Millville adds leeway for private walkways to code

The Millville Town Council at its Feb. 11 meeting voted to approve amendments to the town code regarding private walkways, enacting a lodging tax and updating its rental receipt tax regulations.

Previously, homeowners wishing to install walkways in side yards connecting their front and back yards had to apply for special permission, at a cost of at least $750 for a hearing. In January, resident David Van Stone told the council he needed to install a walkway so his wife could more easily navigate their yard, but he felt the hearing process was unnecessarily cumbersome and costly.

Town officials agreed, and the council, through a change in zoning regulations, made room for such paths to be constructed with far less aggravation. The change was centered around the use of the phrase “private walkway” instead of “sidewalk” to describe the side-yard paths in the town code, allowing for a different set of regulations.

The new code amendment includes stipulations on the materials used, the width of the pathway and the setback required from neighboring property. The walkways must be no wider than 3 feet, must dead-end in the back, and must be constructed of individual pavers or a material that allows drainage — not concrete.

Millville Code Enforcement & Building Official Eric Evans said approvals of the walkways might take a bit longer than, say, a patio, because precise measurements will need to be taken before approval.

He also cautioned that homeowners might have to locate the walkway on the side of the home opposite their garage if the home’s HVAC installation is on the same side, because of side-yard setback requirements.

“You might not get exactly what you want, but you have the opportunity to get what you need,” Evans said.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve changes to its ordinance regarding licensing of rental properties. The changes are mostly administrative, moving the licensing requirements from the “taxation” section of the code to the “licenses” section. The ordinance change also incorporates new parking requirements in the code, stipulating that rental properties be limited to one parking space per bedroom.

Rental property owners must also provide the Town with a copy of the rental property’s lease agreement showing that limitation, which will also be required to be noted on the renters’ application.

Occupancy in rental properties will be limited to two persons per bedroom, plus two more people (who may be sleeping on sleep sofas or similar bedding arrangements).

There is also a requirement that there be no noise disturbances on the rental property.

“The issue with that … is we know that it’s going to be a little bit difficult to enforce,” Town Manager Deborah Botchie said. “We’re not allowed to go into properties unless there is a complaint.”

Botchie said that if a property owner applies for a rental license for three bedrooms and the town’s records show only two bedrooms “that’s a red flag” and the Town would be able to inspect the property.

She added that homeowners’ associations can also help enforce such regulations through limitations they set on rental properties.

Botchie said rental property owners, as well as HOAs, will be notified of the changes.

The council also voted at the same meeting to enable the Town to charge a 2 percent lodging tax on hotels, motels and tourist homes. That follows a charter change that would allow the Town to charge up to 3 percent tax for such businesses. As of now, there are no such lodging places within the town limits.

 

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter