Dover transfers old library deed restriction

Dover sold the old Dover Library to Wesley College in 2017 with a deed restriction giving the city first refusal if the college needed to sell it. City council voted to assign that deed restriction to the state in an executive session Feb. 10, citing legal advice as the reason for privacy.

This follows the state’s Feb. 4 agreement with Wesley College to give the college $3 million “to allow Wesley to remain sustainable up and through the signing of a Definitive Agreement with another Institution of Higher Education, which may happen in February 2020.”

The agreement includes several conditions. One is Wesley College must give the old library, at 45 South State Street, to the state if the potential merger doesn’t go through. By giving up the city’s claim, the council makes this condition possible.

Public safety downtown

The Safety Advisory and Transportation and the Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement committees will focus their next meetings on public safety problems facing downtown business owners.

They will take a closer look at solutions to concerns like panhandling, vandalism and public intoxication, raised at a Jan. 30 town hall.

The parks and recreation committee meets Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. Chair Councilman David Anderson, 4th district, said priorities include: lighting, environmental changes that can prevent loitering and increased programming that will bring more people downtown. There will be a presentation from Downtown Dover Partnership and time for public comment.

The safety advisory committee meets Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Chair Councilman Ralph Taylor, 2nd district, said they will focus on adding a downtown police substation and increasing community policing.

Subcommittee dismantled

In a 6-3 vote, councilmembers approved disbanding the Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee. This was a recommendation from the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee.

It follows ongoing disputes and personality conflicts, Anderson said. “There’s been some conflicts between some of the citizen members and some staff,” he said. He recalled a particular breaking point when a member allegedly called a state official on behalf of the subcommittee without communicating with the other members first.

While the subcommittee will no longer exist, Anderson hopes it will come back in the form of an independent organization, pointing to a similar model in Newark. “There’s only two models that have worked in this state. The other models have not worked; where it’s just citizens engaged, that normally fades away,” he said.

He stressed the importance of protecting citizens who rely on bicycling to get to and from work. “That’s a necessity for them, so they need safe biking.”

More zoning flexibility

Council unanimously approved a zoning change to allow personal service establishments, like barbershops, in a General Residence and Office (RG-O) zone.

This applies to RG-O parcels in the historic district overlay. The zoning was intended to protect areas that used to be mostly historic houses and offices, city planner Dave Hugg said.

The planning commission included barbershops under the category “personal service establishment” to avoid singling out one type of business, Hugg said.

“It allows much more flexibility in terms of the way the property ultimately can be used, and it avoids the potential that this particular use might be so successful that the owner wishes to add some additional services and suddenly finds that they can’t do that because barbershops and hair-braiding may not be the same thing, or barbershops and doing nails or other personal services,” he said.

The council added another amendment that would identify personal service establishments, antique shops, art galleries and gift and card shops as permitted uses. This means the owners won’t need additional approval from the planning commission.

B&B zoning request fails

A property owner at 4 Lakeview Drive requested to change his zoning from One-family Residence (R-7) to General Residence (RG-1) to fulfill his plan of establishing a small bed-and-breakfast.

Councilman David Anderson, 4th District, moved to pass the ordinance, but it died after no one seconded.

This came after several people raised concerns about an unrelated property where the renter has been operating an Airbnb, renting rooms two to four nights at a time. Neighbors said they were worried about the values of their homes decreasing because they have noticed increased traffic through the cul de sac, people walking through their backyards and garbage that overflows and sits outside for as long as three weeks.