Royal Farms has its approval, and the Silicato-Wood development is officially cleared to build.


Royal Farms has its approval, and the Silicato-Wood development is officially cleared to build.

The Milford City Council gave its final go-ahead to build a convenience store and 16-pump gas station at the corner of 10th Street and Route 1 Monday night, by a 4-3 vote.

The neighboring NKS Distributors warehouse was approved unanimously. The eastbound crossover, frequently used by Woods Haven residents to return home from downtown Milford, will be closed off as part of the construction.

James Starling, Katrina Wilson, Doug Morrow and Irvin Ambrose voted for the approval. John Workman, Mike Spillane and Owen Brooks voted against it.

Debate centered on safety issues, especially a clause in the Milford zoning code that prohibits “service stations” within 500 feet of school property – but doesn’t say exactly what counts as a service station.

Workman and Spillane argued for a broad interpretation of the language, preventing any gas station near a school.

“If something were to happen – an accident, something with the pumps – we want kids to be safe,” Workman said.

However, City Solicitor Tim Willard presented another view of the code, which ultimately won the vote. Without a definition of “service station” in the code, Willard said, the city should default to a “dictionary definition.” That, he said, would require mechanical service – tune-ups, repairs, oil changes or something else along those lines.

Willard added that a judge would likely take separate mentions of “service station” and “gasoline service station” in the zoning code to mean that they are supposed to be two different things.

The definition of “service station” listed in Merriam-Webster’s tenth edition dictionary is “a retail station for servicing motor vehicles, especially with gasoline and oil.” Its online version is more concise – “gas station.”

The pumps would be located about 2,200 feet from the high school building – farther than Wawa and the nearby Valero – but within 500 feet of the athletic fields.

Traffic was the other side of the safety concern. The 10th street intersection is already extremely busy, and funneling more traffic there worried many council members and area residents, especially because of its proximity to the high school.

“Anything could happen, but my biggest concern is the traffic,” Brooks said. “If we ask for a light, we can get it. So I vote no, until we get a light there.”

Members of council agreed that a traffic light would help the intersection – currently rated “failing” by the Department of Transportation – but declined to make putting a light in a condition of the approval.

“I don’t want to put it on as a condition,” Morrow said, noting that installing a light isn’t up to the developer. “We’ll pursue vigorous political pressure, but not put it on as a conditional use.”

The long-term fix would be an overpass at Front Street – part of DelDOT’s long-range plans but unlikely for the near future.

“An overpass isn’t going to be built for more than 10 years,” Eric Buckson, Milford’s Kent County Levy Court commissioner, said. “Understand that, when you make your decision tonight. (An overpass) is not part of the decision.”

The other major announcement of the meting came from Ambrose, chair of the finance committee. Thanks to continuing economic downturns, he said, the city of Milford is going to have to clamp down on its own spending wherever possible in order to take a burden off the taxpayers.

“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope I’m wrong,” Ambrose said.

He declared his intention to go through the complete 2008-2009 budget passed in June, looking for any items that can be reasonably reduced or eliminated.

“Even though these items are budgeted, I really think we need to ask, is this absolutely necessary, or would it be nice?” Ambrose said.

He emphasized that he doesn’t want to cut spending recklessly.

“If it satisfies the question, ‘is it absolutely necessary, and is it a budgeted item,’ then I have no objection,” Ambrose said.

The new viewpoint came into play almost immediately, when City Manager David Baird introduced a city request to buy three new cars for city employees to use on official business

“We can certainly live with what we’re doing, but it’s not the ideal situation,” Baird said.

That and the fact that only one car was approved in the budget was enough to turn council sentiment against the purchase, and Baird withdrew the request rather than put it to a vote.

“There is no way I can support something like this,” Ambrose said.

The council also approved the annexation of part of the McColley family’s Sunnybrae Farm property, and a conditional use for the Milford School District to build a new elementary school on the Lulu Ross grounds.