Gateway and City Hall upgrades discussed

Terry RogersGovernment, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

A sign similar to this may be installed at entrances to the City of Milford

At a recent meeting, Milford City Council reviewed plans for gateway improvements as well as redevelopment in front of City Hall. The gateway improvements would include new signage that reflected the branding of the town along with native, drought resistant plants. The redevelopment at City Hall, which is being called City Hall Plaza, would include a brick wall and pedestrian pathway that would make the building more visible.

“Over the last few months at a direction from council we have been working with the designer to create an approved plan for our beautification efforts into our gateways into the city,” Brad Dennehy, Director of Parks and Recreation, said. “So we’ve picked four key areas at Rehoboth Boulevard and Walnut Street. That’s kind of that No Man’s Land section there. There’s a flagpole, a little lighthouse. It’s just open grass way so we’ve taken this plan before the Parks and Rec Advisory Board and also at the Tree Commission. And the Tree Commission has given us some really good input because they’re all professional designers or they come from the from the industry, so they could really critique the plantings and the types of trees and shrubs and flowers that are out there.”

Dennehy explained that all plants suggested were drought tolerant, but each of the gateway designs would be consistent, making them uniform throughout the city. Other areas besides Rehoboth Boulevard and Walnut Street include Kings Highway and Old Shawnee Road as well as one on Route 1 where Route 113 splits. A fourth was considered at the intersection of Route 14 and Route 113, but construction in that area has put a gateway beautification there on hold.

“What our initial idea was to get a plan together and then then go to DelDot to seek approval, which will be the next step,” Dennehy said. “We didn’t want to go to DelDOT with just a loose idea or say “hey, we want to make some improvements.” Because the first question they would say, “Well, what improvements do you want to take on?” What would occur here is that we would pay to have these things installed and we would maintain them. So that’s really important that we’re planning species which aren’t requiring huge amount of watering. They’re going to require watering, obviously to establish, but we certainly don’t want someone out there on a water truck on Route 1 and 113 on a daily basis, which we do with a lot of our other plantings in town with all our flowers, they get watered daily, but we’re trying to plant stuff which looks really good and is for the most part has lower water needs but sort of ties hand in hand with our horticultural position.”

Councilman Andy Fulton had concerns about placing a sign at Kings Highway and Old Shawnee Road as it was not at the city limits. He felt that a sign there would leave out newer developments south of the intersection like Milford Ponds and Cypress Hall.

“The City of Milford has really grown far down that road and now we’re kind of ignoring it,” Councilman Fulton said. “It is like we are saying “Oh, you are part of the city but you are not really part in the city.” There is a city limit sign but it is really tiny.”

Dennehy explained that the signs were not meant to exclude neighborhoods, but that getting DelDOT to approve signs could be cumbersome. Councilman Fulton stated that the signage proposed was in Kent County, other than the one at Kings Highway. Mark Whitfield, City Manager, stated that some of that was due to differences between the Sussex and Kent County offices of DelDOT. Councilman Dan Marabello asked if there was a way to add irrigation that would keep the plants watered.

“So, an irrigation system is contingent upon having a water source. So, we just put in a trial system with the same design and the same plants which was kind of like our pilot program out at the Seabury pump station out on 113,” Dennehy said. “We put that in and then we quickly realized that we needed water out there. Luckily, we have all types of water because it’s a water plant. So, we put on a yard hydrant, that was an easy one. I think there is no water out on one Route 1 and 113 other than boring underneath Route 1 which I think is going to be cost prohibitive.”

Councilman Marabello explained that he was thinking long term to manage plantings while Councilman Fulton pointed out there was water in Lighthouse Estates. Denny explained that the water for the development was on the other side of the highway. He stated that the cost of the current plan was $50,000 and had been included in the Capital Improvement Project budget. Councilman Marabello asked if there was funding available from local legislators that may allow for irrigation.

“If you would have had the opportunity to go back and actually watch the Tree Commission when they met on this,” Whitfield said. “They were really advocating the use of native plants and plants that were drought resistant. So, they they’re looking at low maintenance, they want something that’s beautiful provides a lot of color. But it’s also low maintenance that you should not have to extend water.”

Councilman Marabello pointed out that if there was a significant drought, without a way to water the plants, they would be destroyed, suggesting that this be something council considered in the future. He agreed that the plan was beautiful and hoped to see it replicated throughout the city.

Dennehy will now present the plans to DelDot before bringing it back to council.

Rendering of Milford City Hall Plaza

“I think we’re all in agreement that the City Hall is it’s a pretty building and it’s the heart of the downtown but when you approach it it’s kind of hidden because of the current landscaping,” Dennehy explained, moving into the discussion about City Hall Plaza. “So, we’ve got had a proposal. Again, this has gone before the Parks and Rec Advisory Board and the Tree Commission attested to how they liked it too, but it’s opening up the whole front of City Hall there.”

The two trees currently standing in front of City Hall would remain, but everything else would be cleared. Dead plants have already been removed and the suggestion was to add a low brick wall.

“There’ll be a brick sort of entranceway on either side, which would be closed to vehicle traffic, but it would have removable bollards so if you had to get an emergency vehicle in there like an ambulance or a fire truck that could easily be taken up out of the ground,” Dennehy said. “But the idea, I think, is to one, showcase the City Hall and, two, have a pedestrian plaza which could be used for the tree lighting. It could be used for craft vendors once a month and a meeting place. If there’s any PR events or political type of events, it would really showcase the whole city hall.”

Three flagpoles would also be installed that would fly the American, state and city flag.

“We have a city flag which we never fly,” Dennehy said. “The US flag should always be flying but we should be flying the city flag and the state flag. I think it just gives that sort of real formality and I hate to use the term regalness coming from the Commonwealth but just that you feel that you’re at City Hall and it is majestic. Would that be the right word? I’m not sure. But the cost on us is somewhere in the ballpark of $350,000 including design and installation. We have applied for the bond bill for funding on this. So, it’s not in the CIP plan, I believe in terms of funding that we have applied for.”

Council agreed that the rendering looked beautiful. Once funding is established, City Hall Plaza will return to council for approval.








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