Articles on this Page
- 11/09/17--14:24: _Oakwood Homes appli...
- 11/09/17--14:25: _Millsboro is spread...
- 11/09/17--14:30: _Route 113 overpasse...
- 11/09/17--14:32: _Frankford decides t...
- 11/09/17--14:34: _Oakley sentenced to...
- 11/16/17--09:59: _Community encourage...
- 11/16/17--10:09: _Flipping for Famili...
- 11/16/17--11:49: _FORGE offers young ...
- 11/16/17--12:23: _Route 54 residents ...
- 11/16/17--12:37: _Leaving IRSD? Bewar...
- 11/16/17--12:48: _Town approves site ...
- 11/16/17--12:52: _Freeman headquarter...
- 11/16/17--13:04: _Author discusses tr...
- 11/16/17--13:13: _Public comments bei...
- 11/16/17--13:24: _County discusses po...
- 11/16/17--13:26: _Sussex BoA set to v...
- 11/22/17--10:34: _Indians finish seco...
- 11/22/17--11:21: _Mountaire plans was...
- 11/22/17--11:24: _‘Elf’ showing to be...
- 11/22/17--11:35: _Tour to show artist...
- 11/09/17--14:24: Oakwood Homes applications deferred, again
- 11/09/17--14:25: Millsboro is spreading its wings with guidance from Hudson
- 11/09/17--14:30: Route 113 overpasses coming to central Sussex County
- 11/09/17--14:32: Frankford decides to seek DSP coverage
- 11/09/17--14:34: Oakley sentenced to six months in jail for embezzlement
- 11/16/17--09:59: Community encouraged to help provide Thanksgiving meal for thousands
- 11/16/17--10:09: Flipping for Families event to support Alana Rose Foundation
- 11/16/17--11:49: FORGE offers young adults a chance to Rewind their lives
- 11/16/17--12:23: Route 54 residents get insight into zoning process
- 11/16/17--12:37: Leaving IRSD? Beware of FFA student’s conundrum
- 11/16/17--12:48: Town approves site plan for section of Millville By the Sea
- 11/16/17--12:52: Freeman headquarters coming to Bear Trap Dunes
- 11/16/17--13:04: Author discusses transgender daughter
- 11/16/17--13:13: Public comments being accepted on anti-discrimination school regs
- 11/16/17--13:24: County discusses potential funding for planned sports complex
- 11/16/17--13:26: Sussex BoA set to vote on manufactured-home exception
- 11/22/17--10:34: Indians finish second in DIAA soccer championship
- 11/22/17--11:21: Mountaire plans wastewater overhaul
- 11/22/17--11:24: ‘Elf’ showing to benefit youth leadership
- 11/22/17--11:35: Tour to show artists at work, raise funds for schools
The Sussex County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to again defer their vote on a special-use exemption applications filed by Oakwood Homes.
The company is seeking two special-use exceptions to permit manufactured homes on two separate lots, each measuring less than .75 acres — one located on Hoot Owl Lane near Dagsboro and the other on Julie Court near Frankford.
The applications were first discussed at the board’s Oct. 3 meeting, where more than a dozen residents of Hoot Owl Lane attended to voice their opposition to the application.
At that time, Gil Fleming of Oakwood Homes said his company had been informed that the homes had been placed on undersized lots after the County had provided his company with two separate permits to place the manufactured homes.
At the Nov. 6 meeting, board member Bruce Mears said he was ready to make a vote on the application regarding the mobile home placed on Hoot Owl Lane.
“I’ll stand by my earlier comments that, it’s a mobile home in a housing community and it significantly impacts the homeowners’ values,” he said, adding the mobile home did not look like any of the other homes in the neighborhood.
Board Member E. Brent Workman said he was still unsure, as to what to do.
“They got the permit and everything else,” he said of Oakwood Homes. “The County messed up. He went off of that. I’m somewhere in between. I feel sorry for that guy, and I feel sorry for what he did…”
Chairman Dale. A. Callaway requested the board consider deferring the application for a third and final time, so the members could have additional time to consider the request.
Board Member Ellen Magee, who was not in attendance at the public hearing, but read through the record, said she felt confident to take a vote that evening.
“I think that even though an employee may have made an error, we have to go by this book that we’re given to go by. The applicant knows what they’re doing. They’re in the business and they know,” she said. “We have to go by the ordinances of the County.”
Board Member John Mills said he wasn’t sure if the board received “solid or firm” evidence that the mobile home would substantially affect diversely the values of neighboring properties.
“I was really disappointed that there wasn’t something hard copy. It was more of an opinion or what have you.”
Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp noted to the board that two opinions from appraisers were provided to them by one of the residents in the opposition of the application.
The board voted unanimously to defer their decision until its Monday, Nov. 20 meeting.
As for the Julie Court application, Mills again said he didn’t believe there was substantial evidence presented related to property values.
“In regards to the neighborhood, we didn’t see evidence submitted that demonstrated that it was not allowed,” added Workman, noting he did not see a noticeable difference between the surrounding homes and the mobile home in question.
Magee opined that that would not necessarily be an issue, as the permit given to Oakwood was not for the parcel on the special-use application.
“I believe what happened there is, the applicant owns two parcels, had a home on one parcel that was damaged in a fire and had come to the office to place a home on another lot. There was an error on the permit as to which parcel the home was to be on,” explained Sharp. “The fact that the home was given a permit for that perhaps in error, I don’t know if that’s relevant to the issue before you all. The issue before you all is whether that home will affect adversely the uses of neighboring and adjacent properties. That’s really the issue before you all today.”
Mears said he believed the testimony in opposition to the application was powerful.
“I heard two single ladies come in and express their concerns about their property value if a mobile home was placed adjacent to their property. That impacts my decision.”
There was question as to whether or not a mobile home was prohibited in the restrictive covenant. A copy of the covenant was supplied during the public hearing, supplied by the applicant. Staff said copies of the document would be made and given to the board for review.
The board voted unanimously again to defer their vote until the Nov. 20 meeting.
Location has always been one of Millsboro’s biggest assets.
Ideally situated a short drive from the Delaware beaches and just 20-30 minutes from Georgetown and Salisbury, the town has the highest growth rate of any municipality in inland Sussex County between 2000 and 2010. While much of that recent growth has been driven by retirees moving to the shore, a new demographic is also finding Millsboro attractive: young people.
Many of the same qualities that attract retirees to the area — lower home prices and crime rates, no sales tax, a slower pace of life — also attract young people. But good jobs, schools and lifestyle play a critical role when young people make decisions about where to settle down.
With good jobs throughout the mid-Atlantic region, Delaware has often seen its young people leave for a better future somewhere else. But having left himself, Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon P. Hudson knows returning to the area has its advantages, too.
Hudson grew up in Sussex County and is a graduate of the Indian River School District. He worked summer jobs at TCBY and Grotto and made his way to floor supervisor at the pizza giant. “That was pretty special for a 14- or 15-year-old kid. I learned an awful lot working at Grotto.”
He also worked in the family business in Ocean View. “I give my parents a lot of credit. My mom especially. They led by example. They were never above anything.”
Like many locals, Hudson went away to college, graduating from Indiana Wesleyan University with a degree in political science. He earned his master’s degree at Regents University.
Then he came home. “I saw a lot of my friends move away and not come back. It’s a privilege to come back. We want our young people to stay here or come back after college. We need them to come back.”
Upon his return to the area, Hudson served as the director of risk management and human resources generalist for Trinity Logistics of Seaford, senior fiscal and policy analyst in the State of Delaware Office of Management & Budget and an adjunct economics instructor at Delaware Tech in Georgetown. In August of 2016 he was named Millsboro’s town manager.
One area Hudson is focusing on is medical professionals. As retirees continue to move to Delaware, attracting younger, educated healthcare professionals is a critical need.
“Millsboro is in between all of these hospitals,” he said. “PRMC, Beebe, Nanticoke, Atlantic General. Milford is not that far. Delaware Technical Community College is right down the street. They have the new RN to BSN program. These are good jobs in healthcare. I believe Millsboro can be an employment hub over time. We’re perfectly located to address that need.”
Millsboro already has a strong employer base, including Merck, BJ’s and the Delmarva Health Pavilion. Others are following. Lewes Dairy, attracted by Millsboro’s central location in the county, will build a new distribution facility and ice cream parlor near the bowling alley. Royal Farms is coming to the area. Officials have recently broken ground on the new Chick-fil-A next to the Peninsula Crossing Shopping Center. The town hopes to lure Starbucks to the area as well. Both Chick-fil-A and Starbucks appeal to a younger, hipper clientele that often lead to other premier businesses following into the market.
The town is making other moves in hopes of attracting additional businesses to the area.
“We know Millsboro is going to see growth because of its geographic location,” Hudson said. “We don’t want sprawl. We want something we can be proud of with a good foundation. We’re looking for the right kind of growth.”
Recently the Town lowered impact fees by about 25 percent in an effort to encourage growth. According to the town’s website, the move will reduce a $2,629 building permit impact fee down to $500 per equivalent dwelling unit.
Hudson said the town is also considering other changes to zoning as well. “We are looking to modernize our code,” he said. We want to make it more attractive to developers.”
Hudson added the town hopes to incentivize downtown business owners to invest in improvements. In return, the town will make improvements to sidewalks and pavers. “Downtown needs some revitalization. I feel like the town has to lead to make these investments to encourage preserving these structures. There are a number of brick structures. They’re timeless. We’ve been talking about a historic district on Main Street.”
Hudson acknowledged this kind of partnership could be difficult to pull off. “A lot of these properties are leased or are rental properties. We need to find a way to inspire or to incentivize downtown business owners to invest in property improvements. It will take collaboration.”
Hudson noted the town has been successful in attracting both big retailers to the U.S. 113 corridor and keeping mom and pop businesses on Main Street. But jobs and development are just part of the equation. According to Hudson, affordable housing is another attraction for young people and families to consider. “It’s a lot less expensive than the resort area.” Hudson chuckled. He noted Plantation Lakes has moderately-priced housing and includes low maintenance townhomes that appeal to both retirees and busy young professionals.
He pointed to a strong school system, “the Indian River School District is a high-performing district and East Millsboro Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017.” According to the State’s website, the recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
While crime remains low, traffic can be a bear along the busy U.S. 113 corridor and at portions along Del. 24 leading through downtown and onto Main Street. Besides the traffic bottlenecks, state transportation records show there were over 300 accidents in town limits in 2016, more than half of which occurred at or near the U.S. 113 and Del. 24 intersection.
While Hudson acknowledged there wasn’t an immediate remedy on the horizon, the state continues to debate a bypass to move eastbound beach traffic north of town. It would include an overpass. A second phase would be designed to ease north-south congestion along U.S. 113 by adding a third lane. Even if the bypass is approved, officials estimate it’s seven to 10 years until completion.
Hudson and his wife, Kristan are raising their two children in the town of Millsboro.
“I love this area,” he explained. “Being born and raised here is a huge, built-in advantage. I feel like it’s taken 20 years where I can say this is the right fit for me. My goal is to make the town better. It’s really exciting and I think we are well-positioned for the future.”
Route 113 is getting a facelift unlike the immediate area has ever seen. To improve safety and congestion, Delaware Department of Transportation will replace stoplights with overpasses and ramps.
