Millsboro looks ahead to 2020 with growth and charm in mind
As they begin the new year, Millsboro officials are focusing on maintaining the town’s notable quaintness while keeping pace with brisk growth.
At the first town council meeting of 2020, a site plan was approved for Grotto Pizza to build a 212-seat restaurant with sports bar near Royal Farms on Route 113 south, set to open in the fall.
Meineke Car Care Center is interested in establishing a location in Millsboro and will submit a site plan to the Town in future months.
Jersey Mike’s sub shop is ready to launch in mid-January and, in 2019, new businesses coming in rapid succession included Starbucks, Plate & Palate restaurant, House of Modern Living, Taco Bell and Ashley Furniture Store. Plans were approved for Avid Hotel, Millsboro’s first, and the town’s quarterly newsletter welcomed The Landing Bar & Grille restaurant on Charlotte Boulevard.
“There are a lot of new retail offerings in town,” Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said.
“The overarching story is the story of a town with progress and growth. We’re certainly blessed. The national economy and our geographic location are certainly helping, and council and staff being proactive, working proactively, helps as well. Growth can be a reflection of progress. We hope this year will be a year for revitalization,” Hudson said.
Mayor Michelle Truitt, who was elected in July with the distinction of being only the second female to hold that office in the town’s history, is now in her first full year as mayor and taking a thoughtful approach.
“I don’t want to see Millsboro grow too large. We don’t want to lose that small-town feel and family atmosphere, so we have to make very wise decisions. We hope to adopt the comprehensive plan in May, and it will tell us if it’s possible to annex certain areas,” Truitt said.
On Jan. 22, she will host Millsboro’s first town hall-style meeting in recent memory.
“I’m thinking maybe we can have beverages, coffee or something, sit down and talk. I will make a list of everyone’s questions, and what I can’t answer, I will find out and get back to them. They might ask about the roads in town. I know that has been an issue. Most of our roads are state-maintained, and we have talked with DelDOT many times about certain projects,” she said, referring to the Delaware Department of Transportation.
“Our sidewalk project, you will see that get done. We are trying to do more with recycled water. We’ve been in touch with the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, DNREC, about having reclaimed water go out to farms, in hopes of expanding that program. With Town Hall and downtown revitalization, we are trying to improve downtown sidewalks and we are going to move Town Hall downtown. We should be doing more work on the library, making basic repairs. The Town will foot the bill for that,” Truitt explained.
Hudson said he’s pleased the marker erected at Cupola Park in the fall will continue to honor Nanticoke Indians in years to come.
“We worked with the Nanticoke Tribe on that, and it was nice to see the tribe getting more formal recognition. We want to continue our good working relationship with the tribe in the months and years ahead,” Hudson said.
“The Nanticoke history goes way back. Their contribution certainly was under-recognized, so we want to remedy that.”
Positioned in the triangular garden just inside Cupola Park in Millsboro, the sign, with gold letters on a blue background, informs readers, “In 1711, the Colony of Maryland authorized Colonel William Whittington to survey a tract of 1,000 acres near this location for a reservation for the Indian River Indians, who were remnant groups of the Assateague and Nanticoke Indians.
“The Indian River formed the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania at the time. Maryland deeded the land, known as Askekesky or Acksquessance, to Queen Weatomotonies and her son Robin for the reservation. William and Joshua Burton purchased the land in 1743. Descendants of the Indian River Indians became part of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe and continue to live along the Indian River and beyond.”
It was presented during a ceremony in October by Stephen Marz, director of the Historical Markers Program of the Delaware Public Archives, and Bonnie Hall, who conceived of the idea, as Chief Natosha Norwood Carmine and several others stood close, surrounded by an audience of about 50.
The marker, Marz said, will educate the public about the grounds.
Sterling Street, a Nanticoke Indian and curator of the Nanticoke Indian Museum, said the marker will “show the people who come through the town of Millsboro about our presence here and how our history affects the town.”
“It’s very nice that the Town is doing this, but it’s part of history. It’s an honor for us, but it’s an honor for the town, too. I think history is written in reverse. The people that are here are the ones that should be honored, because we let them be here. We thought about it for a long time and, in conjunction with the Town of Millsboro, we thought there are historical things about us in and around town that people should know,” he said.
Gates will swing open on the town’s first dog park this year, and there are plans during Phase II “to integrate interpretative elements onto that town land, making it a park with benches and interpretive elements,” Hudson said, referring to the rich Nanticoke heritage.
The Greater Millsboro Art League continues to be active as the new year begins.
Last year, the art league asked for financial help, since the building is in need of repairs, so the town council agreed to pay the monthly electric bill, averaging $150, and for propane, which costs $5,000 each year.
In doing so, the council was responding to Deb Doucette, art league director, who wanted the Town to waive the $550 monthly rent paid to the Town in exchange for upkeep on the building, at 203 Main Street.
She first made the request at the September town council meeting after reminding council members how many improvements the building needed — a new roof, re-hanging of a door, repairs to windows that don’t close and a ramp for the handicapped that meets legal requirements.
Hudson said paying for propane and electric would roughly equal the annual $6,600 annual rent paid to the Town.
As the new year began, art league supporters again addressed council members, reminding them of the growing interested in the organization and asking them to allow works of art to be displayed at town hall, a matter they will consider.
Meanwhile, Millsboro officials have talked to state Rep. Rich Collins about making a charter change to allow golf carts on town roads. At the Jan. 6 meeting, the council unanimously agreed to authorize the Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox to draft an ordinance concerning golf cart usage on public streets, for the purpose of initial review and discussion.
Residents of Plantation Lakes residential community, and at least two other communities in Millsboro, often use golf carts. When they are on town-owned roads, requirements must be met.
Hudson said he and Police Chief Brian Calloway had talked to Collins, asking him to “review the charter in such a way that golf carts would be permitted.”
“There was an issue of golf carts crossing the road and with house-to-house golf carts. Rep. Collins thinks a charter change is a more doable solution than trying to change it statewide. We’re trying to come up a game plan, with council’s consent,” Hudson said.
Hudson said Collins hoped to pre-file a bill before the Delaware legislative session convenes in mid-January.
Also in 2019, bulkhead repair work at Cupola Park was finished, and the town newsletter explained that most Main Street property owners had provided sign-offs needed for the sidewalk and paver project.
Millsboro officials entered into an agreement with the Delaware Department of Transportation that turned the West State Street sidewalk project into a more comprehensive transportation and infrastructure improvements project “intended to address issues involving paving and stormwater as well as pedestrian-related concerns.”
Millsboro officials have partnered with the retail recruitment firm Buxton, based in Texas. Buxton uses statistics to cross-tabulate data — using analytics, not just demographics — to determine for town officials what types of retail correlations are the best fits for burgeoning Millsboro as that all-important quaintness is preserved.
Former Mayor John Thoroughgood, during an interview with the Coastal Point a few months ago, said the Town of Berlin, Md., managed to retain its charm in the face of flourishing growth all around, and he has long admired Williamsburg, Va., for the same success.
Millsboro is attractive for many reasons, Thoroughgood said. It’s small enough for visitors to walk from one end to the other; and there are inviting restaurants, friendly residents and no charge for parking on the street.
“You don’t go corporate,” he said. “You keep it quaint. You just have to want to do it.”
By Susan Canfora