long Street to the owner of the two properties to provide access. Councilman Richard A. Duncan Sr. said the town could further consider blacktopping the remainder of the road or require it as part of a sale. But no recommendation had been made by P&Z.

Duncan noted that he believed there was a manhole located on or near the two properties, along the street area, as a dead-end to the town’s sewer system, and council members said they wanted to get a better look at the location and any infrastructure there upon before making a decision.

Responding to an inquiry from property owners, council members, Taylor and water engineer Chuck Hauser of Davis, Bowen and Friedel (DBF) reported that there remain approximately 100 property owners who had not yet responded to the town’s survey on expanding its water service area.

The survey was sent as part of the standard process of certifying the town’s service area, with an eye toward possibly expanding the service zone to include some or all of the surveyed properties.

Thus far, Hauser said, response had largely been positive, with a number of owners of larger parcels favoring service to their properties. But he said he was uncomfortable with moving forward with anything until more responses had been received, since the remaining parcels still amounted to a significant portion of the total area surveyed.

Property owners who have not yet responded to the survey are encouraged to reply so the process can move forward. But town officials noted that they have not yet committed to an expansion of service, even if response is favorable. That will depend on project design and cost analyses that will be done using the information from the survey.

Duncan also noted that the town was observing Safe Drinking Water Week, with emphasis that the town’s water system meets all state and federal guidelines for safe drinking water.

The question of service area for the town’s water system was further resolved in recent weeks, thanks to a meeting between Duncan, Hauser and representatives of Artesian water supply company. Four properties had been listed on both the town’s service area and on Artisan’s, thanks to a mapping error.

Duncan said the parties had agreed that Artesian would relinquish its rights of service to the town, for the four properties, with the assurance that if the town elected not to provide service in the future or was unable to do so, Artesian would regain the right to serve them. The town is currently waiting on a written agreement to that effect.

Hauser also reported that the town was looking to drill a series of test wells in the proposed water service expansion area. Funding for the test wells has already been allotted, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The goal of the test well drilling would be to determine whether the town can find an additional source of good quality water. If so, the town could be looking at constructing a second water plant to handle that water or an even larger plant to take over all existing water sources, with the existing plant as a backup.

Hauser said the town was currently looking for sites for the test wells, with Councilman Jay Murray saying that he might consider using already planned wells on the Bunting & Murray property in the area as one of the test sites.

Councilman G. Frank Smith reported that solids from the town’s sewer plant had recently been removed, amounting to approximately 900,000 gallons. “That’s a lot of sludge,” he acknowledged in making the report.

Smith also announced his decision about fines to Mountaire Corp. regarding the poultry plant’s violation of sewage limits in January and February. Smith said he had reviewed how the determination of violation and previous fine had been handled in the past, and said he had decided to recommend fines be assessed.

With 23 violations recorded in January and two more in February, he recommended fines of $1,000 per violation, $25,000 total. Council members unanimously agreed to the recommended fines.

Work on the town’s sewer system continues, with the pumps working at reduced capacity. Work at the main station is mostly completed, with additional work needed on a bypass to switch the system from the old force main to the new one. Hauser said the project was currently held up while waiting on equipment, with the Church Street station out of service for the next couple months.

The first of two segments of the planned new station has gone out to bid, with the filtration portion still in the design phase and awaiting council authorization to proceed with bidding. Smith noted a cost of $10,000 per month to the town while the project awaits completion, and at least six months’ lead time needed to order a replacement part needed for the project.

Taylor, as part of his administrative report, reminded council members and those in attendance of the planned Spring Cleanup Day, set for Saturday, May 7. Three refuse trucks will run through the town that day, to pick up large items, including used appliances.

Old Timer’s Day is on schedule for June 18, according to Taylor. The new car show feature is also taking off, with 75 entries already placed, he said. That includes a number of antique tractors, motorcycles and the Harley Davidson showcase truck. Crafters are still calling in to register for the event, he said, while a number of food vendors have also been signed up.

A 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting for the town’s new railroad museum is also planned for that day, with 10 a.m. as the opening time for the event. The Southern Delaware School of the Arts’ steel drum band is set to be among the entertainers for Old Timer’s Day.

Taylor said the town’s highway beautification project is nearly finished, though he said it would take years for all of the various aspects to become obvious. He said the town had received complimentary calls from the mayors of Frankford and Fenwick Island regarding the project.

He noted that two medians that would have been included in the project had been planted with wildflowers by the state on either end, limiting what the town could do with the center areas of those medians. The town’s plantings in those areas will be limited with ornamental grasses, as a no-maintenance option.

Taylor reported progress on three development projects in the town. Sandy Branch, he said, was “charging forward” with the fewest problems of the three. He said it was being well maintained with two homes already housing residents. Victoria Forest, Taylor said, was also proceeding, with sales going well and seven homes already built.

In contrast, he said Buckley’s Estates was at a standstill, with no construction activity having taken place recently and the developer having missed the last meeting scheduled with the town. Taylor said he had received a call from the bank financing the project, with assurances that funding remained available.

Hauser reported that blacktopping projects in the town were on track, despite a pre-construction meeting being rescheduled last week. The project is set to mobilize after the rescheduled May 12 meeting, with everything on schedule to be completed by the end of June, Hauser said.

Council members also voted unanimously at the May 2 meeting to renew the town’s contract with its existing auditing company. Taylor said he estimated the contract would include an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 in additional fees. Those additional fees will go toward bringing the town up to new government accounting standards that will go into effect in its books for the coming fiscal year.

Taylor said the changes were aimed at making municipal books easier for bond buyers to deal with, by making them compliant with existing standards for business accounting. Taylor said he had already warned the auditing firm that the town would be doing much of the “leg work” involved in the transition, to minimize the additional costs to the town, perhaps to as little as $3,000.

Council members said they felt the existing firm had done a good job for the town and Taylor emphasized that the only option for them to consider was shopping the audit work to other firms, since the change to the new system is mandatory.

Taylor also mentioned during the meeting that work at the Pop Warner field in the town had hit a snag, with existing fence posts bulldozed over rather than being preserved or removed intact. New posts will have to be driven to replace the fence he said, bringing up the idea that the town and/or local business might help the league with that task.

Selbyville police reported 114 complaints in the month of April, with 162 traffic tickets issued and approximately $5,000 in fines assessed. Chief W. Scott Collins said the town would be participating in a county-wide task force for Cinqo de Mayo (May 5), while “Click It or Ticket” check-stations were to be set up in and around the town during the week of May 16 to May 21, as part of a state-wide effort.

Collins also advised that with children increasingly out of school and at play around the town, residents close their garage doors at night and keep all bicycles and other valuables inside after dark. He further recommended cars be kept locked at night to avoid problems with “kids playing.”

The town’s efforts to eliminate overnight parking on some roads has been considered a success, with Collins reporting only two or three repeat offenders as of May 2 and plans to switch from warning the offending car owners to issuing real ticket set to begin that very night.

Representatives of Mountaire took the opportunity to thank Collins for his personal quick response to a recent medical emergency at the facility. They also thanked local fire departments for a quick response to a fire on a conveyor at the plant the previous evening.

Finally, Collins reported that his department had received an equipment grant equivalent to approximately $6,500 for two automatic external defibrillator units that will fully equip each of the town’s police cars with the medical devices.