“We are basically converting the existing 113 over to a more controlled-access highway,” said Rob McCleary, a chief engineer. “There will be bridges, overpasses, ramps, that kind of thing,” with 14 grade-separated intersections in 17 project locations, from northern Millsboro to Ellendale. The project would also reportedly ease beach-bound traffic with a 2.75-mile North Millsboro bypass connecting Route 113, north of town, to Route 24, east of town.
“This is probably the next biggest thing, other than [building a new Route] 301, that we’re about to launch,” DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan said of the Route 113 North/South project.
This will increase traffic capacity, which can improve quality of life and economic development for the region, said Gov. John Carney.
“We’d be removing some signals, so you still accommodate all the movements people can still make … but they won’t be doing it at a signal, they’d be doing it at an overpass with ramps,” said Project Manager Bryan Behrens. “It’s safer because you kind have your own way with the ramp. You just have a direct connection, and you’re not waiting for a signal.”
Similar construction projects have already begun along Route 1, in northern Sussex and Kent counties.
“There is going to be some short-term pain for long-term gain … this is a long-term preservation plan,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan.
Construction projects will be scheduled over the next 20 years, which will impact traffic at every step. Some people will also lose property to this project. They will be compensated.
After considering hundreds of plans, DelDOT found public consensus with these on-alignment projects.
State Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. (R-20) remembered the unpopularity of the “Blue Route,” a pricey 16.5-mile bypass that DelDOT originally favored around Millsboro, Dagsboro and Frankford. He commended DelDOT for listening to the public.
After around 15 years of brainstorming and heading back to the drawing board, DelDOT staff are excited to officially design and build the project. They’re finally allowed to do this with public support and completed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental reports.
“It’s an exciting time. We’re just extremely motived and exited to deliver this to the people of Sussex County,” Behrens said.
“It occurs to me … if you live long enough, you get to see some of these projects actually get done,” Carney joked.
“Now that we have this on paper, out towns can start making plans around that,” said State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-19), “rather than maybe approving plans that may be taken out in five years.”
“There will be some people who we feel will be hurt … I would urge everyone to understand that at some point we’re going to hit a true crisis. We have to plan for the long range, and I think this does that job,” said State Rep. Rich Collins (R-41), who also encouraged legislators to keep watch over project, ensure residents’ needs take precedence over tourists’.
“It’s not [all tourists]. It’s commercial. It’s our industry, and it’s our people that need to move around,” said State Rep. Ruth Briggs King (R-37). “I hope I’m able to drive it when it’s all complete in 20 years. If not, I’ll have an automatous vehicle to help me go,” she joked. “We’re not building for today, we’re building for the future, and we were already behind, so this is great, I think.”
The federal government will likely contribute 80 percent of the $544 million estimate includes design, construction and right-of-way acquisition.
Public workshops will begin in early 2018. Construction may begin around 2022. Already in design are the intersections at Route 16 in Ellendale; Route 18/404 near Delaware Technical Community College; and Route 9 near Georgetown’s KFC and Taco Bell.
In the overall 113 North/South Study, Sussex Countians rejected significant projects in Milford and south of Millsboro, so DelDOT will consider those areas in the future.
The press conference was part of Carney’s Nov. 7 tour of statewide infrastructure projects, valuing over $1 billion in investment, including Lewes Transit Center, the South Frederica interchange project and Route 301 construction.
Carney thanked the Federal Highway Administration and DelDOT staff for their work and support up to this point.
Project details will be posted online at www.deldot.gov/information/projects/us113.
The Town of Frankford has been without constant police protection, following the unexpected resignation of its last Police Chief Mark Hudson on July 27.
Over the last few months, the Town was in talks with the Town of Dagsboro to unify police departments, however, Frankford council announced on Oct. 4 that it would “not pursue the merger.”
At its Nov. 6, regular council meeting, the council voted unanimously to seek police coverage from the Delaware State Police.
“To hire a new police chief to spend upward of 50 percent of his time doing administrative work and maybe half of his time doing actual police work, spending $90,000 on that, plus new police vehicles, plus liability insurance… To me doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said councilman Marty Presley.
“I agree. I’d like to have a town police force but we don’t have a budget for it,” added councilman Greg Welch, who wished the Town could’ve worked to unify their department with that of the Dagsboro Police Department. “It’s a shame we didn’t have the money to do it… Down the road, if we can grow, hopefully we can do something with Dagsboro in the future.”
Presley said the town would be starting off with the Delaware State Police giving the town 12 hours of police coverage per week. At the Town’s Oct. 17, special meeting, Presley estimated that 12-hours of coverage from DSP would cost the town $53,664, annually.
One attendee said the 12-hours would be in addition to the patrols DSP already have in the area, noting that additional hours would not be toward administrative duties.
“You get more bang for your buck with the state police than you would with your own police department.”
Council voted 4-0, with council woman Pam Davis absent, to begin contracting with DSP.
Council discusses need for town manager
Presley said the Town should look into getting the ball rolling on allowing the Town to hire a town manager.
“He’s got to be the number one cheerleader,” said Presley. “We need someone who is going to come in and sell this town and have a vision for this town that’s going to pay off 10 years down the road…
“I think the first step, if we want to do that, we have to get our charter changed, because it doesn’t allow for a town manager position.”
Welch said he believed the Charter would allow for a town manager.
Presley said the Town should request its solicitor review the Charter to make sure the change would be necessary, and make the request by January, when legislative session resumes.
Resident Liz Carpenter asked if council would consider a public meet-and-greet with the future candidates and the townspeople.
“I don’t see why that would be a problem,” said Presley.
He noted that the salary that would be required of someone in the position could range anywhere from $65,000 to $100,000.
“If we can’t pay for a police department, how are you going to pay for it?” asked Carpenter.
Presley said the Town could look into structuring the manager’s contract for a year or two, so that their continued employment would rely upon the position bringing in business, development and revenue into the town.
“If he doesn’t do the job of bringing in his salary, plus, then you get rid of him,” he said.
Carpenter asked where the council is in the employee handbook and performance evaluations. Presley said employee evaluations have been conducted.
Travis Martin, owner of Chesapeake Plumbing & Heating, said he would be willing to help the council any way he could. He noted that his company employs 150 people, and he uses the “top grading” methodology when it comes to hiring. He also said he would sit on the search committee.
In other Town news:
• Council thanked Travis Martin, owner of Chesapeake Plumbing & Heater for his monetary donation of $5,000 that would allow the town to purchase a 20-foot artificial Christmas tree. The tree will be placed in Frankford Town Park during the holiday season.
• Envision Frankford’s Christmas in the Park will be held on Nov. 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. The free event will begin with lighting the Town’s Christmas tree. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there in attendance to light the tree and kick off festivities, which include a light show, tasty treats and Christmas carols.
• Council thanked State Rep. Rich Collins for his help, along with the help of State Sen. Gerald Hocker, with paving the park’s new parking lot.
• Town Clerk Cheryl Lynch said she has been working with the town attorney to give property owners who are severely delinquent in paying their property taxes payment options.
• The town was able to auction off its 1947 Ford ambulance for a winning bid of $7,551.
Former Millville Volunteer Fire Company (MVFC) Treasurer Justin Oakley will serve six months in jail after stealing more than $190,000 from the organization in which he was a member.
“Mr. Oakley took an awful lot of money,” said Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley at the Nov. 3 sentencing. “There’s no doubt he took somewhere around $190,000 and there was a serious breach of trust. He took this money from people who trusted him, and the source of much of that money was the public itself. That is a terrible breach of trust. The people he took it from was his friends… He certainly betrayed that trust. That is very unfortunate.”
Oakley pled guilty on Sept. 20 this year to Theft Over $50,000. He was arrested in May of last year after he was charged with theft over $100,000 and 100 counts of falsifying business records of the department between 2012 and the early part of 2015. Last week he was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of home confinement, then one year of probation.
He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,181.88, which was done so on Friday following the sentencing.
During the sentencing, Oakley’s counselor, Christina B Kane, LPC testified that Oakley’s behavior was due to “mental health psychosis” due to his ex-wife taking their son to Poland (away from Oakley), compounded with another rift in the family. Kane also testified that Oakley was in an accident which resulted in severe head trauma, impacting the area of the brain that controls impulsivity. She also said he suffers from depression, severe post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
She noted that Oakley is motivated to get treatment, and has been attending counseling sessions weekly, as well as taking prescribed medications. He is currently living with his sister and parents, is employed full-time, and has a girlfriend.
Kane testified that she believes he is getting his life together and making “tremendous progress.” During her testimony, Oakley stood before Judge Bradley with his attorney, Lacey Holly III, and cried.
When he was stealing money from the volunteer fire department, she said, Oakley was acting impulsively, whereas now, “he is able to think before he acts.”
State attorney Dennis Kelleher asked Kane if he understands that it is wrong to steal, to which she replied that at the time of the theft, “No, he did not comprehend.”
Oakley joined the fire department in 1988 as a teenager, and served as its treasurer for five years. Holly said Oakley did not have a “remarkable criminal record,” citing two DUIs, and does not post a physical threat to the community at large.
He noted that Oakley has been punished, as he is now a felon, who cannot travel, vote or enjoy his favorite hobby — hunting — ever again. Holly also stated that Oakley could lose his professional license as a respiratory therapist.
“[He has been] outcast by the organization and the people in that organization that he cared for like family,” said Holly. “We ask the court to temper out the justice handed out today with mercy.”
“I am truly, very sorry,” said Oakley, following Bradley’s question as to whether or not he would care to add to his attorney’s statement.
Millville Volunteer Fire Department President Clarke Droney, who is a 38-year member, spoke before Bradley regarding the impact of Oakley’s criminal actions.
“The reputation of the fire department has been tarnished, for how long we don’t know. Our members hang their heads in shame and feel as if we have a target on our back. We have 80-plus years of dedicated volunteers. Some people have spent 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years in the fire department.”
Droney said the department has been suffering from declined participation of volunteers, as well as a noticeable decrease in donations, letters and cards.
“There’s not a week goes by that we don’t get a fundraising letter back with no money in it because people don’t trust us anymore,” he said, adding that at one time an area home owners association held a fire department fundraiser for six years, raising over $30,000 for the department. Following Oakley’s theft, he said, the community stopped the fundraiser.
He also said the department has had a reduction in grant and aid from State and County sources in the wake of Oakley’s actions.
“We recouped some of the money… It’s not like Mr. Oakley wrote us a check and made us whole again. We’ve had increased expenses, higher insurance premiums,” noting their insurance has increased about $15,000 a year since Oakley was treasurer. “These fees and expenses are not going to be reduced overnight. It will take years if ever to recover.
“When everything is added up, we’ve lost almost half a million dollars.”
In the Victim Loss and Impact Statement, Millville Volunteer Fire Department said that there were numerous fundraising efforts from which cash was received, however they were not recorded in the company’s records or received by their financial institutions.
“The LUCAS device events which consisted of a movie night, car washes, cash donations, etc., were documented by our financial secretary Michele Steffens. The three LUCAS devices were purchased in the amount of $43,578.96. ACTS Thrift Store donated $15,000 towards the purchase. That would leave a balance collected from the public of $28,600. All funds were turned over to Mr. Oakley for deposit.… Again, that cash was not deposited in the financial accounts. These funds were freely given by our community members to assist us with saving lives . The MVFC expensed those items while not receiving the benefit of the donations from the public.”
Droney ended by asking that the Court “not further victimize the victim.”
“You folks do a lot of very, very good work in the community,” responded Bradley.
