Letters - August 25, 2006

Communities to be applauded for voices

This August, Townsend Acres and the Town of South Bethany honorably spoke out against the sprawling growth that degrades our quality of life.

Residents of Townsend Acres came together to oppose the proposed Home Depot store along Route 17 near Clarksville. This small neighborhood should receive the praise of our community as a whole for fighting for their peaceful way of living. They refuse a big-box megaplex that will support outrageous traffic, noise and pollution. They recognize that the rural area around Clarksville cannot and should not support a Home Depot.

Home Depot, by its very nature, will draw shoppers (especially newcomers) away from locally owned businesses and send money outside of our community. Most of us that live here reside in small towns. Small towns have character and do not have Home Depots.

The Town of South Bethany also deserves recognition for taking a stand against The Estuary. The Estuary is a proposed 1,060-lot town of over 700 acres smack dab in the middle of some of the nicest natural places in our Inland Bays watershed.

The Estuary will degrade and destroy some of the highest-quality wetlands and upland forests left in our area. Wetlands protect and improve water quality in our already dirty Inland Bays. They also prevent flooding. When wetlands are replaced by development this only contributes to flooding and pollution.

Further, think about the crowded conditions on our roads, bays, and beaches that already exist. More of this type of growth is no longer foolish but nearly insane. Residents of The Estuary will be intent on “using” the bays that they moved near. How much more “use” can our already suffering estuaries (the real ones) handle? Both our infrastructure and environment cannot currently support this new town.

I hope that others will increasingly follow the courageous examples set by Townsend Acres and South Bethany. It is not easy to speak out. Standing up for quality of life in a rapidly changing county requires effort and deep consideration of what is right. But I believe that the majority of people in our area want a healthy environment and a calm quiet place to live.

We do not want sprawl development — and it is time that all of us speak out for the future of the community that we love.

Chris Bason
Ocean View

Reader says early Christians had it right

I am acquainted with the owners of the Ocean View Family Restaurant and they have shown me to be very loving and supportive community members. Particularly, their support of Anita for several years is exceptional and a strong role model for many others in Ocean View. Their kindness and patience with our residents with special needs has been appreciated. I am sure that their fine food has been shared with many who were hungry and without funds.

I do not know Bruce Layton, president of the Lower Sussex Little League Board of Directors. It takes a great deal of commitment and passion to give your time and talents to such organizations as Little League. I am sure he has been very valuable and appreciated by hundreds of ball players and their families. The story says he is a Sunday-school teacher at the Ocean View Church of Christ.

However, I must question the motives and faith issues brought by their involvement in “demanding” that Christian prayer and Bible studies are their “historical” right to impose on the public school system.

Why do you think you have the right to determine our child’s religious education? Majority rules? Parents determine their child’s early religious education and not the Ocean View Church of Christ. The Ocean View Church of Christ serves those who choose to be members there. We have chosen St. Ann’s Catholic Church. This is where our child is assisted with her religious education and not the IRSD.

The public school system exists to provide the government’s legal educational requirements. The government does not exist to determine religious direction, and our Constitution was created by those “historical” leaders to keep government out of religion.

I value the protection of the minority from the majority. I value the separation of church and state. It is apparent that these local citizens have declared their battleground within the public school system. It saddens me to know how “our history” is full of efforts to indoctrinate children into a specific thought process for the purpose of having like-thinking citizens if not like-looking citizens.

I hope that what we read and hear from these neighbors is more of an immature level of Christian faith or discipleship, and not the shadows of “historical” hate groups, racists, anti-Semitists, bigots and individuals who believe they are above the rule of law because of the calling they proclaim from “God.”

What I see from close range are individuals and churches wrapped up between faith and Caesar (our government). Some churches in our county and in the Town of Ocean View have wrapped themselves up so tightly in the U.S.A. flag and their faith that one cannot see any difference.

I sometimes wonder if some of our churches are in reality worshiping a false god when they do this. It appears they have literally become political action committees for political parties. I do not find the two compatible in any form. What is this relationship of some of our local churches with government?

