Milford City Council agreed to extend city services to Colony South and West despite the fact that the property had not been annexed into the city. At the same meeting, council tabled a request from Christiana Excavating to extend services to their property in the southeast area of Milford until they were ready to annex into the city. James Puddicombe, City Engineer, explained that there were areas outside city limits where city services were offered already.
“One of these is to extend water service and the other is to extend electric service,” Puddicombe said. “One thing to note, electric service is driven predominantly by Delaware Electric Co-Op and Delmarva Power. Oftentimes, there may be a branch that stretches out and it’s easier for the city to provide service, so it doesn’t really follow city boundaries whereas water is a lot closer to city boundaries.”
Rob Pierce, City Planner, explained that his office had not yet found the agreement between Colony South and the city from 40 years ago where the city had agreed to extend water service to the development. They had reached out to the developer who also was unsure if they had a copy of a signed agreement. However, Pierce provided council with minutes from meetings that indicated a previous council had agreed to connect the development to city water services.
“That Colony South application, it does appear that we already served Colony West which would be Phase One of that development. We serve row homes and the apartment complex that are in Colony North,” Pierce said. “Colony South is Phase Two of that development. It appears to me that we had made a commitment to that. What’s in your packet would be an ability to memorialize an arrangement or agreement that Interfaith Housing would annex if and when they became contiguous, which I think was the intent of the minutes that are in your packet. And that would be from Route 1 to the northern side. And again, the property is only one property removed at this time from city limits.”
Currently, IG Burton car dealership sits between the development and the city boundary Pierce explained. He also stated that if the dealership agreed to annex in the future, providing city services to the development would allow the city to require Interfaith Housing to also annex into the city.
So, my personal opinion, it’s okay. That if we go with allowing this because it’s so close, I don’t see a problem, but I don’t like it,” Councilman Todd Culotta said. “I believe if you get city services, city sewer, city water, you should be in the city. I don’t think we’re ever going to approve a new development ever again, that we would provide services for and then not require them to be in the city because once we do that, there’s no reason to ever join. What if the county starts putting sewer and we’re competing with them and that could happen in some parts, but in this case, this particular one, I think is fine.”
Councilman Jason James agreed that it did seem, based on the minutes, that a previous council agreed to extend the services. Councilman Andy Fulton stated that it appears council was bound to the agreement, but that he would like for council to be cognizant of this type of thing in the future.
“I think if we have the minutes written down, it’s sure to be a commitment to something whether or not we agree with it today,” Councilman Fulton said. “It is something that we would still have to honor because it was a commitment made by this body. Doesn’t matter who sits in the seats. It’s a commitment made by the body and 30 years later doesn’t matter. I think there’s a such thing as good faith as described before.”
Councilman Dan Marabello asked if there was a possibility of Interfaith Housing purchasing a small parcel of land from the car dealership in order to make the properties contiguous. Pierce explained that the organization was a non-profit and that may not be a feasible option for them. Councilman Mike Boyle asked if building was imminent, and Pierce explained that the developer had come to the city because they were ready to start the next phase. Councilman Boyle suggested that the onus was on the developer to produce the agreement, to which Councilman Culotta pointed out that the minutes showed that there was an agreement at one time.
“And I think I think Councilman Fulton’s point there historically, at least it’s been found that some of the historical activities were not documented. Not even in council, they never voted,” Councilman James said. “There was never any minutes but if this is something that is in minutes and council took a vote on it, that’s entirely different from a handshake that’s got more documentation, we have other things.”
City Solicitor David Rutt asked if the properties in question would be sold by Interfaith Housing and Pierce stated that some of the properties would be sold. Rutt had concerns that this would mean Interfaith Housing would no longer control the property once it was sold and that individual property owners could refuse to annex.
“The proposed agreement has a binding effect,” Pierce said. “It states the agreement shall be binding upon any parties hereto, their administrators, successors, interests and assigns, so I thought it would transfer. We can modify that language based on Solicitor Rutt’s feedback that it would convey with ownership.”
The request was approved with a vote of seven to one with Councilman Marabello voting “reluctantly no.”
The second request was from Christiana Excavating who was asking for city electric to be extended to a property in the southern section of Milford. The company was proposing an industrial development which consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. There was one property between the lands Christiana Excavating owned and the city boundary, but that owner had not responded to requests to annex their property and make the area contiguous. Councilman Culotta asked what the company wanted to build on the property.
“They’re looking to build a large warehouse style facility that contractors lease out independently,” Chad Moore of Davis, Bowen & Friedel said. “They would have their own bathrooms and storage, but typically more of a warehouse.” Currently, the land was vacant.
Councilman Boyle stated that it was several acres of undeveloped land to which Councilman Culotta pointed out that it was very close to being annexed.
“But we don’t know that,” Councilman Boyle said. “That is part of how things like Colony South get started. What’s the next one? Because they are also an acre and a half away just north of that, but it’s not contiguous with these. We keep repeating the same mistake over and over again, next thing you know power lines go in.”
Councilman Culotta agreed that council needed to be judicious in choosing what happened with city services.
“We should not be just giving away services,” Councilman Culotta said. “But this is so close. It’s likely to be developed. It’s likely more residential because you are so close to R3. I don’t see it being a real big risk if we require them to annex. Like Baltimore Air Coil. We gave it to them, they agreed to annex and then they annexed. I think the stated use for the property has good benefits.”
Councilman Fulton stated that the reason he voted in favor of the Colony West request wass because there were minutes indicating that the decision was made by a previous council.
“We have nothing like that to dictate that this takes place,” Councilman Fulton said. “Yes, there’s just that one lot. Well, what happens if someone buys that lot and decides not to become part of the city. We’re more than willing to spread our sewer lines, our water lines when you are annexed. Welcome to Milford but be a part of Milford before we give away the entire bakery. It is only services we have to offer.”
The motion to table passed with a vote of seven to one, with Councilman Culotta the only dissenting vote.
“I vote no only because, again, it goes back to economic development,” Councilman Culotta said. “They’re putting in something that will create jobs, places for businesses to run. That’s the only reason. However, I do agree that I don’t like giving away city services unless you are in the city.”
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