In handing down his sentence, Bradley acknowledged that while Oakley may have been suffering in his personal life, his actions were not all out of his control.
“In the pre-sentence investigation, I do believe Mr. Oakley acknowledged one of the reasons he took this money was to finance a lifestyle he otherwise could not afford and wanted to pursue making his current girlfriend happy.”
Bradley ordered Oakley to begin his sentence on Friday, Nov. 10, and added that he is not to have contact with any members of the fire company. When he is serving time at Level 4 and 3 he will have to get a full-time job, and continue to participate in his mental health treatment.
“I think, to put it lightly, disappointed. Extremely disappointed,” said Droney following the sentencing. “We’ve got people who have dedicated 60 years of their life to the fire company — poured their heart and soul into it. Now at this point we have to hang our heads because of the action of one person… He certainly didn’t seem depressed when he was living the good life on the fire company’s bank account…
“We’re very disappointed and we don’t feel like justice was done. Mr. Oakley’s biggest remorse is that he got caught.”
Since discovering Oakley’s crime, the department has worked hard to put controls in place to protect the department, and the community’s monies from future theft. The department hired a full time independent book keeper, canceled all company debit cards, require two authorized signatures for any company account, utilized QuickBooks®, and more.
“We’ve been very forthcoming with that information. The only thing we’re going to be able to do now is just to continue to respond to calls and put our best face out there, because his face is not the face of Millville Volunteer Fire Company,” said Velicia Melson, the department’s administrative assistant.
Earlier this year, the towns of Millville and Ocean View approved an ambulance subscription service, which would charge every improved lot $35 a year for ambulance service to the home.
“It was very well received,” said Melson. “It’s a program that will continue.”
“It’s very expensive to run a fire department,” added fire department member Earl Green, noting the department’s payroll to keep ambulances on the street, 24-7 with two crews a day, costs $1 million a year. The fire side is still all volunteer.
Droney added that the department felt as though they received very little support from the State throughout the process.
“We feel if we hadn’t been coming to the case reviews, this would’ve been ended a long time ago,” he said. “The plea agreement you heard today, we had no input on that whatsoever.”
Melson said the department could file a civil suit against Oakley, however the fire company would have to pay the legal fees.
“And what would we recover?”
Even with their open efforts to address those issues, Droney said the department is still feeling the effects of Oakley’s criminal actions. But the fire department will continue to serve the community as they have done for nearly a century.
“We’re very dedicated and very passionate about the fire department,” he said. “We’ve worked years to develop the reputation of the fire department. Most of us grew up there.”
This coming Monday, hundreds of people from across Delmarva will gather together with one simple goal: to give families in need a Thanksgiving meal.
On Monday, Nov. 20, from 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m., the community is being invited to bundle up and head to Mountaire Farms’ Selbyville warehouse to pack 8,500 boxes of food.
“We’ll have 300-some people coming out. We have people from all over the peninsula who want to come. We have parents with children who want to come with them. I got a call from a fella in Baltimore who wanted to come with his kids,” said Roger Marino, Mountaire’s corporate community relations director.
The boxes each contain a selection of 16-ounce canned goods, including corn and beans, as well as stuffing and pork-and-beans, which organizers of the effort request be donated at various area grocery stores, including Hocker’s Super Center. Each box also contains a Mountaire roaster chicken, donated by the company.
Many of the canned goods packed into box are collected from drives at area grocery stores — Giant stores in Rehoboth Beach, Long Neck and Millville; Safeway in Rehoboth Beach; Hocker’s Super Center in Clarksville and Bethany Beach; Wal-Mart in Rehoboth Beach and Georgetown, and Berlin, Md.; Redner’s in West and North Dover, Georgetown, Camden and Milford; and Save-A-Lot in Millsboro and Seaford.
“That Saturday, we had 140 people in 17 markets collecting food, passing out our literature and talking to people about the program. They were volunteering their time and their effort.”
Thanksgiving for Thousands is an event that was created by Mountaire Farms more than 20 years ago, and it has grown steadily over the years.
“Twenty-three years ago, we noticed a problem in the community with people who were needing food for Thanksgiving. With the Dagsboro Church of God, they told me they wouldn’t be able to serve their people that year because they had 100 people who would come through for dinner. Their kitchen and facilities were too small to be able to accommodate them, so I said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’
“They got together with us, and we started a drive. The initial drive we started was just collecting money in the community, putting out cans and jars in the stores and then using that money to purchase food. In the first year, we did 300 boxes. We didn’t hear a complaint or a need any more than that.”
After the first year, Marino said, he approached Mountaire’s president about boxing food to be given out on an annual basis.
“He liked the idea, and we started boxing the food and getting more people in the community involved. From that, it just rose and rose and rose over the years to what it is today… It just grew every year.”
Those who attend will be able to snack on hot beverages and cookies and listen to holiday music while helping to pack the boxes.
Job applications for Mountaire will also be available at that time, for those looking for work. Marino said a number of employees who have applied at Thanksgiving for Thousands have been hired and had successful careers at the company.
This year, Mountaire is working with 168 organizations, finding out how many boxes they need, with 400 boxes earmarked for last-minute requests.
“We have organizations we work with each year. We’ll contact them, and they’ll let us know how many people they have and what the need is there. That’s how we build the boxes,” he explained.
Marino said working with the organizations is the way Mountaire can check the pulse of the need in the community.
“These people, the organizations themselves know — these are truly needy, hurting people,” he said. “They vet the people. They know what’s going on. I feel certain that when theses boxes go out they are really going out to people who need the help.”
Giving back to the community is of great importance to Mountaire, said Marino, noting the company hosts three big food events every year, beyond the charitable giving they do on a regular basis.
“It’s part of our creed, really, to be good stewards. That’s the main thing — of all the assets that God has entrusted to us, we feel we’re very lucky and fortunate to have a company that is growing. It’s all about giving back.
“This program has caught the hearts of so many people. The spirit has caught on, and it becomes the kickoff for the holiday season. We feel are the most important holidays of the year — Thanksgiving for Thousands, Thanksgiving at Christmas and Thanksgiving at Easter. Each holiday, it’s time to give back. It’s thanks-giving for all that our good Lord has been able to give to us, to provide for us. While we do so much else throughout the year, these are three very, very important holidays for us.”
Those who will help pack on Monday are from all walks of life — from individuals who are in need themselves to church groups and even the Sussex Technical High School football team.
“It’s euphoric. If you didn’t have religion before, you get it that day. When you see all those people — people coming in walking, people coming in wheelchairs, every age group, the entire football team from Sussex Tech — with all of those people really wanting to be there and getting into the holiday spirit, the giving spirit.
“To them, it’s almost like they have ownership in those boxes. Every one of those boxes they’re packing, they feel they have a part in handing it to someone who’s really needing it. That’s really what I see there. I’ve seen it over the years, the spirit gets greater and greater every year. That’s why people want to come.”
Marino encouraged all who can attend, even for a short while, to do so, and see the impact a community can have by working together to feed so many in need.
“You have to witness it to understand it. Even if you didn’t participate, just pull up and take a look — see it.”
For those who wish to volunteer, Mountaire Farms’ warehouse is located at the corner of Hosier Street and Railroad Avenue in Selbyville. For more information about Mountaire’s community outreach programs, visit www.mountairefarms.com.
For the second year in a row, the Alana Rose Foundation is teaming up with Mid-Coast Gymnastics to give kids the chance to have a fun afternoon while supporting other families.
The Alana Rose Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was borne out of the tragedy endured by Kyle Prettyman and Alexa Shoultes, who lost their daughter Alana Rose to a neurodegenerative disease at 15 months old, in December 2015.
According to its website, “The Alana Rose Foundation works to provide financial assistance to help with travel, housing and/or living expenses for qualified families, making children happier and healthier by keeping their family together.”
The Flipping for Families event will be held on Sunday, Nov. 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. The cost of admission is $10 per child, with children younger than 4 able to attend free of charge. Parents and caregivers may attend the event at no charge. There is no pre-purchase required; families may buy tickets at the door the day of the event.
“I have been a gymnastics coach for 10 years at Mid-Coast Gymnastics,” said Alexa Shoultes, founder and vice-president of the Alana Rose Foundation. “I see first-hand the enjoyment these kids get out of jumping on the trampoline, climbing the rock wall, jumping into the pit, swinging on the rings, and so on.
“Open gyms are a big hit at the gym, so I thought to do one to benefit our foundation! The owner, Kim Wickham, and the parents, are very supportive and made for a great turn out last year, and we expect more children this year!”
At the events, participating children will be able to twist, turn, tumble and balance while families watch from the sidelines. Kids will be able to zipline, jump in the facility’s foam pit, and enjoy a bounce house, trampolines, springboards and spring-floors.
Shoultes said the event fit with the foundation’s mission due to the similarities between the demands of gymnastics and the struggles of terminal illness.
“Children who are terminally ill, and their families, have to balance the demands of life and reality, get through the twists and turns of the illness, and feel as if their worlds have been turned upside down. Gymnastics also teaches the physical demands of balancing on the beam, flipping upside-down, and twisting and turning all around the gym.”
New this year is a large bounce house, provided by Grand Rental Station, and carnival games where children can win prizes, thanks to the generosity of Kennedy family of Gumboro. There will also be silent-auction baskets designed to appeal to both adults and kids.
“We have massage and spa services donated by the staff at Zen Spa, hair services donated by the staff at Designer’s Edge in Salisbury, Md., tuition toward Mid-Coast Gymnastics, clothing and more!”
Along with auction items donated, Shoultes said barbecue has been donated for the event by Bethany Blues, with sides provided by Hocker’s.
“Our community has been a great help! This year, we have gotten a lot of support from the businesses,” she said.
Shoultes called attention to support from Atlantic Auto Body, 5 Star Plumbing Heating and Cooling, Mispillion River Brewing, Deep Eddy Vodka, Off the Hook Restaurant Group, Dixon Golf, Mango’s, MGT & Co., Logo Motive, Custom Fit 360, Jeff Baxter Mortgage Team, Taste Events, Rar, Sysco, Reliant Fish Company, East Coast Contracting, Trinity Foundation, Rooster’s Nest, Trick Trucks & Cars, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Mid-Coast Gymnastics, Hook Productions, Standard Distributing Co. Inc. and Sea Level.
Last year, the event drew around 80 children and their families. This year, Shoultes said she hopes to double that number and raise around $4,000.
The monies raised from the event will go directly to helping families who are going through difficult times, akin to what Shoultes and Prettyman experienced.
“Our foundation works endlessly with the social workers at our local children’s hospital, A.I DuPont. Our financial assistance allows these families to focus more on their child than the financial responsibilities of paying their rent/electric for the month.
“The community helped us spend the rest of Alana’s seven months with her, without worrying about the financial obligations of our bills. We know we can’t relieve all their financial strain, but we know the blessing of financial support while facing the uncertainty of tomorrow, and that’s why we help!”
Even if a family cannot attend the event, Shoultes said there are plenty of ways to support the foundation’s mission.
“We are always looking for new donors, new supporters, new businesses to support us, and new board members to increase our impact, grants and more. Our families need a large amount of assistance. Our donations are rarely under $200 and can reach up to $1,000. We are still a newer foundation, being only two years in, and need awareness and more support!”
Shoultes said creating and running the foundation has been emotional for her but that she knows the good they are bringing to families in need.
“It’s hard to put in words. It’s emotional for us, knowing that parents face similar situations as us. We take on the pain of some of these families, knowing what’s to come for them. But then we think of that first check we got that covered our rent for the month — I broke out in tears. In the hardest time of our life, we received a breath above water.
