Selbyville considers easement for sewers

Selbyville officials are debating the potential need to take an additional easement from some property owners to complete work for new sewer mains in the town.
Currently, the town has an easement in the Polly Branch Road area from the center line of the roadway to 15 feet on either side. But sewer officials are currently surveying the location of existing sewer pipe in the area, with indications that it is on the very edge of the existing easement, and that’s a potential problem.

It leaves the town with two choices: 1) lay the new pipe at the very edge of the road, possibly losing road surface and increasing the impact on the road and traffic during the work; or 2) lay the new pipe some 5 feet outside the existing pipe, requiring an additional 10 feet of easement for the work.

Taking the extra easement would also decrease the likelihood of destabilizing the existing pipe in the process of installing the new main, officials said.

The new easement would extend to 25 feet from the center line of the roadway, which is within existing setbacks. The existing pipe is generally 6 feet from the edge of the roadway, with the new pipe to potentially be laid 10 to 11 feet from the road.

If the town decides to take the easement, it would still be well inside the state’s standard 50-foot right-of-way for state roads, but there is a small question of just exactly where the road and pipe lie within the existing easements and setbacks. Often, officials explained, the road meanders through a given area, creating some variation in how close easements and setbacks are followed.

The only option to precisely locate the elements is a full survey, which is not currently budgeted for the sewer main project and would require shutting the work down in the near future to re-evaluate funding and other related issues. It would also add an estimated four to six weeks to the anticipated completion time.

That’s a situation sewer officials are trying to avoid by asking for the additional easement with room for some flexibility within those additional 10 feet.

While the new easement would still be within setbacks that limit building and development, the chief concern for Town Council Member G. Frank Smith was the impact the change might have on farms neighboring the area.

The proximity of the roadway and pipes already reduces the plowable area by some feet, and Smith expressed consternation that the farmers would have their planting area further reduced. He said he also hoped that some kind of assurance could be made to the farmers that they would not be held liable if normal planting activities — such as plowing — were to damage nearby pipes.

Sewer officials assured Smith that in cases when farming fields bordered the pipes, they could be buried up to 4 feet deep, as opposed to the normal 3.5 feet deep, providing minimal risk of their being impacted by any normal farming activity and allowing intentional deep digging as the only real risk. (Property owners are required to call Ms. Utility to have utility locations marked before digging for other purposes.)

Town officials will need to make a final determination in the near future as to the easement idea versus shutting down the project for a full survey. It was suggested that a site visit would serve them in making that decision, with full visuals presented in person.

Town Council members voted unanimously March 7 to approve a number of requests for property annexation and subdivision. (Clarence Tingle Jr. was absent from the meeting.)

• The Bayless property, which fronts on Route 17/Roxana Road was approved for subdivision, from a single lot into two 1.3-acre lots. Council Member Jay Murray noted that the lots were well within the town’s requirements.
• The 9.18-acre Tingle-Steele property on Polly Branch Road was approved for annexation into the town. Murray noted that the move opened up a number of adjacent properties to come into the town.
• The 6-acre Russell Evans property on Route 54 was approved for annexation, based on confirmation from the state planning coordinator that the town had completed requirements and the move had state approval.
• The 22-acre Lee Ann Tingle property on Polly Branch Road was also approved for annexation based on confirmation from other state planning coordinator.
The town’s Planning and Zoning Committee forwarded to council a recommendation that the town hire a consultant from engineering firm Davis, Bowen and Friedel to assist the town in developing a zoning overlay district for planned residential communities (PRCs).

Council members unanimously approved the recommendation, citing the importance of creating the ordinances for the district in a manner that would prevent mistakes and the need to repeat the exercise.

The council members also unanimously voted at the March 7 meeting to hire Debbie McCabe as the town’s secretary/treasure, with Sandra Gibbons hired as the assistant secretary/treasurer.

Council Member Richard Duncan reported on the town’s water department, citing another month of decreased water use in the town attributed to cold weather.

Duncan also noted that spring hydrant flushing is scheduled to start the week of March 13. Residents noticing discolored water during that period are encouraged to run their water until it is clear, he said. Flow testing on the system will begin once the flushing is complete.

Code enforcement officials reported 16 warnings given for abandoned vehicles during January, in response to what Mayor Clifton Murray called “an ongoing problem.” Officials also contacted businesses regarding the removal of banners that were ragged or left up too long per town ordinance. It was noted that an old well on Duke Street, deemed a hazard by the town, was filled. Murray noted that the bulk of enforcement efforts were not directed at repeat offenders, indicating attempts to comply with previous warnings and citations.

Jay Murray reported that 112 complaints and 119 tickets were issued by the town’s police department in January. Fines totaled $4,410.15.

With the town’s newly posted restrictions on cars parked on the street overnight, 10 warnings were issued during the month. McCabe and Duke streets were the most likely for violations, while town officials noted positive feedback on the parking enforcement, as well as a recent change to a one-way street. Enforcement with tickets is to begin for both changes in the coming weeks.

Police Chief W. Scott Collins characterized the police department’s month as “quiet,” prompting Jay Murray to comment, “Quiet is good.”

An update from the Pop Warner football league as to use of the town’s recreational field noted plans to re-level the ground, work on drainage swales and consider fencing to control rainwater. Work on the building on the property could begin in mid-April. Training is set to start in August, with the season to end in December.

Town Manager Gary Taylor noted that more than two dozen items had been donated to the town’s railroad museum. Those items had been cleaned up and labeled, and thank-you letters sent to their donors, he said.

Continued work on the museum, Taylor said, brings hope of additional donations or loans of artifacts from residents. The goal is currently to have the museum open in time for the mid-June Old Timers’ Day in the town.

Town Council members unanimously approved a request from the Lower Sussex Little League for the town to purchase a full-page advertisement in the group’s newspaper, to raise funds for the annual springtime jamboree. The cost of the ad is $125.

A previously scheduled kick-off meeting for the town’s Highway Beautification Committee had been cancelled in recent weeks, due to weather, but was rescheduled for early this week. The plan is for the committee’s work to start near the end of March, Taylor said. The town’s paving project is slated to start in April and be completed by June 30, he noted.

Council members also voted unanimously to continue the annual tradition of a spring clean-up day. While details may be changed in response to some problems in previous years, the tradition was deemed valuable and effective, and it was set to occur again in April. An estimated price for the hauling was to be obtained.

Taylor noted that the town’s trash hauler had recommended the pick-up period last only one or two days, while Clifton Murray put forward the idea of having the refuse picked up only from property owners’ yards, rather than collected at the town hall. He said he hoped such a change might eliminate problems with the town hall location and ensure all the refuse was coming from within the town.

The status of several properties not currently served by the town’s water system was still up for debate at the March 7 meeting. The question of whether at least four properties are to be served by Artesian water company versus the town has been debated at several points, and council members expressed consternation that the answer wasn’t yet concrete.

But town officials were advised to verify the status of those properties before proceeding any further in offering to expand the town’s water service.

An initial mailing on the topic has been completed, with the question of whether the affected property owners want to be serviced by the town’s water system. A second mailing would likely be needed as a next step, to provide individual property owners the ability to opt out, make suggestions or request a public hearing on the matter.

Water officials said they would endeavor to lock in a final answer on the status of the four properties.