Letters - August 4, 2006

Magill responds to letter in Point

I’m writing in response to the Letters to the Editor in last week’s edition of The Coastal Point regarding the censure of Ocean View Councilman Bill Wichmann.

First, Karen Scarangella, Mr. Wichmann’s daughter, was told during the meeting by the town attorney that the censure motion was a legal remedy for the council to discipline one of its members. It is also the only remedy short of referring the matter to the state’s Public Integrity Commission.

Second, Dagsboro resident John Fegelein doesn’t seem to remember that the town attorney told those in attendance that holding the censure discussion in closed session would violate the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Nevertheless, Mr. Wichmann went on to vote twice to violate that law by voting for his own motions to hold the discussion in closed session.

Third, I did not promise anyone that I wouldn’t deliver the town manager’s memo regarding Mr. Wichmann’s threats against her to The Coastal Point (the Wave’s deadline had already passed). I told the town manager and the mayor of my intentions. Neither tried to talk me out of it.

Fourth, Mr. Wichmann believes the only thing he did wrong was to fail to obtain a purchase order. In fact, council members are not even authorized to obtain purchase orders.

He also failed to obtain council approval for purchases of more than $7,500 and failed to ask the Police Chief and Town Manager to obtain three bids for purchases of more than $7,500, both required by town law. He also lied when he said in a public meeting that he had a written estimate of less than $7,000 from the electrician for the generator’s installation.

While Mr. Wichmann may not have benefited financially from the installation, his transgressions have left the town with a substandard generator installation, resulting in the loss of our warranty on this $21,399 machine and safety issues that could cost the town more than $10,000 to fix.

That would be on top of the $15,400 already paid for the initial installation for one year’s service before the generator is moved to the new police headquarters, where the town will get to pay for its installation again.

Finally, I want to address the assertion by a couple of speakers at the July 18 meeting, and by Ms. Scarangella, Mr. Wichmann and Mr. Fegelein, that there was some ulterior motive or personal battle at work in the censure of Mr. Wichmann.

Despite what Mr. Wichmann thinks, this isn’t a personal battle between council members; this is a battle of philosophies between council members, which Mr. Wichmann’s illegal actions brought to a head.

Mr. Wichmann prefers to manage the town based on his own hunches, assumptions and in response to isolated incidents, while I prefer to see data supporting my hunches and assumptions and to see if there is a trend before acting rashly on isolated incidents.

Mr. Wichmann prefers to keep as much town business as possible out of the public eye. In addition to the violations and voting to illegally hold the censure discussion behind closed doors, he has said that the Long-Range Financial Planning Committee should hammer out the town budget behind closed doors (also illegal under FOIA) and that the town’s minutes are too detailed and that tapes of town meetings should be burned after six months.

He wants to raise taxes 50 percent to pay for additional staff members and provide raises above the 5 percent that employees receive unless their performance dictates a smaller increase, while I prefer to see a staffing and salary study that shows whether we need more employees and higher wages or whether better equipment, processes and procedures could make our staff more efficient.

Throughout this three-month ordeal, the council has shown that it can conduct the town’s business, as we have approved or begun discussion on a number of new ordinances and revisions.

However, due to the extreme philosophical differences that now exist on this council and the frustrations that will boil over from time to time due to those differences, the discussions won’t always be as “nice” as they allegedly were back when people complained to me that the council rubber-stamped everything by unanimous vote.

Eric Magill
Ocean View Town Council Member

Cape Henlopen Senior Center offers thanks

Lights! Camera! Action! Cape Henlopen Senior Center Swingers and Singers presented their annual variety show on Saturday, June 24, and Sunday, June 25, at the Cape Henlopen High School’s Little Theatre, Lewes.

This was not just simply another show. It was the show of the year. It was awesome, breathtaking, amazing, dazzling and memorable.

The staff and members would like to thank June Crowley for her vision in producing and directing such a group of gifted, experienced, talented and willing individuals. The endless hours, hard work that each of you contributed to the variety show was beyond the call of duty.

It took the help of several other people to create a volume and wealth of entertainment for an evening and afternoon to remember. They include scenic designers, musical directors, posters designers, choreography and dance groups, band — 3 Hits and a Miss — stage crew, chorus, individual solos, ladies’ chorus, men’s chorus, master of ceremonies, dancers, video technicians, all the entertainers, Cape Henlopen Senior Center staff, volunteers, patrons and those who wish to remain behind the scenes.