“I know that is what we are providing these families, in the midst of them feeling like they are drowning. For that, we are grateful to have the ability to help. And any person supporting our mission is making that possible, as 100 percent of our profits goes toward giving those families more time with their children.”
Shoultes said the foundation’s family count is rising, and she hopes the community will continue to support their efforts, just as they supported her family in its time of need.
“With over $30,000 given to 112 families in two years, we know that Alana’s life and legacy go beyond what’s to meet the eye. May her life never be forgotten.”
For more information on the Alana Rose Foundation, or sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, visit www.thealanarosefoundation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mid-Coast Gymnastics is located at 17 Duke Street in Selbyville.
There are many reasons someone might want to “rewind” their life — to restart it, from a point where they feel they can be successful.
Prison. Drugs. Tough times. Any of those, and more, can derail a life.
Holland Lewis knows what it’s like to come out of prison and not know where to turn, what to do, who to trust. He also knows that it is possible to overcome one’s past, because he has done it.
About a year after finishing a three-year prison sentence and completing his parole period, Lewis is a new father, is engaged to be married and has found success as a chef.
Tara Barrett, co-founder of the FORGE Youth & Family Academy in Selbyville, saw that leadership potential in Lewis.
“He was smart enough to keep his nose clean while he was in prison,” she said. “His life could have been very different. He made one bad choice.”
As Barrett and Lewis explained, he was involved in a fight in which he was attempting to stand up for a friend and ended up sentenced to three years in state prison. Since his arrest, she said, “He has made lots of good choices.”
It started with a job at Arby’s in Berlin, Md., Lewis said, and he didn’t even have a car at the time.
“I rode my bike to my parole appointments,” he said.
Now a chef at Lighthouse Sound restaurant in Bishopville, Md., Lewis said he made a conscious decision to change the direction of his life, beginning with the people with whom he chose to surround himself.
“It’s easy,” he said, “to hang out with people who are doing what you were doing.”
Giving young people a group who will support them in making good choices, Barrett said, is the core of the FORGE philosophy. And a new program, called Rewind, takes that philosophy a step further, and Lewis, as its coordinator, is ready to share what he has learned with other young adults.
The program is designed to support young people ages 16 to 28 — and 16 was chosen as the lower end, Barrett said, “because 16 is when you can drop out of high school.”
Rewind is set up to provide direction for young adults who need it, who might not have had that support at home, or who need help navigating job and/or school requirements, for whatever reason.
Among the services the program will provide are recovery counseling, navigating the ins and outs of probation, finding training in a variety of trades, assistance with college applications and financial aid applications. Rewind will even provide participants with business attire if they need it.
Barrett said volunteers have already stepped up who are willing to provide basic skills training in fields such as carpentry, plumbing and metalwork.
The probation navigation piece is crucial, Barrett said, although she admitted, “A lot of people are like, ‘Well, what does that mean?’” At its most basic level, it means transportation to probation commitments and help with requesting courts to waive fines and fees. “Those are the two biggest things that cause people to violate probation. They can’t get there; they can’t pay their fines,” she said.
“Pretty much anything they would need to know to restart, to get back on their feet” will be provided at Rewind, Lewis said.
For those who have recently been released from prison, finding a job is often overwhelming, due to one simple question: Will a business hire a person with a criminal record?
“We’ve already started reaching out to some businesses to find out who will hire someone with a criminal record and who won’t,” Barrett said. Connections with local businesspeople who will need year-round help is important as well, she said.
Rewind is a crucial resource for ensuring success at a crucial point in recovery and re-entry into society, Barrett said.
“Especially with the addiction issue, our big concern is filling the gap between recovery and [being a] productive part of society,” she said.
“Eight, nine, 10 months in, they’ve been clean, they’re working, they’re getting by… Now what? At that point, people are like, ‘He’s fine; he’s good,’” Barrett said.
“And so they’re not getting the attention… It’s kind of like a funeral,” she continued. “When somebody dies, everybody says, ‘Let me know if you need anything,’” she explained. “And two weeks later, you have… nobody, and no clue how to cope with the situation that you find yourself in. And that’s sort of the gap we’re trying to fill… ‘OK, I’m clean, but now what do I do to be productive?’”
One way to help Rewind participants find their way back, she said, is having them work with the younger people in FORGE. That way, the young adults feel needed, and they often have a unique understanding of the high-risk youth in FORGE because they’ve been there themselves. The younger people, in turn, feel that the Rewind participants really understand them, and bonds are formed.
While both programs are being temporarily run out of the House of Mercy facility in Selbyville, plans are for that to change in the next few months.
“We have a lease right now on three buildings in Selbyville. We are waiting for some zoning issues to be resolved with the Town,” Barrett said. Hopes are that the programs will be in their new home “by June of next year at the latest,” she said.
Barrett noted that a recent grant from Next Generation/Delaware Community Foundation helped the program tremendously, and more and more volunteers and organizations have stepped up to help as word gets out about the work the FORGE program is doing.
“Everything just kind of fell into place when we needed it,” she said.
The fact that Lewis has stepped up to lead the Rewind program is another gift that Barrett said she feels will make the program successful in a way that she could not.
“The bad choice that he made was a choice that hundreds of kids, thousands of kids, have made. It could happen to anybody,” she said.
“He made one bad choice; he made lots of good choices. He did face, though, the scenario of, ‘I can’t get that job because I have a record, and I don’t have a license yet, and I don’t have any transportation…’” which only those who have been through it can truly understand, she said.
Lewis also understands the mindset that can develop in such a situation, when trying to restart one’s life can seem overwhelming and it seems easier to just give up.
“Once there’s nothing hanging over your head, what’s the motivation to continue?” he said.
Lewis recalled one interview, early in his post-prison life, at a new restaurant. He told the owner his story.
“I told him I was in the process of getting my GED. He said if I came back and could prove to him that I was getting into the school, I was hired. And I did. I came back with the book, the paperwork, everything… and got the job. I don’t even know if would have continued to get the GED if he wasn’t going to hire me because of it.”
He said he hopes Rewind will offer that kind of support, that kind of motivation. Barrett said she sees the connection between the younger members at FORGE and the new outreach to young adults.
Speaking of Rewind’s target group, she said, often, “They’d rather quit than try, because they don’t want to be judged, they don’t want to feel stupid. We see that with the [FORGE] kids that we deal with… ‘I don’t want to do that. It’s stupid.’
“It’s not that it’s stupid — it’s that they don’t know how to read. It’s not stupid — they don’t know how to do math. The same applies to the young adults, just on a different level.”
With FORGE, and now with Rewind, Barrett said, “If we can bring them into that atmosphere, where they’re allowed to screw up, they’re allowed to not get the job, and they’re still going to have a cheering squad, then that motivates them even more.”
Once they have the support of the groups, she said, participants are invested in being a part of something.
“It’s not just about ‘me,’ it’s about this whole new family over here that’s still cheering me on,” she said.
For more information on Rewind, call Holland Lewis at (443) 859-4712 and leave a message, or Rob Shrieves at (443) 366-2813, or email email@example.com.
Residents along Route 54 in Selbyville are trying to get a grip on the traffic volume on their two-lane roadway. At a Nov. 2 public meeting, the problem wasn’t solved, but now people know how it happened.
“The market is very strong right now. This area is a very ideal area for development. So you are going to see a lot more,” said Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson.
Follow the issue
“You need to follow this issue if you’re concerned with it,” said Lawson, who runs the County’s offices at the direction of the elected county council.
It’s up to citizens to stay informed, he noted. Sussex County isn’t required to notify every single person along Route 54 that a nearby property is being discussed. Lawson reviewed different forms of public notice, including newspaper legal notices and the detailed County website.
He showed a plastic yard sign that read “NOTICE: PUBLIC HEARING.” When people see that black text on a yellow background, he said, they can learn more about the property online at www.SussexCountyDE.gov.
“This is to alert you … someone is asking to do something with that piece of property,” Lawson said. “We hand out hundreds of these in a given year to folks who are looking to change their land use or zoning.”
That’s when neighbors should pay attention and speak up if they have questions or concerns, he said.
The County website offers meeting agendas, minutes, audio recordings and more. All land-use applications are listed online, back to 2010, at SussexCountyDE.gov/land-use-application-docket.
The right to build
Most of Sussex County is zoned Agricultural, having first been designated as such in the 1970s. Unlike some land planning approvals, zoning changes are permanent, so if someone receives approval for rezoning property up to a commercial or medium-density zone, an empty field can remain as such until they’re ready to submit building plans, even if neighbors move in after a public hearing and are unaware of the change in zoning.
People have the right to use their land as they like (with some exceptions), so someone can build two homes on one acre. They don’t need to ask permission. They only need building and entrance plans approved.
Lawson pointed to a lot that was rezoned as commercial in 1984.
“That could be something tomorrow that it wasn’t today, and that was approved in ’84. And that doesn’t come before County Council,” Lawson said.
If a property is already zoned commercial, most commercial uses are permitted by right, so a business then only needs to show Planning & Zoning where their parking lot, store and stormwater management will be located. No public hearing is required.
On Route 54, the zoning change for the parcel set to house a new Royal Farms store occurred in 2014. A nearby housing development was approved in 2006.
“Everyone is upset because you see the construction,” but some of those zoning changes occurred 10 years ago, Lawson said.
“But none of us lived here 10 years ago!” someone in the audience shouted.
“What you’re seeing was approved 10 years ago,” Lawson repeated. “When we zoned the entire county back in the ’70s,” some of it still hasn’t changed.
Three groups make land-use decisions in Sussex County: the County Council, the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustment. But the latter two boards (both appointed by the council) can approve some exceptions and variances without council approval, while they have recommendation power for others. All of those groups meet publicly, though, and meeting agendas are posted publicly beforehand.
Historically, Sussex County Council rarely denies zoning changes (just eight times in the last seven years). Present for five of those denials, Councilman Rob Arlett gave the lone vote of support for the requested zoning changes on four of those occasions, twice going against the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendation to deny them.
Swann Keys resident Bill Hutchison asked whether County leaders would promise to make future developers improve roads before allowing future construction, as New Castle County does. Arlett was noncommittal, only saying that he’s open to ideas if they work well.
“The County is in charge of the land use, but we’re not in charge of the roads,” Arlett said.
But the Delaware Department of Transportation must work with whatever the County approves.
“We do not control land use, but we do react to it” and must provide access from that business to the road, said Rob McCleary, a DelDOT chief engineer.
“It’s their right to put up the Starbucks,” McCleary said of a hypothetical coffee shop on commercially-zoned land, but they still need County and State approvals for designs. “When development makes that [request], [DelDOT] has the opportunity to ask them to make improvements either at their entrance or intersections nearby.”
But for all the new construction the County allows, they only collect impact fees for county sewer connections, not for other services, such as police or volunteer fire service.
Some of those who spoke at the Nov. 2 meeting said they felt that developers weren’t paying their fair share to improve the roads.
“They don’t get a free pass on what they want to build. … A project has to do a traffic impact study when they generate” a certain number of vehicle trips to the property, said Marc Coté, a DelDOT assistant director and engineer.
Change is inevitable, several people said, but they begged for more responsible development. Some even asked for a development moratorium — an idea that garnered applause. Besides cars, elected officials need to consider pedestrians, cyclists and the nearby inland bays, residents said.