The following are a few elements in my belief and I may be in the minority here in Ocean View and Sussex County due to my very conservative position in holding these interpretations of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am using quotes from Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Ron Rolheiser — theologian, teacher, author and president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas — as my guide:

Keep the commandments. This is to include the larger commandment of the heart “to love God and neighbor” and the Ten Commandments. The First Epistle of John states; “The one who claims to love God that he cannot see and does not love a neighbor whom he can see is a liar.” Am I not commanded to love my Muslim, Jewish and non-religious neighbors? My understanding of God’s world is a world without borders.

“Have a private relationship to Jesus and be faithful in the area of private morality.”

Work for social justice as it is an imperative from Jesus to reach out to the poor. “Jesus mandates social justice as non-negotiable within the Christian discipleship. This is clear in his own life, from the text on the last judgment in Mathew’s gospel, and from the fact that in the gospels, on average, one out of every eight lines in an imperative from Jesus to reach out to the poor.”

This alone tells me that I and my neighbor churches are using their very valuable time and faith in the wrong direction. Poverty worldwide is our concern. It is our primary calling as followers of Jesus Christ. It is “non-negotiable within the Christian discipleship.”

“Involvement within a concrete community of faith. Christian discipleship is not something we do alone. We are asked to journey to God with each other...” This journey is not just for Christians, it includes our brothers and sisters of the Islam and Jewish churches. We are followers of the same God. Our interpretations or better said the manipulation of God’s blessings have caused us great division. We are all guilty of this sin.

“For Jesus, the litmus test for a disciple, at least for a mature disciple, is this: Can you love an enemy? Can you bless someone who curses you? Can you forgive, even a murder?”

Please tell me why some churches in our area have so much hatred in them that they drove away a family of the Jewish faith that feared for their personal safety. What have we done in the name of God?

Teachers are not in the public classroom to indoctrinate or discriminate. Have we protected all of our students and given each the dignity they are guaranteed by law? Have we broken the commandment of “thou shall not bear false witness against our neighbor”? Have we caused them great pain and suffering? Have we exposed ourselves as “liars” before God?

I do not want to see you as a liar. I do not want you to see me as a liar. I want to be your neighbor and for all of us to do what we have been commanded to do by our God. I want to walk with you in becoming “mature disciples.” I need you and I hope you need me as the path is long and wide. We are asked to journey to God with each other.

Join me in asking forgiveness of the Jewish and Muslim families in our communities. We have sinned against them.

The early Christians are described as the most loving, peaceful and happy of people. They did not participate in violence, war or hatred, even when it was inflicted upon them. We are not those people. How have we deviated so far from the teachings of our Jewish rabbi, Jesus Christ?

We have become hateful, revengeful and violent. We have killed millions upon millions of people in the name of God. We have filled the world with orphans and parents with dead children in the name of “God.” We trust the “rulers’” form of peace over the peace Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated to us time and time again.

I would like to experience life with our “historical people” of the early Christians. They knew something we have yet to learn.

Lloyd Elling
Ocean View

Boat parade a success, thanks to many’s efforts

A special thank-you to all who turned out to support the FIYC Boat Parade on Saturday the 12th of August.

We appreciated the by-standers who cheered us along the parade route.

We thank all who decorated their boats and all who were on board to share in the fun, including our judges.

A big thank-you to our town hall staff, who put the parade on the marquee.

Thank you, Coastal Point, for your coverage and great article on the FIYC.

Many thanks to all the businesses who donated prizes to us. We are very fortunate to have such great commercial neighbors. Prizes will be awarded at our annual beach party on Sept. 16.

Last, but not least, a special thank you to Gail and Bob Warburton for all their help in getting the parade on its way. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Nancy and Bob Bartz, Chairpersons
FIYC 2006 Boat Parade

Residents support Bethany incumbents

As full-time residents of Bethany Beach, we wholeheartedly support the return of four incumbent members of the Town Council in the Sept. 9 election.

Jerry Dorfman, Tony McClenny, Lew Kilmer and Harry Steele have been strong supporters of improved stormwater management and beautification of the town’s public places. We can see tangible evidence of their effectiveness in the new drainage improvements in Bethany West and the beautifully landscaped Garfield Parkway. In addition, the new bandstand has been redesigned and is on its way to completion.

These incumbent council members gets things done. We intend to vote for them on Sept. 9.