Also, a special thank you to our ad sponsors — Mann & Sons Inc., Rehoboth Art & Framing Inc., The Whitson Bobs Bike Rental, Dolphin Dreaming Inc., Wheel’s Bike Shop, Melson Funeral Services, Holland Jewelers Inc., Happy Harry’s, Lord Bros. & Higgins, Jack Lingo Inc., Curtis J. Leciejewski, Branch Oaks Kennel, Sen. George H. Bunting Jr., The Dental Group, ABRC Roofing, Dewey Beach Lions Club, Edward Jones, Bay Foot LLC., Trunfio Tours, St. Edmonds Church, Lakeside Greenhouses Inc., The Beach Retreat, Wizard of Paws, In Memory of William Brown, Parsell, Atkins & Lodge Funeral Homes Inc., The Bank of Delmarva, Thoroughood Appliances, Nanny Sitting Service Inc., Delaware Beach Life, Royal Treat Ice Cream, Jetco, County Bank, Delaware Eye Institute, Williams Insurance, Maids to Order, Grotto Pizza, Country Life Homes, Beebe Medical Center, Remax Realty Group, Conleys Chapel UMC, Irish Eyes Restaurant, Seashore Dancers, and Heritage of Milford.

Again, we would like to thank everyone for their dedication, support and monetary gifts to make this year’s show a huge success.

Diaz J. Bonville
Cape Henlopen Senior Center

Carmean deserves praise for her efforts

In 2002, an unknown Vicki Carmean ran for Town Council. I didn’t know her then and I didn’t vote for her.

Since that time, I’m proud to say that she has proven herself to be a person of her word. I now call Vicki a close friend and an outstanding Town Council member. In 2002 and 2004, Vicki ran on five issues that she refers to as her “Beach Platform.”

B — Beautify the Town. Thanks to her efforts and others’, we have center strips that bloom with flowers. The Star Business, an award for business efforts to improve the Town’s appearance is testimony to her efforts.

E — Environment for the Bay and Ocean; Vicki was one of the first to bring oysters into this area.

A — Attitude working for all. Vicki has listened to all residents of the town. She has supported the residents’ points of view on issues and has encouraged communication with the residents, talking with them, not to them.

C — Communication. Thanks to Vicki’s efforts, the minutes of council meetings are current and available to public review. She is a strong, open and honest communicator with any member of the town.

H — Hold the line on expenditures and taxes. Vicki is constantly trying to hold the line on tax increases and wasteful spending. Her votes on issues such as new town hall construction and budgets that are bloated are evidence of her position on excessive spending.

Finally, I want to sum up Vicki’s four years on the Town Council. She has been true to her word. She is highly respected in the town and she has helped to bring that respect to the town in spite of the several lawsuits unnecessarily created by actions of some council members.

I hope she will be included in any committee reviewing and adjusting of the budget when the new Council is elected. Thank you, Vicki, for all you have done.

Bobbi Lednum
Fenwick Island

Bethany petition is specious, says reader

For the last few weeks, some Bethany residents have approached any and all property owners they could find to get them to sign a petition calling for a referendum that will, if approved, reverse a recent action of our Town Council to modify the current height a building can have in the R-l zone (east of Route 1).

As is generally the case in such petitions, the verbiage used by those circulating the petition is dramatic — employing such expressions as “outraged residents,” “overdevelopment,” “McMansions,” “public outcry,” etc.

In addition, the petitioners often misstate the issue, repeating over and over that the Town Council’s action raised the allowed height of new structures by 4 feet beyond what is currently allowed. This distortion is due, in most instances, to the fact they don’t know what the current 31-foot regulation stipulates.

The current 31-foot height limit, as approved in 1998 (when I served as vice-mayor), is measured from a line called the “base flood elevation,” which in some cases can be as much as 1 foot above the ground level, allowing some homes to be over the 31 foot limit, some as much as 36 feet in height.

The new legislation by the Town Council caps any and all buildings at 35 feet, irrespective of the base flood elevation — a foot less than that previously allowed.

Furthermore, the Council’s main reason to make this change was to encourage the use of pitched roofs, in the hope they would make our skyline more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but at the same time it does not allow the space inside the pitched roof to be used as floored, habitable space.