“We do not design for the absolute peak summer Saturday because that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and be very impactful. We don’t design for evacuation, either,” Coté said. “We count for the cars on the road, not whether they’re going to Ocean City. … The cars that are analyzed are just those on the road, not where they’re going.”
As one of the few east-west roads along the Delaware coast, Route 54 is also an evacuation route. Some people cited that as a reason to consider making it a four-lane roadway.
More traffic and accidents could cost people’s bank accounts, too. Auto insurance companies charge based on personal driving history, but also based on ZIP codes, said Vince Ryan, senior advisor to the Delaware Insurance Commissioner. A town with more accidents will have higher insurance rates than the quieter areas.
“We’re seeing significant development, more traffic … as Sussex County becomes more dense,” said Ryan. “In terms of traffic going through there, that’s gonna continue to be a factor.”
Although Ryan said he couldn’t speak to specific situations in the 19975 postal code, a Route 54 resident claimed his rates have increased because of geography.
Residents of the Keenwick Sound development also repeated their desire for a traffic signal at the site of the Royal Farms convenience store and gas station being built across from the Keenwick entrance. In summer, they said, they already have trouble exiting the neighborhood onto Route 54, even without a major business across the street.
At public request, DelDOT plans to analyze traffic signals and study new traffic counts in summer of 2018.
“If you want to see a project get done … it starts with the County. They have a transportation aspirations list. That rolls to DelDOT, and we prioritize them,” said Rob McCleary, a chief engineer. “What I heard tonight was a lot of folks want to see a project.”
Comp plan ready for review
If people really want to change the system, they have to get involved right now. The county council is about to begin reviewing the draft of an updated Sussex County Comprehensive Plan (sussexplan.com), which is “our road map for how the residents, visitors, decision-makers want the county to look like in the next 20, 30, 40 years. … We have to follow what is in that comp plan,” Lawson said.
In fact, while addressing the Route 54 crowd, Lawson received a message that the Planning & Zoning Commission, meeting at the same time in Georgetown, had finally completed their months-long work of creating the draft for council review.
Public hearings will continue until the plan’s approval deadline on June 30, 2018.
The draft Sussex County Comprehensive Plan is online at www.SussexPlan.com.
People can contact Sussex County Council representatives by visiting https://sussexcountyde.gov/contact-information or by calling (302) 855-7700.
Future Farmers of America is an important program in Indian River School District. It produces student leaders and important skills in an agricultural county.
But scheduling can be a sticky wicket for an organization that doesn’t host national competition until the following fall. Students have to revisit their spring projects when they return to school — or after they’ve already graduated.
IRSD recently clarified that, unless a student has recently graduated from 12th grade, the district will not sponsor students in competition if they leave the district for any other reason.
Now, “students traveling as a result of competition or acceptance of an award must be an actively enrolled student or a recent (within six months) graduate within the district at the time of the trip,” according to new Policy IICA (Field Trips and Excursions).
The Board of Education wrote this policy after a sticky situation this spring. A Millsboro Middle Schooler eighth-grader was offered a place at the FFA national conference. But Taylor Bullis had transferred outside of the district to Sussex Technical High School by the time of nationals in October.
The Department of Education did not require IRSD to sponsor or chaperone her, so the school board opted not to, for liability concerns.
The district did not prohibit her from attending with her parents, but would not send a teacher or any funding. She could go, but not under IRSD’s umbrella.
Ultimately it comes down to liability.
“I never once said [she] was a discipline problem,” Superintendent Mark Steele of Bullis, a longtime FFA student leader. “The only thing that was said was … let’s just say [there is] disciplinary action. Who does she fall under? … Where does our person have any jurisdiction over her?”
Some school districts don’t even allow FFA eighth-graders to compete at state finals if they are considering transferring to Sussex Tech.
The family was broken-hearted and angry.
“My project was my best yet,” Bullis had told the board. “When I won for the state of Delaware, I was so excited, but … when my district told me I could not go … all that work went down the drain.”
She did not regret her decision to transfer out of IRSD, she said, but she keenly felt the lost opportunity of FFA nationals.
The Millville Town Council on Tuesday, Nov. 14, approved a final site plan for a 65-lot section of Sea Star Village, which is part of Millville By the Sea.
The council held a public hearing Tuesday on the plan, which is the third section of Sea Star Village to be approved by the Town. The previous sections were approved in November 2016 and in January. The 65 lots include six cottage lots, 27 estate lots and 32 perimeter lots.
The council placed one condition on the approval — that the project’s walking trail be “stubbed,” or halted where it is, for now. The condition was recommended by Millville Code & Building Administrator Eric Evans.
Project manager Al Rubel assured the council that concerns over construction traffic in the development have been addressed.
There was no comment from the public Tuesday on the site plan.
In other business:
• Town Manager Debbie Botchie announced that 13 poles along Route 26 have been readied for the installation of holiday lights — the first time in Millville’s history.
• Botchie announced that the Town has been awarded a $53,000 grant from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control for the “challenge course” section of the planned town park. To date, the Town has received $253,000 in grants for the project.
The council said they hope the park project will proceed in early 2018. The Town is currently awaiting a permit from DelDOT, which will allow construction to begin once it is received.
When The Village at Bear Trap Dunes was built in the 1990s, it might have doubled the geographic area of Ocean View. There were grand plans for houses, golf, dining and shopping. Years later, Bear Trap hit the first three goals, but they never quite built the shopping community they intended.
Developers at the Carl M. Freeman Companies had envisioned boutique office space or retail businesses at 21 and 24 Village Green Drive. But the commercial development attempts were costing too much, and the real estate market was depressed. Since then, Freeman Companies have been trying to determine the perfect anchor businesses to attract smaller shops inside the community.
“That anchor is us,” said Chris Garland, senior vice president of development and construction. “Freeman itself is experiencing a regrowth. We’ve been around for 40 years in the market and 70 years [overall]. We’re going to bring to Bear Trap a corporate Freeman office for just about everything we do.”
Since the whole area is growing again, the time is considered ripe for Freeman to consolidate operations under one roof, including their Route 54 office.
“We think we’ll attract more business just by the nature of us being there,” Garland said.
That could help them overcome the challenge of luring businesses to buildings not immediately located on a major thoroughfare.
“It will allow us to actually start doing some deferred maintenance” that had been deferred because of uncertainty, Garland said.
The Ocean View Town Council said this week that they were happy to allow the changes to the old P-230 planning application — the final site plan for Bear Trap that was approved years ago. The two parcels were once again rezoned commercial after years as residential.
“I am an analyst. I like answers.”
So when Rita Nelson’s son Christopher told her that he was not her son, but her daughter, she immediately “started searching in my head for early signs that we might have missed.” There were, in fact, many “signs.”
“I hope that, if nothing else, you learn a little bit more about the transgender community,” Nelson told the audience at St. Martha’s Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach, where she spoke on Thursday, Nov. 8.
Nelson, a retired Episcopal priest, has written a book titled “Always Kristen,” which relates her family’s journey as her son transitioned to her daughter. Kristen herself sat in the front row last Thursday while her mother spoke and then answered questions from the audience.
“I remember being very awkward with him the day he was born,” Nelson said, adding that she “just didn’t know how to talk to him. I thought, ‘That’s really strange,’” she said, thinking that maybe it was because her first child had been a girl, and so she was more familiar with girls. “A mother should just be able to talk to her kids, whatever gender,” she said.
Nelson also recalled finding some of Christopher’s sister’s clothes in his closet when he was 6 years old. When she asked him why they were there, “He said, ‘I’ll tell you when I’m 9,’” she said. “You see — when you’re 6, 9 is an eternity away. And he never did tell me.”
“When I would take him to the bank with me, the teller would hand him a lollipop and say, ‘What a pretty girl you are!’ and he liked to wear his hair long and he liked to look pretty. I asked him one day, ‘Doesn’t it bother you when the teller calls you a girl?’ and he said, ‘No.’”
“Now, today, that would have been a huge, huge clue,” Nelson said. But back then, she said, the word “transgender” wasn’t even invented.
She said that, as Christopher reached his teen years and she began finding her own clothes in his closet, “I thought, initially, that he might be gay, or a cross-dresser, because it kind of, sort of — in my mind, anyway — fit.”
Later, Nelson said, “As we grew into this,” she learned that Christopher was probably aware of his gender as early as 3 or 4 years old. It would be years, however — when Christopher was a young adult, in fact — before he would be confident enough to put into words what he had felt for so long.
When Christopher finally did announce his intention to transition to female, 20 years ago, “It was like, your kid comes in and says, ‘Hi, Mom — I’m an alligator! Do you like my new skin?’”
“It was as if the impossible had happened. As if the blue eyes on your child suddenly turned to brown eyes,” she said. “Just not something that could happen.”
“We were just stunned,” she said. “For months, we just went around asking ‘Why? How? How did this happen? What is it?’”
Thanks to one book, which was a study on gender dysphoria, Nelson said, “We knew that it was genetic. But we didn’t know how it happened, or why. In fact, today, scientists are still trying to work that out,” she said, citing current theories about things such as hormone losses. “They know it’s genetic. They know it’s not a choice, it’s not made up, it’s not imaginary.”
When Christopher made his announcement, she said, “There was no internet, there was no Google, there was practically nothing. We kind of stumbled through understanding it.”
A family secret
While Nelson said it was not hard for her and her husband, Christopher’s stepfather, to accept the news, it was more difficult for his father. “For him, it was losing his heir, his namesake, to carry on the family name. And so, he was losing his son, in that respect.”
Kristen, she said, has long said that “telling her father was one of the hardest things she had to do.” In fact, she told her mother and stepfather five years “before she had the courage to tell her father.”
“And so, we had a lot of family secrets going on, and a lot of secret conversations going on, and we had to be very careful of what we said in front of the others, because this one knew and that one didn’t,” Nelson recalled.
But there comes a time, she said, “when you have to announce the new gender to everyone else — to your family, to your friends, to your acquaintances, to your church community.” A retired pastor, Nelson said, “I don’t think I ever face-to-face told my bishop.” Some acquaintances, she said, “found out when I wrote a book about it.”
The family chose, she said, to announce Kristen’s gender change “by way of our annual Christmas letter,” which brought chuckles from the audience. “We had two letters,” she said. “We had one for those who we felt were ready to know, and one for those who maybe never wanted to know.”
Nelson said she was surprised, after the announcement, that “some of my more conservative family members were the most supportive. And the ones who didn’t accept her, well, we just don’t see very much of them anymore, unfortunately.”
Speaking about the process of acceptance, Nelson said a huge part of it is “coming to the realization that our child is really still the same person. The only thing that has changed is the gender in which they present themselves. Their brilliance, their brains, their beauty, their intellect, their personality — all of that is still the same. That’s a big part, I think, of the acceptance of a transgender child.”
Getting past the initial “juxtaposed image” of a very physically male person wearing women’s clothes and makeup, in the beginning, is often hard for those who know a transgender person, she said, so the realization that they are who they have always been is very important.
“All that said — it’s still a very difficult and often confusing process.”
She recalled a day in 1996 when Christopher announced that he and his girlfriend were going to get married, and he asked for her blessing. She couldn’t give it, she said, because even though he hadn’t officially announced his transgender status, she knew that he was struggling with it.
She said he, at that point, had decided to remain a male, despite what she felt he knew deep inside. That is a common phase for transgender people, Nelson said, often brought about because of societal pressure to be different than who they really are.