James M. Lambe and Marian L. Forbes
Bethany Beach

Evans resigns over building code changes

I have submitted my resignation from the Bethany Beach Planning Commission, in order to express my personal opinion about two recent building code changes and the forthcoming election.

For those who do not know us, my wife and I have owned property and spent our vacations in Bethany Beach for more than 20 years. We have been full-time residents since June 2004. We certainly enjoy year round living in Bethany Beach and that is one reason I volunteered to serve on the Planning Commission.

I would like to thank Mayor Walsh and Planning Commission Chairperson Kathleen Mink for affording me the opportunity to serve for six months. Also, I would like to thank Planning Commissioners Steve Trodden and Steve Wode for their assistance.

The recent zoning initiative covering the commercial code and the previous initiative on R-1 residential zoning code allowances (35-foot roof-height initiative) have me concerned. I don’t believe these initiatives were developed with the proper processes and they are not in the best interests for Bethany residents.

The controversial 35-foot R-1 residential initiative was developed to make the roofs more aesthetically pleasing. At a Planning Commission meeting, a member of Town Council lobbied aggressively for the approval of the 35-foot height over the 34-foot proposal. He did not disclose to the Planning Commission that he had a vested interest in an approval of a 35-foot height versus a 34-foot height.

The recent changes in the commercial zoning code were developed under a new and questionable process. Rather than placing the initiative with the Planning Commission, a separate committee was formed by the Town Council and chaired by the vice-mayor to develop the new code.

The committee contained members of the business community, Town Council, the town manager, an outside architect and the Planning Commission chair. The Planning Commission had the right of review, could suggest changes, but was not in control of the planning process.

Why was the established planning process bypassed to develop critical changes to the commercial zoning (C-1) code? Ostensibly, it was to speed up the process, but could there have been other purposes?

These questionable developments have caused me to resign from the Planning Commission. I suggest Bethany Beach residents examine these initiatives and form their own opinion. Elections are approaching. I support Councilman Harry Steele, and candidates Steve Wode and Tracy Mulligan. I do not know Mr. Gravatte or Mr. Healy.

Please get out and vote. Bethany Beach deserves better town government.

David N. Evans
Bethany Beach

McClenny exceptional on town council

I am a full-time resident of Bethany Beach and have been for over 40 years.

I have seen a lot of commissions come and go. In 2004, Bethany voted overwhelmingly for Tony McClenny. He has been an exceptional commissioner.

He welcomes you to talk to him. He listens quietly and respectfully and thanks you for talking with him. If your problem has merit he knows how to follow through and he does follow through.

He has earned the awe, respect and admiration of many. He gives of himself constantly.

I have worked with his wife, Claudia, on fundraisers for Bethany Volunteer Fire Company and Ladies Auxiliary. She is a wiz, too.

Please vote Sept. 9 for Tony McClenny.

Martha Faher
Bethany Beach

Religious wars should not be in this country

Your front page story, “Petitions duel over prayer in school,” left me felling kind of sad.

When one looks around the world at all of the murderous terror attacks which are conducted in the name of God, I think we can all agree that we can live without that in our wonderful country.

It is difficult for me to understand why those religious zealots cannot understand what out Supreme Court has said so many times, in so many words: you cannot inflict your beliefs on others against their will.

Your freedom ends where theirs begins.

Have a peaceful day.

Frederick Holland

Resident displays concerns with policy

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips and forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

While reading a recent article regarding the Sussex County Council increasing the fines for failure to take out building permits I noticed what I consider a major component of the problem was not mentioned. Not being able to attend the actual hearing, I question if it may have been overlooked or just not reported.

From the newspaper article, I got the impression the Council was more interested in collecting the additional funds than enforcement of requirements to obtain the proper county permits prior to starting construction.

I found no mention in the news report of discussions regarding required inspections of construction without permits. In the report, it appears the problem was alleged to be primarily due to construction, specifically in the limits of the jurisdiction of individual towns. Since these towns evidently issue their own building permits, perhaps each has their own inspection staff to make the required visits to properly inspect the construction once work commenced, verifying the work meets all applicable codes and requirements.

