Millville council passes new ‘clean hands’ ordinance

Millville Town Council passed a “clean hands” ordinance at its Tuesday, Nov. 12 meeting — and it has nothing to do with hand sanitizer or washing hands before returning to work.

The ordinance addresses situations where a developer or a homeowner seeks an approval from the town but has unfulfilled responsibilities regarding previous projects in the town.

“It gives us more leverage,” Town Manager Deborah Botchie said, in cases where a developer or property owner is seeking an approval from the town, but owes the town for an escrow agreement for a past project.

The town already has an ordinance that covers unpaid fees, according to town attorney Seth Thompson.

“…If a developer comes into the town and asks for the town to review a subdivision plan, there are escrow requirements because that’s going to incur engineering fees on the town’s behalf,” Thompson said.

If that developer chooses not to replenish that escrow, Thompson said, and “walks into town with another application, they shouldn’t expect the town to act on that application.”

The ordinance also holds developers responsible for emergency repairs to streets, curbs and sidewalks.

Thompson said that although the town doesn’t currently get involved in streets and sidewalks, it could in the future and this ordinance would cover that.

In addition, if a developer has not complied with a state or county requirement, Thompson said, such as a stormwater management issue, they won’t be issued a town permit until that issue is resolved.

“So, it’s a little bit broader than what we have now, which is essentially license fees and applications,” Thompson said.

“It’s something that’s needed…with all the building that’s going on in the town, and the future building, to keep everyone in check — contractors, developers, homeowners — everyone that would owe the town outstanding fees,” council member Ronald Belinko said.

Thompson said “in my experience, the dollar sign that gets the largest is the developer’s last project…they get their final approval, and then the town sends the engineering bill, or legal bill and it’s like ‘well, we don’t need you anymore.’ ”

Council member Barbara Dyer, who lives in the Barrington Park subdivision, said she is glad to see the ordinance because she feels it will make developers keep their promises to homeowners regarding completion of amenities.

She said her homeowners association didn’t have an agreement with the developer covering such things and “we’re stuck as a community, to pay for irrigation, plantings, the whole gamut and it’s quite a lot of money.”

“This is going to help the residents of the town of Millville very well,” Mayor Steve Maneri said.

In other business, the council approved a final amenity site plan submitted by George, Miles & Buhr, L.L.C. on behalf of Beazer Homes, for Bishop’s Landing. The final plan deletes planned dumpsters from Phase 5 of the community and adds a tot lot near the pool in Phase 4.

The Town Council workshop scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26 has been canceled due to the Thanksgiving holiday.