Christopher and his fiancée eventually married, but his transgender struggle continued. Five years later, Christopher decided to move forward with his transition to female. “So, the outward persona that was him became her.”
Although his fiancée initially said she would continue to live with Kristen, as many couples do in the situation, they did separate and eventually divorced.
Of pronouns and persecution
As Chris officially became Kristen, Nelson said, the name change itself was much easier to adjust to that changing pronouns. “Saying ‘she’ or ‘her’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘him’ takes a lot of practice,” she said. Even now, she said, she still slips occasionally. Kristen, she said, says “That’s OK, Mom — I know you’re trying.”
Nelson also addressed the difficulties transgender people have in dressing “appropriately” — largely because they didn’t grow up learning how to “be” that gender and so had to learn those skills as adults. Today, she said, there are groups that help transgender people with those issues, but back when Kristen was transitioning, “we just kind of stumbled along.”
She also touched on the “hormone swings” that come with the hormones that transgender people take to help with the physical transition — especially tough, Nelson said, when your daughter is a 30-something female “who thinks she knows more than I do.”
As a mother, she said, it is difficult to watch a child have to face a society that is not as accepting as their friends and family.
“We need to speak up, and we need to speak out” against intolerance of those who are different, she said. “We have to do that.”
Transgender people, she said, are targeted with bullying and intolerance “more than any other group.”
She recalled one incident when she and Kristen were standing in line at a pharmacy.
“A long-haired, baggy-pants young man walked by, and as he passed by, he said to her, ‘You faggot! Are you a dude, or a girl? You should die.’”
Nelson said she attended a meeting at Camp Rehoboth last year and found the stories told by transgender and gay teens very upsetting.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “They have their whole live ahead of them, and to have to put up with that…”
Both Rita and Kristen took questions from the audience of about 40 people. Kristen spoke of the loneliness of being transgender.
“You’re really not totally accepted by anybody,” she said.
While she has found friendships within the transgender community, she said that they don’t often go out together because “we attract attention anyway. In large groups, we are very conspicuous” and often subjected to bullying.
After her mother’s speech, Kristen watched as she signed books, and reflected on her journey. Asked what she would tell her 6-year-old self if she could go back in time and talk to him, she said, “It’s OK. It’s going to be OK.” Also, she added, “Tell your parents when you’re 6.”
Delaware is working protect students who typically face discrimination. But proposed regulations have to get past some people who don’t believe there is a problem.
“It is critical that all schools in Delaware be welcoming, inclusive places where students and staff members alike can flourish. Every student should be able to learn, achieve and grow without unlawful discrimination,” Gov. John Carney wrote in a July memo to the state’s Department of Education.
In that document, he directed the DOE to work with stakeholders to “provide clear guidance to our school districts and charter schools to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
The proposed regulation prohibits discrimination based on “race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, disability, age, gender identity or expression or other characteristic protected by state or federal law.”
The 30-day public comment period runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 4. After public comments, DOE Secretary Susan Bunting will make the final decision, possibly by January of 2018.
Regulations carry the same weight as a law, so schools would adopt their own anti-discrimination policies before the 2018-2019 school year. After the Register was published this month, DOE offered little comment, preferring to wait until the public have had their say.
The seven-page document would replace a one-paragraph Regulation 225. The current text is a simple paragraph that prohibits discrimination in any program receiving DOE funds or approval, based on many characteristics, including sex, sexual orientation, genetic information and marital status.
Learning the basics
The policy does not give definitions of each individual characteristic, though much of the public focus has been on the issue of gender identity.
Delaware Code elsewhere defines gender identity as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth. Gender identity may be demonstrated by consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes sex as “either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures.” Gender is “the behavioral, cultural or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.”
Sports teams and roll call
Under the proposed policy, essentially, schools could not specifically place students in, or remove them from, any particular course or extracurricular activity on the basis of protected characteristics.
“All educational programs and activities offered by a public school shall be open and available to students regardless of protected characteristic(s), unless [it] is legally constituted as single gender or is for the purpose of assisting students with a disability.”
When it comes to separating students for sex-ed, students may “participate in the program of instruction dealing exclusively with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.”
The regulation echoes Title IX’s mission for “equal athletic opportunity for male and female students to participate in intramural, club and interscholastic sports.” When contact sports are separated by gender, “A student shall have the opportunity to participate on the team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.”
The regulation also relates to counselors and textbooks, which it says should avoid discrimination by portraying lessons and career paths in a positive way for individuals of the various protected characteristics.
Every September, thousands of Delaware children start the school year in a new classroom. Teachers may upon the first rollcall, ask “Do you have a nickname?” and scribble “Tim” “Becky” “Mandy” in the margins as the students respond. The proposed regulation takes a more official approach. Students may select a “preferred name,” which will be included in the district’s digital records.
But the preferred name will not be listed on official documentation, including diplomas, unless the student has a legal name change. Name changes will only be reflected on paperwork if they go through official channels, such as the courts, which is common for adopted children.
Later in life, after earning their diploma, adults who change their name may also request a notarized letter from DOE to reflect the change in identify (although DOE does not issue duplicate or revised diplomas).
Under the policy, all students enrolled in Delaware public schools may also self-identify their gender or race.
“A school may request permission from the parent or legal guardian of a minor student” before a student’s preferred name, gender or race is accepted, the proposed policy notes.
But districts often cite safety as the most important factor in their schools. That’s why they’re being instructed to address those student requests on a case-by-case basis.
“Prior to requesting the permission from a parent or legal guardian, the school should consult and work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the parent or legal guardian is aware of the protected characteristic and is supportive of the student, and the school shall take into consideration the safety, health and well-being of the student in deciding whether to request permission from the parent or legal guardian.”
Districts must also consider restrooms, but local school boards choose how to make that work. Each school board “shall include a provision within its anti-discrimination policy that accommodates all students and addresses student access to locker rooms and bathrooms. School Districts and Charter Schools shall work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ gender identity or expression.”
Local school districts must also adopt (and periodically review) an anti-discrimination policy, which includes some mandatory language. They “shall strive to prevent discrimination based upon a student’s protected characteristic(s), and … respond promptly to such discrimination when they have knowledge of its occurrence.”
Similar to anti-bullying policies, each district must include a reporting process for families who perceive discrimination in the classroom or the playground. That might include a chain-of-command for formal complaints, or just a friendly teacher who can talk through students’ informal complaints.
IRSD awaits direction
This autumn, the Anti-Discrimination Development Team held several working meetings, followed by four community conversations for public feedback across the state. The 17-member working group included students, principals, parents, board members and superintendents from across the state.
Because one meeting was held on Sussex Central High School property, some residents mistakenly believed that the Indian River School District itself had initiated the regulation.
IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele responded to that inaccuracy in an Oct. 18 Facebook Live broadcast. First, he emphasized that the regulation is coming from the governor, through DOE, and public schools must follow state regulations.
“Regardless of whatever side you take on any issue … I can tell you there’s 18 other school districts in the same boat. It is difficult,” Steele said.
After the IRSD is given a finalized regulation from the State, the Policy Committee and Board of Education will work with the community to write a plan that Steele said he hopes everyone can live with.
“We’re one district. Whatever comes our way, we’re going to deal with it,” said Steele, who encouraged people to make informed decisions. “We can do things if we work together, but you need to give us this time to work this out as a community.”
Ultimately, he said, “One thing that we prided ourselves on … is we want to make sure that our kids are all safe, receiving the best possible education they can, and we want to take down barriers to make that experience worthwhile for them. So we’re going to work to make sure that policy is one that everyone can accept.”
Across the state and country
“Our schools should be places where students are comfortable, embraced, and challenged to achieve great heights. Any practices that prevent this, whether purposeful or by accident, hinder our state’s progress,” Carney’s order states. “We have been working to eliminate discrimination in our state agencies, and my hope is that this guidance will accomplish the same for our schools.”
In the past few years, Delaware and the nation have paid more attention to transgender people, from discrimination to politics. In 2013, the Delaware General Assembly prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, public-works contracting, housing, equal accommodations and the insurance business.
Earlier this month, across the nation, a number of transgender men and women openly ran and won in several state, local and school board elections.
Some people were not pleased that Delaware’s proposed regulation was introduced through the governor rather than the General Assembly, especially when the General Assembly was considering submitting the exact same order to DOE.
But that legislation had only passed one chamber before the final gavel on the legislative session in July. House Joint Resolution 6 was introduced this spring and is currently sitting in the Senate Education Committee. It could still be contemplated in the second half of the session, which begins this winter.
Meanwhile, in a previous session in 2016, the Senate tabled Senate Bill 190, which would have embedded those protected characteristics in the state constitution.
In legal terms
Full details about the original memo, proposed regulation, meeting minutes and feedback are online at www.doe.k12.de.us/antidiscrimination.
The November Monthly Register of Regulations is posted online at http://regulations.delaware.gov/services/register.shtml.
Public comments may be submitted until Monday, Dec. 4:
• Email comments to DOEregulations.firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Mail comments to Delaware Department of Education; RE: 225 Prohibition of Discrimination; 401 Federal St., Ste. 2; Dover, DE 19901
The Sussex County Council is planning to make a decision regarding the planned Sussex Sports Center before the end of the year, after discussion at their Nov. 14 meeting.
County Administrator Todd Lawson said the County received 57 comment submissions on the issue via its website, and 62 comments total. The County also received a number of petitions from various groups in support of the project, with a total of 580 signatures.
The County first received the request for financial support of the project from the Sussex Sports Center Foundation at the council’s Sept. 26 council meeting.
The facility would be located on 70 acres of land donated by Joe Schell to the foundation. It would include playing fields for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and informal touch-football games, as well as walking trails, pickleball courts and playground equipment. The center would have eight regulation-size soccer/lacrosse fields and paved parking for approximately 350 cars on 57 acres of that land.
The project, in total, would cost an estimated $4.4 million to construct, with 59 percent of the funds to come from private-sector donations. The foundation is seeking 41 percent in public-sector contributions — $275,000 from the State of Delaware, $25,000 from the Town of Georgetown and $1.5 million from Sussex County. Foundation representatives have said the County would have the option to purchase the complex for $1 from the foundation if it decided it wanted get into the parks-and-rec business.
Schell said such a sports complex was needed in Sussex County.
“We’ve got great schools, we’ve got great beaches, but we don’t have great places to play [sports].”
Georgetown Mayor Bill West said kids are something that is near and dear to his heart, and said his town is fully behind the sports complex.
“To give these groups a place to call home, a place to call their fields and play on a regular basis. The Town of Georgetown would love to do this on its own,” he said, but with the many improvements Georgetown has made over the last few years, the Town is in debt and could only financially support the project with its $25,000. He said that, although the Town would not be able to contribute more in monetary donations, the Town would provide policing of the facility, which is located within town limits, as well as snow plowing.
“These are things we are committed to do on a continuing basis.”
West also called attention to the economic impact that such a facility could have.
“You take 700 kids playing soccer, and each one has two parents… They’re going to need a place to eat and sleep. I’ve only got two hotels, with another one being built, hopefully. It affects the whole county… You go to Texas Roadhouse — you see ball teams. I go to the beach, I go to some of the restaurants there, Grotto’s — I see teams. This just isn’t a Sussex County thing… It’s not just for the town of Georgetown. This is something that has been needed throughout the County.”
West also said the walking path on the site would encourage Sussex County’s senior population to get out of the house and stay active.