What about construction in areas outside of towns where the county is the only jurisdiction? Since there would be no permit number to use, how is the county notified of required inspection? Isn’t there a potential risk of an essential phase of construction undertaken and/or being covered up, without any inspection being made? And most important, in the past, were any inspections made at all, if construction was started without a permit? Perhaps there are even houses which were constructed without a building permit ever being issued.

In the past, each time I visited the county to apply for a building permit for minor items of construction, such as a shed or adding a deck, my experience was a pleasant one. When it became my turn, the county staff was efficient and knowledgeable, review the necessary paperwork, directing me to the appropriate staff to review the design plans, etc. My application was then processed and I was given the permit in a timely manner. I imagine review for a complete house, which is more complicated, requiring examination of structural elements, is more time consuming. Perhaps this time, required for proper review, would impact a developer’s planned start of construction and sale of a house, providing them with a reason to cheat the system.

It is my understanding a Sussex County building permit sets a limit on the number of inspections, based on the proposed work. This in turn most likely is factored into the cost charged for the permit. If this number of inspections is exceeded, due to rejections and/or necessary re-inspections, additional costs are supposed to be charged to the builder. Without the initial permit before construction begins, is the county failing to make required inspections or perhaps is making the inspections and maybe failing to collect for any additional visits, above the prescribed number set in the permit?

In the development I live in, I know for a fact several new houses were begun without building permits. When one specific occurrence was brought to the attention of the county we got the impression the county had been aware construction was under way without a permit. In this occurrence, part the foundation of a house extended 5 feet into the maintenance right-of-way for a “tax ditch.” A call to DNREC brought about a halt of construction. Then a redesign of the house was necessary, which included demolition of part of the foundation within the tax ditch maintenance right-of-way.

Since the portion of the foundation not in the right-of-way was allowed to remain, I question if any initial inspection of the base material in the excavation, beneath the foundation, was made prior to placing the original concrete. If not there could be future problems for the homeowner if the soil under the footing did not meet code requirements.

What about other critical elements of a home which require inspections at specific times during construction? If required inspections are not being performed because there is no building permit, how can an “Occupancy Permit” be issued by the county? As you know, there is an essential need for adequate inspection of critical elements of the construction of a residence to protect the future owners.

In my opinion, the amount of the penalty council adopted is still insignificant when you are talking about the price the developers are getting for new homes in the county and yes the profits they are making.

Perhaps, if the county were to require demolition of any construction begun before a building permit was paid for and issued, word would get out and the practice would stop.

As you may be aware, at times the Sussex County Council has been described as “developer friendly,” rather than representing the residents and voters. I hope the council considered increased enforcement of the regulations. If not, perhaps they will now undertake the appropriate steps to improve enforcement and impress on those developers who fail to play by the rules, construction without a permit will no longer be tolerated

I look forward to your reply.

Ralph Jordan

Dorfman’s, incumbents’ experience needed

Elections, regardless of the level of government, seem to be pervaded by one or two “hot” issues. The upcoming election for members of the Town Council of Bethany Beach is no exception, with the Council’s modifications of the height restriction of buildings in the R-1 zone (east of Route 1) taking center stage.

Some weeks ago, I was asked to sign a petition seeking a referendum on the modified height restriction. Although I am generally inclined to support historic and architectural preservation, a quick read of the petition showed it to be shrill in tone and suspect as to its accuracy.

Clearly, I needed more information, and I asked Council member Jerry Dorfman to furnish it. Mr. Dorfman took the time to explain what the modifications did and did not provide. Most importantly, the modified height restriction does not increase the height limitation so as to alter the existing skyline in the area. At the same time, the new measure allows more architectural diversity. In short, the Council’s modification of the height restriction was hardly an “unfortunate action” as decried in the petition.

I was impressed with Mr. Dorfman’s grasp of the details of the height restriction, as well as its practical implications. I, for one, will support Mr. Dorman’s continuing his work on the Council, along with the other present members. It would not be in the best interests of Bethany Beach if competence on the Council were to be replaced by inexperience, especially as a result of a distortion-laden petition for a referendum.

James M. Kefauver
Bethany Beach

Delaware becoming less livable

Livable Delaware is facing its first big test. Governor Minner’s legacy will only be attainable if we work to improve our state’s health, as it will change the way businesses and tourists view our state.

