Ocean View looks ahead with comp plan, projects

It’s going to be a busy year for the little town of Ocean View, with its often bustling, mile-long main street and allure for those who want to live at the beach.

But with captivating characteristics comes a swelling population, more cyclists, walkers and heavy seasonal traffic — all leading to the need for better safety measures.

In September of 2019, the town council approved $35,000 in funding for a traffic safety project, undertaken by the Town’s Planning, Zoning & Development Department. Three months later, Ken Cimino, who directs that department, announced that an eye-catching crab logo, with the message “Arrive alive in DE,” will be used in Ocean View’s new bicycle and safety campaign, beginning in the spring.

The project, he explained at the time, would have three parts — studying and evaluating strategies and completing traffic counts, a comprehensive bicycle safety plan targeting Route 26, and investigation and implementation of strategies to address reckless driving through neighborhoods.

Cimino said the bicycle safety portion will be handled jointly by his office and the police department, and will involve outreach and education. Print and radio advertising, to raise awareness, will begin on April 3 this year and continue until Sept. 25, at a cost of $6,000.

In conjunction with the Delaware Department of Transportation, warning signs will be erected in town.

Cimino said that, as roads become more congested during the busy summer tourist season, rushing drivers cut through local streets and move too fast.

“Aggressive driving and disrespect call for measures to return our streets to safety, calm and livable environments,” Cimino said.

Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran called the matter “very serious stuff.”

“This involves accidents. Accidents involve people. Probably the most complaints we’ve gotten in the past couple years is about bicycle and traffic safety. … This Town is here to take care of its citizens and the people who visit here,” Curran said.

Also planned is streetscaping along Route 26, “to give people a reason to slow down,” Town Manager Carol Houck said.

“There has to be an atmosphere along our stretch that makes people want to stop and look, and understand you’re in a different kind of environment. You’re not on Route 1 anymore. We’re talking about, maybe, will we do lights, we will do planters, benches, all streetscaping. I am hoping to do a pilot and present that to the mayor and town council,” Houck told the Coastal Point.

“Now that I am officially a senior, I understand your reaction time doesn’t work as well as it did when you were 30 years old, but everybody’s got to pay attention,” Curran said.

“Some bikers think it’s somebody else’s responsibility to look out for them, and those are the ones who get hurt,” he said.

Ocean View Councilman Tom Maly said the town is “a great place to live.”

“People want to come here. The biggest problem in this area is going to be traffic. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is one of the biggest problems down here. It’s becoming a real problem, in Ocean View and in neighboring towns. There have been fatal pedestrian and biking accidents … so we need the people in our community to pay attention to safety rules and to use bicycle lanes,” Maly said.

Also this year, town leaders will finalize the update of the town’s comprehensive plan, a collective vision for growth and development that’s required to be updated every 10 years, as mandated by Delaware State Code.

The last version adopted by Ocean View officials was in 2010.

“The comprehensive plan helps municipalities efficiently utilize their resources and accomplish important tasks and goals we set. They are powerful tools to be used to leverage outside assistance,” Cimino said.

“Our vision is to keep the community quaint and small. We’re looking to construct more sidewalks, to make it a more walkable community, to preserve natural areas, historic resources and parks. We’re looking to encourage business along the Route 26 corridor, to increase events, increase community spaces and to transform the appearance along Route 26 — to make it more soft and inviting,” he said.

Long-time residents can rest assured the goal is to keep Ocean View “a nice little town,” Curran said.

“The focus is on assuring it stays that way,” he said.

Houck said updating the comprehensive plan has “provided the Town with valuable information, as well as input from numerous community engagement activities, all of which will assist with future decision making.”

It is expected to be finalized by March.

Overall, Curran said, 2019 ended well, with the town council “forging ahead in the right direction.”

“We had a few issues and needed to change them. We’ve streamlined the Town quite a bit in terms of operations and staffing. In that respect I’m very happy with 2019. I feel we were sort of coming out of the weeds into the sunshine, and now we are really on course with the staff and with some changes and how we operate, too,” Curran said.

