Interestingly, if I turn off 'inherit permissions', then 'inherit
owner' DOES take effect correctly. However, that means the sticky bit does not get inherited, which will not work for me. I need both to be
inherited, and for some reason they are behaving mutually-exclusive
(with 'inherit permissions' taking precedence).

If I understood your problem correctly, you don't actually want to set sticky bit on the root directory, but suid - so the chmod would be like

chmod 4xxx mydir

In FreeBSD suid-bitted directory will make all the subdirs to inherit the owner.

Sticky bit causes bit different behaviour - see sticky (8) and chmod(1)

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