Our state has been well-known for its pro-business laws for many years. This, in turn, has encouraged many U.S. and international companies to incorporate in our state. The result is that the large initial and annual fees they pay to do so is one of the reasons our government in Delaware has been able to keep its taxes low compared to other states.

But the citizens of Delaware pay a high price in the quality of their life. Many scientific studies have demonstrated that Delaware ranks very high in diseases effecting the health and life span of its citizens. We need to change the unhealthy statistics that have ranked our state among the top ten in the nation.

We have written previously about the pollution problems created by Delaware’s coal-burning power plants, such as the ones at Indian River in Sussex County and Edge Moor in Wilmington, and what the governor and DNREC could do about them. There are other corporations that contribute to Delaware’s pollution problem, including the oil refineries and the DuPont plants.

Tourism is correctly the second largest industry in the state and may soon become No. 1 if the overdevelopment of farmland continues in Sussex County and throughout the state. What we fail to realize is that we may be killing the goose (or chicken) that laid the golden egg.

Why would people want to move or vacation in our state if the quality of life continues to deteriorate because of the protection afforded corporations that pollute our air, land and water?

The affordable technology exists to correct these problems, which have been created over the years. The question is how do we demonstrate or influence our government and legislators to act now so that we can begin to create a truly “Livable Delaware” for those of us who live here now and for those that wish to visit and live here in the future.

If you “build a clean, healthy and viable state, they will come.”

Vivian and Bob Barry
Dewey Beach and Lewes

Reader wants respect and tolerance

Thank you, Coastal Point, for continuing to cover the Indian River School District prayer issue and to give voice to both sides.

In the Aug. 18 issue, your coverage revealed exactly the kind of problem that we knew to exist in this community but had often been told wasn’t really there: the desire of some to engender specifically Christian prayer into our schools, and the lack of understanding on their part as to why this could possibly be objectionable to anyone.

I know that some local Christians are more concerned about being somehow told they cannot pray than they are in instituting their faith into the school system. But there are also many who are so self-righteous in their beliefs that they cannot even understand the basic intention of the nation’s founding fathers in prohibiting government from endorsing a particular faith.

Please, if you are concerned about your own expression of faith, be assured that people of all faiths stand by your right to believe and pray as you do. Those of us who are in the minority understand nothing so well as the need to be free to believe as your heart and soul compel you to do.

What we, the tiny minority of us in this area who believe differently from the majority, really want is not to silence you but to ask your respect in not pressuring us and our children to convert through public statement, school-based prayer and peer pressure.

We grant you the respect of your beliefs and endeavor to leave you to them in peace. We ask the same of you, believing in our hearts that all earnest paths to god reach the same eventual goal. We celebrate our sameness and seek to see beyond that which defines us as different.

For those who would see us converted at the point of the podium and classroom speaker system, we remind you that similar desires have brought about great human tragedy in our history, behind the point of the sword and the explosive power of the bomb.

There are indeed times when we wonder where the legendary love of Jesus Christ was found in the vitriolic statements that were made to a Jewish child who called this school district home.

And we fear not for our souls — for each finds its own best way — but for our children’s safety and peace of mind in a world where our tax dollars are spent not on books and teachers but rather to defend lawsuits in order to benefit a religious majority.

It’s past time for us to stop fighting each other over which way is best for any or all. It’s high time for us to think of our children’s education and the lessons they will learn from the example we give to them through tempests such as this. I would hope that example would be one of love, respect and tolerance, rather than judgment and division.

Liz Johnson
Ocean View

Reader: story fanned the flames of bigotry

I believe you are fanning the flames of bigotry. In the story, you used the inset box and the end paragraph to mention Muslims.

Now, I am aware that this was a direct quote, however, you chose to use Muslims to highlight the petition and to catch the eye of the reader.

We are all aware that readers today go for the sensational. You are in the business of catching peoples’ attention and what better way then to throw out Muslims as bait to get people to read your article.

I attended two of the school board meetings two years ago and believe me when I say that intolerance and injustice were at a fever pitch. You do not need to assist in the fueling of yet another chapter in this ugly debate. There are no Muslims involved in this case. In the present climate of Muslim bashing, you yourself have contributed to the bashing.