“All of our capital issues, which were a really big headache before, are just day-to-day business now,” he said.

Houck, who marked one year in the top town administrative position on Jan. 7, said she is looking forward to the upcoming year.

“I’m very excited about it. I now have a better feel for the organization and the community. Last year provided the opportunity for me to begin to develop partnerships within the community and with Sussex County. Likewise, having a year under my belt will help us to fine-tune our budget process, which we’ve recently launched for FY21,” she said.

It’s been a rewarding year, she added, as she worked with Ocean View Historic Society, Boy Scout Troop 280 and local businesses.

“We’ve reached out to all these different groups, Parsons Farms and others, that said, ‘We want to support the community. We’re going to come to your events and we’re going to be there. We’re going to participate.’ It’s makes a difference,” she said.

Houck said there will be a “more focused budget process that allows our document to better mirror our organization.”

“We made a significant operational change in outsourcing most of our public-works duties this past year. The effort has been successful, but now we need our budget to reflect our new reality of working smarter and in the appropriate line items.

“This year, 2020, will likely see increased engagement within the community and, hopefully, with neighboring towns regarding transit and safety improvements. Working together, along with DelDOT, DART and our local representatives, we should be able to cohesively address the traffic and safety concerns expressed during our comprehensive plan outreach,” she said, referring to the Delaware Department of Transportation and Delaware Transit Corporation’s Delaware Area Regional Transit arm.

“I expect that we will continue to improve John West Park to ensure it remains a safe and welcoming destination for families, active adults and visitors. The park is the showplace for our community events, which enjoyed very favorable participation this past year. We plan to continue to focus on delivering quality and, whenever possible, unique experiences,” Houck said.

“The cleanliness, beautification, overall safety, bike and walkability of our community will ramp up this coming year, with several studies under way or planned for various areas within town. Our fine police department will continue its high level of community engagement and training, and we will continue to work on partnerships with our neighboring communities,” she said.

Growth will be along Route 26, where a few vacant parcels remain.

“We don’t have anything pending other than the miniature-golf course that has already made it through planning, but there are things that could be developed that mesh with the comprehensive plan. That is really the only growth area, because we’re kind of built-out.

“The key to what we’re going to be doing is making everything we already have the best that can be, and then carefully assisting any new properties that come up for development to adhere to the standards we have in our code that could be beneficial to long-term livability and quality of life that Ocean View residents seem to want,” she said.

Curran, Maly and Houck all said they are pleased residents and visitors attended and supported events in 2019, including the popular Cops & Goblins event in October and the debut of the Old Town Holiday Market & Tree Lighting at John West Park on Nov. 30. The holiday jubilee featured vendors, hot cider and coffee, pretzels, roasted chestnuts, cookies, ice cream, train rides through the adorned park and musical performances. Of course, Santa Claus was there, sitting on a big chair and welcoming little ones who whispered their wants.

“We are going to keep it to the same weekend this year. We got a lot of good feedback about having it Thanksgiving weekend, when people are here and with their families. We will tweak the hours a little bit after watching how people arrived, maybe an hour here or there,” Houck said.

Cops & Goblins will return, of course, as well as spring concerts and classic movies this summer.

“We got really good participation. We are going to continue with thinking outside the box and looking at bands. We had a lot of fun,” Houck said.

“As we begin the new year, I’m so thrilled with the engagement of the town staff. Everybody has been supportive of each other’s missions. I just feel very fortunate to be working with such a group of people,” she said about the Town staff of 22, including members of the police department.

All positions are currently filled, but there could be requests for new positions during the upcoming budget process.

“There seems to be a lot of work for everybody to do, but everybody is managing the workload well. We’ve made some changes. I enjoy coming to work. I absolutely plan to stay in Ocean View. I’m here as long as they want me here.

“It was a very rewarding year for me to be able to come in and hear the wishes of the mayor and council, and to be able to pull  off some of those things.

“It’s got to be a team. I can’t thrive in any other kind of atmosphere.”

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter