MILFORD — City Council is moving forward with plans to invest in the community through the purchase of two properties — one that could be the site of industry and the other, a 19-acre park.
On Monday, council approved the purchase prices of the 182-acre R&C Fry Farm LP and of a 19-acre parcel of land on South Rehoboth Boulevard, adjacent to North Horseshoe Drive, presently owned by Herman Sharp III.
Fry Farm, on the corner of Del. 14 and Del. 15, will cost the city $6.38 million. The second property will cost $550,000.
Funding for the purchase and infrastructure improvements for the potential industrial park at the Fry Farm property will come from city reserve funds and possible private investment. As lots are sold, the reserve accounts will be reimbursed, a news release from the city stated.
Initial funding for the Sharp property purchase also will come from city reserve accounts, with grants later reimbursing those accounts, the release added.
Sara Pletcher, economic development and community engagement administrator for the city, said Thursday that Milford residents should not expect their taxes to be impacted if these purchases go through.
She said the potential purchases are not “depleting resources,” noting there would still be enough funds to cover emergency repairs to the city’s water and electric infrastructure, if needed.
The next step in purchasing the Fry Farm property is for it to be rezoned to I-1 (Limited Industrial). The parcel, currently zoned a combination of R-3 (Garden Apartment and Townhouse) and C-3 (Highway Commercial), will be on the Sept. 21 Planning Commission agenda and on the Sept. 27 City Council agenda.
Pending a successful rezoning vote and no change in the price, the city will likely settle on both the Fry and Sharp properties by late November. Ms. Pletcher said installation of infrastructure, like drinking-water wells or a water tower, could begin as soon as next summer at Fry Farm.
According to the release, the addition of an industrial or business park would centralize companies and fulfill the current and future needs of manufacturing, light industrial, warehousing and employment in the greater Milford area.
The creation of an industrial park was included in the 2018 strategic plan, it added.
Ms. Pletcher said there are no potential private investors lined up yet, as rezoning still needs to be approved.
“We’re open to private investors,” she said. “If people are interested and want to come to the city to talk about what that could look like, we are open to negotiation in that sense. As of right now, we have no contracts in the pipeline.”
There also are no businesses lined up for the industrial park at this point. Ms. Pletcher said council is waiting for the vote for or against rezoning.
She did note there has been interest in the property.
“I get calls for warehousing and industrial zoning a lot, so I’m letting them know that this is in the pipeline,” she said. “Until we actually own (the property), we won’t go forward with any kind of marketing for it.”
Mayor Archie Campbell reiterated the need for a business park.
“The city is growing, and we need an industrial park,” he said via the city’s release. “We also need open space. My vision is a park where we can build a playground, pickleball and tennis courts, soccer and softball fields.”
The vacant Sharp property will lend itself to this vision, the release stated. With a year left on the parcel’s current agriculture lease, the city can begin planning phases for another city-owned park, specifically addressing the priorities identified in the 2018 strategic plan.
“The community has said that it’s a priority for them; therefore, it’s a priority for us,” Ms. Pletcher said. “Whether that be entities for people to create their own recreation, such as dog parks and playgrounds, or to have actual activities coordinated by our recreation department.”
Once established, the park will be maintained by Milford’s Parks & Recreation. The release stated it also will give the department an opportunity to expand its offerings.
Ms. Pletcher said a park also means more jobs, as the city plans to hire a recreation coordinator, to join current P&R staff, ahead of the purchase.
“Obviously, that’s going to create jobs in our parks department,” Ms. Pletcher said. “We’re adding 19 acres to our parks. We’re going to need more people to mow lawns.”
She added that Milford residents will have the opportunity to provide input on what they’d like to see in the park — for example, soccer fields, baseball diamonds or playgrounds.
While the Sharp property could have been rezoned for commercial use, Ms. Pletcher said there already are vacant commercial properties in the city.
“We don’t necessarily need more,” Ms. Pletcher said.