Zac Crouch of Davis, Bowen & Friedel, who also serves as a member of the foundation’s leadership committee, said the foundation has received preliminary site plan approval from the Town of Georgetown and hopes to have everything approved by the end of the year.
Bobby Horsey said the foundation hopes to begin construction in February, and see the fields in June and July. Construction is anticipated through summer and fall of next year, with the complex to officially open in the spring of 2019.
“We want this thing to be top-notch,” he said.
While people may be concerned about the Route 9/Sand Hill Road/ Airport Road intersection, Crouch said two parcels of land will be donated at the intersection to help properly align the intersection. He noted that the Delaware Department of Transportation has already applied for federal grants totaling $7.5 million to fix the intersection.
“They believe they have a much better chance at receiving that,” he said, noting that DelDOT officials said they expect to know if they will be awarded the grants by April of next year.
Councilman I.G. Burton asked what the contingency plan is in the case the grant funding does not come through, to which Crouch responded that the intersection has been on DelDOT’s priority list and would remain so.
“I think they realize this is an intersection that needs to be fixed, the sooner the better.”
Councilman Rob Arlett said he’s not only concerned about the intersection, but the capacity of Route 9 itself.
Councilman George Cole said the foundation makes a good case, as there would be an economic impact, and the facility would provide services to the residents of Sussex County, add to the quality of life and provide activities for all ages. However, he said, the County has a reputation when it comes to private/public partnerships. He suggested that, instead of the grant, perhaps the County could offer a “0-percent-interest loan.”
“And we stay out of the business of operating this thing and keep an arm’s-length distance from it… I would prefer the government side not get involved in the private side.”
County Attorney J. Everett said granting the money in the form of a loan could prove to be problematic because of potential foreclosure issues for non-reimbursement. Instead, he recommended the council consider drafting a memorandum of understanding.
Schell said he would be open to a negotiation; however, Horsey said his family would not agree to a loan.
“There’s ample argument why this project is different from other projects in the county,” he said.
The council plans to make a determination on the request at a December council meeting.
The residents of Irons Acres are ready for a fight. The community of 26 lots and 21 homes is awaiting a decision from the Sussex County Board of Adjustment this week as to whether a manufactured home that Oakwood Homes placed on a lot on their street will be granted a special-use exception and be allowed to remain there.
“If this is a microcosm of what is going on in the county as a whole, we have a lot of issues,” said Irons Acres property owner Charles Campbell.
Campbell said that while he was out of town earlier this year, he received a call that a trailer home was being moved onto the vacant lot on his street. Having been told previously that the lot would have a single-family home constructed on it, he called the County to ask about permitting.
He contacted the County on Sept. 12 and was told a zoning inspector would call him. After not receiving a call back, Campbell called again on Sept. 15, and shortly thereafter, a County employee arrived and stated that a permit for the property had been issued in error and that the home should not be there. Campbell said the employee also told him a stop-work order would be issued.
“They came in the following Monday, drilled a well, graded the property, put a driveway in,” said Campbell, noting that developer Oakwood Homes had been made aware of the permitting issue on Sept. 13.
“[Oakwood Homes] knew that there was a problem, and [they] just kept on going. These people have basically done just whatever they want to do.”
Campbell noted that Oakwood Homes has a similar application also set to be voted on, for a property and manufactured home on Julie Court.
Per county code, a manufactured home may not be placed on a lot measuring less than .75 acres; however, the company was granted the permits to place the homes, in error, as both lots are less than 75 acres in size.
“They specifically wrote these ordinances to protect people’s homes and their values by not allowing trailers in certain places,” said Campbell.
On the application for the lot in question, Gil Fleming of Oakwood Homes wrote that the uniqueness of the property includes that “the lot is apparently smaller than others in the subdivision.” However, Campbell said 24 of the 26 lots are 100 feet by 171 feet, with the other two lots being larger.
In the subdivision’s restrictive covenants, it states, “No structure of a temporary character and no trailer, tent, barn, tree-house, or other similar outbuilding or structure shall be placed on any lot as shown of the aforesaid plot, at any time, either temporarily or provided…”
The restrictive covenants also states, “These restrictions may be enforced by Howard Hitch, his Heirs, Executors, Administrators or Assigns, or any property owner… All lots owners must comply with the Sussex County Zoning Ordinances governing AR-2 districts.”
Campbell said that, after retaining Sussex County attorney Richard Berl Jr., he and his neighbors were under the impression they had a “slam dunk,” however, the Board continued to defer its vote on the matter.
At the Nov. 7 BOA hearing, Board Member John Mills stated, “I was really disappointed that there wasn’t something hard-copy. It was more of an opinion or what have you.”
Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp noted to the board that two opinions from appraisers were provided to them by one of the residents in opposition to the application.
In a packet presented to the board at the application’s first hearing, Campbell included a letter from Carmean Appraisal Group stating, “The manufactured home could have a negative impact on the values of the existing homes.”
A letter from broker William Emmert Sr. with RE/MAX Realty Group was also in the packet, and it stated, “It would seem from my general inspection of the community that all construction is either stick-built or modular, with NO mobile homes.
“I am a 44-year Delaware real estate salesman/broker and my opinion is that values in ‘Irons Acres’ will be negatively impacted by some 20-25 percent with the addition of a mobile home.”
“In well over a month, we still had board members saying they had never seen any kind of evidence that we provided that our homes would be devalued, when the packet I gave them clearly had those things in it,” said Campbell. “It seems to us they either don’t read that information or they don’t care about that information, and that’s very scary to us.”
“According to the real estate letter and the appraiser, collectively, if we tried to sell our houses, we’d lose a million dollars. That’s what it amounts to, at minimum,” added Phyllis Campbell, Charles Campbell’s mother. “They’re talking about him losing money,” she said of Fleming and Oakwood Homes, “but what about us? We did nothing but follow the law.”
Campbell also pointed out that, on the application, Fleming wrote that the addition of the manufactured home would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood, as “there are mobile homes in the subdivision.”
“He lied,” Campbell said.
In his letter to the Board, Berl also called into question how Oakwood Homes could have been unaware that a modular home could not be placed on such a small lot.
“According to its website, Oakwood Homes first opened for business in 1986, and its manager, Gil Fleming, who signed the application, has been part of the manufactured housing industry for over a decade. It is inconceivable that Oakwood would be unaware of the three-quarter-acre requirement that has existed for some time, and the Board is well aware that Oakwood has been active in Sussex County for some time.”
At the Oct. 2 public hearing, Mills noted that, since the .75-acre lot restriction was enacted, the board has only given one or two special-use exception approvals — emphasizing that the applicants in those cases had showed extreme hardship.
With the Board having deferred their decision three times, Campbell said the property owners on in Irons Acres feel as if their concern is not being taken seriously.
“It’s frustrating to us as homeowners… We went back there the second time, they had done nothing.”
He noted that Board Member Ellen Magee, who was not in attendance for the Oct. 2 public hearing but had listened to the audio recording of the hearing and reviewed the application file, had appeared to him to be more versed in the application than some of the other board members.
The property owners of Irons Acres take pride in the fact that the community is not extremely restrictive in terms of what people can do with their homes.
“One of the reasons I moved here is the fact that we felt secure with these restrictions that Mr. Hitch placed, that we were living in a neighborhood [where] if there’s a different kind of shutter,” that is allowed, said Campbell. “We wanted to live in a neighborhood where there were some basic restrictions, but we didn’t want to be in a place like Bay Colony, where I can’t leave my garage door open or my boat in my driveway… Not every home on the street is the same.”
“We all get along. If you’re doing something that really annoys your neighbor, your neighbor lets you know, and it’s done,” added Ken Leib, whose property is immediately adjacent to the property in question.
Under BoA requirements, applicants for a special use-exception must meet certain thresholds for the exception to be granted, including showing ample reason that the granting of the exception will not adversely affect the values or uses of adjacent properties.
Another requirement is proving that “exceptional practical difficulty” exists — that there is something particularly unusual about the situation that makes other remedies impractical and therefore makes it not possible to meet the code requirements.
At the Oct. 2 public hearing, Fleming said the developer had spent $70,000 to purchase the lot the lot and $12,000 was spent setting the home there.
“In the very beginning, they said it was up to the applicant, Oakwood Homes, to prove that it would not change our neighborhood. [County Attorney Jamie Sharp] told them on more than one occasion that the fact that it’s there [already] is completely irrelevant,” said Campbell earlier this week. “It seems to me they’re trying to circumvent the law, not enforce the law.”
Campbell said most of his neighbors are waiting with baited breath to see the Board’s vote on Monday, as it will directly impact all of them.
“This is an older neighborhood, but people are making an investment in it for their future. They’re investing not only their money but their time, trying to make this a nice neighborhood. It’s sad, it really is.”
Campbell said that while he and Leib hired Berl to oppose the special-use exception application, if the Board votes to grant the application, the community will come together to pay to appeal the decision.
“I’ve already told our county councilman, George Cole, that we may file a suit against the County and each of these people individually.”
Having delayed their decision three times, by law, the Sussex County Board of Adjustment will have to vote on the application at its Nov. 20 meeting.
Strong, cold winds swirled through and around Charles V. Williams Stadium in Smyrna last Saturday night, Nov. 18, when third-seeded Indian River High School (12-3) faced fourth-seeded Carvel Academy (13-4-1) for the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) boys’ varsity soccer championship.
Carvel — the only school getting points against IR in tournament play — used that wind to its advantage in the first period to protect their lead, and when it was at their backs, they fought furiously against the Indians in the second period to clinch the championship, blanking IR 2-0.
Caravel’s Buccaneers controlled the ball most of the first half, with Austin Hamilton nailing a shot into the net at the 28-minute mark. Buccaneer Benji Schwartz kicked in an insurance goal at the 56-minute mark.
“We had three golden opportunities to tie it up in the second half. We didn’t make the right decision, probably, and that cost us,” explained IR head coach Steve Kilby. “Then we started pushing in the final 15 minutes and then gave up. It was a great season, and I’m proud of my boys.”
IR had kicked off the state tournament the previous Saturday night, also at Smyrna, beating McKean High School 6-0. That win earned them a spot in the semi-finals against Delaware Military Academy, in a game that was played last Wednesday, Nov. 15, also in Smyrna. IR won that match 2-0.
After several missed early opportunities and with time running out in the first period, IR’s Egardo Velasquez had gotten the ball to a waiting Wilber Gonzalez-Gomez, who drove it into the net at the 39-minute mark.
IR added another goal against DMA at the 67th minute mark. That time, Velasquez punted a corner kick to Esly Carmona-Deres, who booted it into the net for the Indians’ second and final goal of the game. That win assured the Indians their third straight trip to the state championship.
“I’m sure loosing last year was extra motivation. There are some guys, especially seniors, who’ve been around for three championships, who would like to win another,” Kilby said after the Nov. 16 win.
“When you get to this level, what I call ‘big-boy soccer,’ the boys are playing harder for their team, and I think there was a lot of hard play tonight. I don’t think any of it was done with any malice. DMA is very well-coached. They’ve got a great organization. We’re just glad we won tonight.”
With returning talent growing into juniors and seniors who will groom the underclassmen, the Indians will be back in the hunt for another shot at a DIAA state championship in 2018.
After receiving a flood of wastewater violations in Millsboro, leaders at Mountaire Farms Inc. are planning a multi-million-dollar upgrade.