By your opening statement, “Since two families-one Jewish and another...” you seemed to imply that the second family was not Jewish. How do you know that?

I hope and pray that the good people of Sussex County do not intend to vilify Muslims now that public opinion has turned against the way they treated the first Jewish family.

Maria A. Kunkel
Ocean View

Editor’s note: The quote highlighted in this article was intended to reference only the speaker’s point of view and not necessarily that of the Coastal Point. We endeavor to remain neutral in our coverage of this controversial subject but are thereby compelled to cover both points of view, regardless of whether they are offensive to some of our readers or our staff. The reporting of such views should not be taken to be a statement of the Coastal Point’s support for them, on either side. The mention of one Jewish family and one anonymous family as plaintiffs in the lawsuit was done to be accurate. As the second family is anonymous, we are unaware of whether they might be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, etc., and must therefore reference only the Dobrich family as Jewish in discussing the plaintiffs.

NARFE supports retirees through many programs

All Americans over 50 are familiar with AARP because we get a letter when we’re 50 inviting us to join. AARP has been very successful in lobbying for benefits for older Americans, such as reduced rates at many hotels and restaurants, movies, etc., and, more recently, the Medicare Drug Prescription (Part D).

Did you know there is another retiree organization in the area: the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)? Federal retirees and employees are in a separate category from the general public. NARFE is the oldest and largest organization dedicated solely to the protection of federal retiree benefits.

NARFE was formed in 1921 and is one of America’s largest organizations. It is a grassroots organization headquartered in Alexandria, Va., with active chapters in every state and Puerto Rico. Delaware has five chapters: Wilmington Chapter 1922, Dover Chapter 1174, Newark Chapter 85, and two local chapters: Georgetown Chapter 1992 and Coastal Sussex Chapter 1690.

When Congress looks for ways to cut expenses, it invariably considers how much can be saved by taking away those benefits that were promised to federal retirees. To date, the following laws have impacted many federal retirees:

(1) The Government Pension Offset (GPO), enacted as part of the 1977 Social Security Amendments, treats two-thirds of government pensions as if they are Social Security benefits which must be offset dollar for dollar from any spousal benefits for which they are entitled.

Normally, a spouse of a person covered by Social Security is entitled, upon the death of that spouse, to receive the larger of either his/her Social Security benefit or that of the deceased spouse. Under the GPO, if the surviving spouse is a retired federal employee, two-thirds of the federal retirement must be deducted from any spousal benefit otherwise due from the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit.

(2) The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), enacted as part of the 1983 Social Security Amendments as a way of improving the long-range picture of the Social Security Trust Fund, reduces the Social Security benefits of federal retirees who also worked under Social Security long enough to earn retirement benefits by as much as 60 percent. This means that a federal retiree who, through work covered by Social Security prior to working for the federal government, had earned Social Security benefits of $500 per month at age 62 would have that benefit reduced to $200 per month under WEP.

(3) Under an executive order by President Clinton at the end of his term, federal employees still in the work force pay their health care premiums with pre-tax dollars. Federal retirees must pay their health care premiums with after-tax dollars, which amounts to approximately $400 per year. NARFE has been lobbying Congress for several years to get this inequity corrected.

(4) On the Delaware state level, those retirees with Social Security benefits pay no state tax on those benefits. Federal retirees had an amount equal to FICA withheld from their salaries, but are not granted similar state tax relief. This is another inequity which NARFE hopes to eliminate soon.

While NARFE is strictly a lobbying organization, it does support Alzheimer’s research.

In addition to contributions by members twice a year, the local NARFE chapter, Coastal Sussex Chapter 1690, holds an annual golf tournament to benefit Alzheimer’s research.

NARFE’s Coastal Sussex Chapter 1690 meets the second Thursday each month from September through June. These meetings are held at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach, with socializing beginning at 11:30 a.m. and lunch served at noon.

However, the 2006 September meeting has been changed to Monday, Sept. 18, to accommodate the schedule of the guest speaker, Sen. Tom Carper. All federal retirees and friends are invited. For reservations call or e-mail Lana at 644-0495 or lcobb@starpower.net, or Shirl at 226-1145 or sh92581@aol.com.

Walt Berwick, President
Delaware Federation of NARFE Chapters