Sampling at the Route 24 poultry processing plant is slowly returning to normal after the wastewater treatment lagoons stopped doing their job, leading to disapproval from the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control’s (DNREC’s) Groundwater Discharges Section.
DNREC’s Nov. 2 violation report (W-17-GWD-13) shows violations of Mountaire’s spray irrigation permit and agricultural utilization permit, especially for wastewater containing nitrogen, fecal coliform concentrations, biochemical oxygen demand (BODs) and total suspended solids (TSS).
“We’ve been operating with this system for a while. In August of this year, our engineers … discovered an upset in our wastewater treatment facility. The cause of it was a build-up of solids and lack of oxygen in the system,” said Sean McKeon, Mountaire spokesperson. “It’s not one of those things that would show itself right away.”
“As of today, all wastewater parameters are back in compliance with the company’s permit limits, with the exception of total nitrogen, TSS and BOD — all of which have decreased significantly,” stated DNREC Spokesperson Michael Globetti. “Mountaire also is submitting bi-weekly reports to update DNREC on the progress of corrective measures at the facility.”
Mountaire disposes of all wastewater through a spray irrigation system, north and south of Route 24 in Millsboro. The facility can spray a monthly average of 2.6 million gallons per day. On the surface, spray irrigation can appear to be a fairly environmentally friendly method of disposal. Water is treated onsite, then used to irrigate local fields that are owned by Mountaire but farmed by local farmers. Barley, corn and soybeans consume nutrients from the wastewater and allow excess water to filter naturally into the ground.
But if something goes wrong, those undesirable ingredients end up in the groundwater.
In monitoring wells, nitrogen was being measured at 66 percent above the permitted 15.6 mg/L average up to 76.75 mg/L. In August, six fields exceeded the annual maximum (320 pounds annually per acre) in one month alone. In 2015, nitrogen was over-applied on 11 of 13 fields.
Violations were numerous: at least 30 for excess nitrogen (tests in September averaged 379 mg/L); 29 for biochemical oxygen demand (BODs); 24 for total suspended solids (TSS); and 16 for total chlorine residual. Fecal coliform had nine violations, at its worst jumping in August to more than 100 colonies per liter (officially 1,100,000 col/100 mL).
Additional violations were related to the permits, effluent, groundwater, failure to submit plans of corrective action, failure to maintain all the equipment as required, failure to provide DNREC notifications or complete data, and more.
Several agricultural violations related to Mountaire’s applying bio-solids to the fields in an untimely manner and without submitting crop plans to DNREC.
“Groundwater monitoring wells have consistently exceeded the drinking water standard of 10 mg/L [up to 65.8 mg/L in March] for nitrate nitrogen and have shown no improvements since Mountaire acquired ownership of the facility in May of 2000,” DNREC’s notice stated.
It didn’t help that, because of employee turnover, Mountaire couldn’t immediately determine the rate sludge was being applied to the fields.
In September, Mountaire staff sent word that effluent was being tested at an invalid sampling point, which didn’t represent both clarifiers in the system.
They also realized not all flow from clarifiers was discharging properly into the storage lagoon. Some lines were “bypassing the lagoon and discharging directly to central pivots,” the notice said. It appears that the lines need to be re-seeded.
Corrective plans take shape
Mountaire must return operations to normal, meeting permit and design specifications. They must submit a corrective work action plan by Dec. 1, with long-term and short-term solutions.
They’ll have daily monitoring, biweekly updates and monthly meetings with DNREC.
As long as effluent isn’t meeting permit guidelines, DNREC has imposed additional restrictions, including limited spraying during rainy weather and additional buffers to prevent fecal coliform from reaching public access roads.
Phase 1 of the correction plan tackles the immediate issues, such as lack of oxygen, excess bio-solid removal, increased analysis and better staffing. The six-month project will cost between $5 and $10 million, McKeon said.
Phase 2 is a complete wastewater treatment upgrade to a “state-of-the-art system that will probably be the largest and most effective system in the state,” costing more than $25 million and possibly coming online in about 1.5 years, in roughly the same location. That became a priority when the problems were discovered.
Several employees who were not operating the system up to snuff “are no longer with us. They’ve been replaced by new and other employees who are operating the system correctly,” McKeon said. “And it’s being monitored. We’ve been working very, very closely with DNREC.”
After a lack of maintenance on the anaerobic lagoons, it appears that Mountaire needs to catch up by clearing excess sludge (treated bio-solids) from the system and applying it to additional land, which requires more permits and more real estate.
“Mountaire also is requesting to use a former lagoon for temporary staging and dewatering of the some of the removed solids,” according to Globetti.
DNREC has further enforcement powers if Mountaire fails to comply.
The violations weren’t apparent earlier this year during a permit renewal with DNREC’s Groundwater Discharges Section (GWDS). At the time, the only apparent permit violations were the increased nitrogen levels in the effluent. GWDS included a compliance schedule to address nitrogen concentrations in the renewal permit, which Mountaire appealed in August, rather than followed. A hearing on that is still pending.
“We work very hard to be a good corporate neighbor in the communities in which we operate, and our desire is to achieve excellence,” McKeon said. “Our commitment to this community is we will allocate the resources necessary to [do upgrades], both short- and long-term.”
Neighbors concerned over water safety
The violations have caused concern among nearby residents. McKeon said he’s spoken to a number of residents to allay their fears.
“We purchased the Millsboro operation back in 2000. At the time, there was existing groundwater problems here,” McKeon said.
Because of the property’s longtime use as a poultry plant, Mountaire has provided water or water treatment to some residents for 14 years. Townsend’s Inc. had used spray irrigation at its poultry plant on that site for years. Environmental regulations have also increased as government realized what untreated wastewater could do to the area.
“Mountaire has been providing bottled water or water treatment to eight [households] downgradient of the spray fields since 2003 through an Order on Consent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and continues to do so,” according to Globetti.
“[Lately] DNREC’s Division of Water and the Division of Public Health’s Office of Drinking Water have been conducting sampling of drinking water wells for residents adjacent to the facility that may be in the path of groundwater flow from beneath the Mountaire spray fields,” Globetti continued.
“Because of historically elevated nitrates in the area groundwater and the EPA 2003 Order on Consent, the majority of the residences sampled are already using bottled water or water treatment systems.”
Until this summer, Mountaire had been planning to expand its Millsboro operation to add a third production line. They later withdrew the Coastal Zone Act Permit application.
He passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gumdrops, and back onto the silver screen.
The modern Christmas classic “Elf” returns to the Clayton Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the movie at 7 p.m.
The 2003 comedy stars Will Ferrell as “Buddy the Elf,” a human raised at Santa’s North Pole workshop, who travels to New York City to find his biological father.
Hosted by Southern Sussex Rotary, the event is a fundraiser for the Jackie Pavik Memorial RYLA Scholarship.
“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season and support the youth of our community,” said Rotarian Christine McCoy.
In addition to the film showing, the event includes chance auctions, door prizes and a 50/50 drawing. Tickets cost $10, and proceeds will help the Rotary send local students to an annual leadership seminar and retreat, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in Ocean City, Md.
“It teaches them about community service and leadership in their community, [how] one person can make a difference in their community,” McCoy said.
The students attending the seminar perform service projects, hear from guest speakers and discuss current social issues. In groups, they brainstorm and develop in-depth community service projects that they could pursue at their own high schools. This year, the Rotary is sponsoring the new EnviroAct student group at Indian River High School, a service club with a focus on ecological issues.
More than a dozen high school juniors have attended RYLA in the past, thanks in part to the Jackie Pavik Memorial RYLA Scholarship. The fund was named for a Dagsboro teenager who died in a car collision in 2012, just days before beginning 12th grade.
“She was our very first RYLA attendee from our club,” McCoy said.
The Rotary is building an endowment fund to continue sponsoring local students in the long-term.
The Clayton Theatre is located at 33246 Main Street, Dagsboro.
The SouthEastern Delaware Art Studio Tour (SEDAST) has been a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for 23 years, giving art lovers a chance to visit artists, often in their home studios, and learn about how they create their work.
Started as a way for local artists to showcase their art and increase awareness of the richness of the artist community in the area, the tour has grown every year, according to spokesperson Jeanne Mueller.
For the past 17 years, the tour has also benefited local schools, through donations to the schools’ art programs. The donations are collected through the “Art in the Hat” raffle, which is held in conjunction with the tour. Each artist donates a piece of artwork, and raffle tickets are sold in the artists’ studios during the two-day tour.
This year, 14 artists are participating in the tour, and donating pieces to the raffle. The artists are: Ellen Rice, oils, pastels and watercolor; Cheryl Wisbrock, watercolor, acrylic and mixed water media; Sabie Carey, clay; Laura Lee Hickman, pastels; Eileen Olson, oil, acrylic, pastel and collage; Justin Cavagnaro, glass artist; Kim Doughty-Cavagnaro, ceramics and jewelry; John Donato, acrylics, murals and carvings; Dawn Pierro, jewelry; Jennifer E. Carter, photography, watercolor, oil and mural artist; Tom Frey, wood turner; Joel Antonioli Jr., woodworker; Anne Hanna, watercolors; and Jeffrey Todd Moore, stained glass, watercolor and photo manipulation.
Seven of the artists in this year’s tour have been in it since the beginning, Mueller said. Just the fact that the tour has continued and grown for more than two decades is amazing in itself, she said. The addition of the Art in the Hat raffle has added a new dimension to the tour and a new mission for the artists.
This year, Mueller said, that mission seems even more important, as schools are being forced to cut funding for “extras,” such as art classes. Each year, SEDAST sends letters to art teachers in the Indian River School District, asking them to submit “wish lists” that they would like funding for from the raffle.
When the letters came in, Mueller said, some asked for help with special projects, as they do every year — “typically, things like fixing a kiln or buying a tablet,” she said. However, many of the letters came back asking for basic supplies.
“They want money to buy paper and crayons!” she said.
Teachers requested a total of $5,000 in supplies this year, Mueller said. Often, the teachers reach into their own pockets to pay for such supplies.
So, SEDAST this year is urging the public to not only come out and enjoy the tours, but also to purchase raffle tickets.
“We’re trying to get a lot of attention to that,” Mueller said.
Items in this year’s raffle include a seaglass bracelet, a stained-glass crab, a twice-blown glass vase, a Shaker-style nightstand, a beverage crock, a turquoise-and-silver bracelet, a natural-edge wooden bowl and several framed or canvas art pieces with subjects ranging from a Portuguese village to a golden retriever romping in the surf.
Raffle tickets cost $5 each or $20 for five. They will be available at each of the studios on the tour. Tickets will be gathered at the end of the tour on Saturday, and a winner drawn for each prize. Patrons can choose which item they would like to try to win.
Brochures listing studios on the tour are available at businesses that are serving as tour sponsors this year: Gallery One, 32 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View; the Ellen Rice Gallery, 111 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View; Jayne’s Reliable, 33034 Main Street, Dagsboro; and Ocean Vayu Yoga, 29P Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View; and at other locations, including Wild About Birds, 19 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View; Creative Concepts, 31874 Roxana Road, Ocean View; and the Ocean View Post Office, 35764 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View.
The tour will be held on Friday, Nov. 24, and Saturday, Nov. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and to see the art that will be included in the raffle, go to www.artstudiotour.com or check out the tour’s Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/sedasttour.
Those who are not able to attend the tour can still help fund art in local schools through SEDAST by sending donations to P.O. Box 1154, Bethany Beach, DE 19930.