This pitched roof allowance, hopefully, will also reduce the trend towards the adobe-like flat roofs that belong more in Arizona and Nevada — not Bethany Beach. Importantly, too, this Council’s decision was not slipped through in the dark of night, but approved only after being studied for over one and a half years by an ad hoc committee, reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission and, only then, after a public hearing where the cleat majority overwhelming approved the changes.

The petitioners are also deceptively portraying the former 31-foot regulation as though it was crafted by the angels — an unapproachable standard beyond change and one never to be reexamined or modified. I was a member of the Council that passed this regulation, and I can assure you that, while it was the result of our best efforts, none of us on that Council believed it to be the ultimate solution or that it could not be improved upon.

So the current Council’s efforts to improve it were timely and, hopefully, will result in enhancing the attractiveness of the skyline. Furthermore, the pitched roof encouraged under the new regulation is not only more attractive but is far less likely than a flat roof to collapse under the weight of an unexpected heavy snowstorm.

Finally, as someone who not only has served as vice-mayor but has worked on various committees (Budget, CORC, Trolley, Audit, etc.) for the past 12 years, I truly believe that our current Town Council is as good as or better than any this town bas ever had.

It works harder, does its homework so the meetings don’t ramble on interminably, has more workshops to receive public input and has improved the town code from one that was both poorly structured and confusing into one that is probably superior to that of any other coastal town. It is also a code that contains provisions that will do more to protect us from developers than these “petitioners” will ever do with their specious referendum efforts.

Further, to those whose wish to suggest that we residents are “discontented” with this Council let me note some of its recent achievements:

In the last two to three years, Bethany has never looked as beautiful, due to the wonderful landscaping of a full-time staff member skilled in landscaping — an action approved by this Town Council. Our streets and islands are ablaze with color from flowers, bushes and trees.
The new bandstand on our boardwalk that replaced the previous structure that was literally falling apart. This improvement has been in the works for years but has finally been completed.
This Council is wisely committed to a strategy that will assure the wooded lot at the comer of Routes 1 and 26 is developed into a park that will add to the overall beauty of Bethany and, indirectly, the value of all property in Bethany.
This Council has adopted nationally recognized building and maintenance standards which impose tighter restrictions on developers and contractors, providing protections to all of us that Bethany did not enjoy before. In addition, this Council has raised the fines on developers (the old penalties were merely a slap on the wrist) to where the developers’ building permits will be suspended if they allow their workers to violate the permitted hours for construction activity.
Purchased a second (and larger) trolley to assure that all residents desiring a ride to and from the beach can be accommodated.
So who do you believe has the best interests of our Town at heart — a relatively anonymous mix of referendom vigilantes who have come out of nowhere, distorting the overall facts as to the benefits of this new regulation or your duly elected Council, which works year-round on our behalf and who has demonstrated over the past few years, by deeds, not hyperbole, the actions necessary to maintain the quality of our Town.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that the Town Council is the one to trust and I’m. proud to be able to endorse the efforts they took to modify the old building code.

I’d like to add one more thought on the logic of the petitioners.

It appears that their current mantra is ‘“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To attempt to invoke this simplistic rationale in this matter is truly pathetic and is symptomatic of the petitioners’ overall effort. It totally misses the mark on the issues being discussed. It is the kind of rhetoric that is frequently used by persons who attempt to confuse matters they are incapable of adequately articulating (something that often occurs when the facts are not on your side).

We are not talking here about a piece of furniture, a chair or a table that needs repair. This is a discussion about government — a dynamic environment where decisions made one year, need to be reviewed and modified where and whenever necessary.

The Town Council members can’t wait until something is “broken” to take appropriate action. Management’s (government or private) goals should always be to address problems before they become more serious, not wait until they become larger and more difficult to correct. Good management requires its members to always be proactive, not reactive — precisely what the Town Council has been in this building-code change.

So in closing I’d like to say: If you are a member of the group behind this petition, you either don’t understand the facts and/or perhaps you really have another agenda (e.g. trying to find some reason to replace members on the existing Council with your own cronies, mourning the demise of the outdated historical committee in which several of he petitioners were involved, etc.).

If you were encouraged to sign the petition, you were misled.

If you haven’t signed the petition, please don’t.

And if it ever comes to a referendum choice, vote against it.

Don Doyle
Bethany Beach

Bethany Beach doing the right thing

The Town of Bethany Beach’s Town Council and their building inspector continue to be leaders, not followers. The recent change in the height restriction to 35 feet proves Bethany to be progressive-minded and willing make critical changes to create a better community.

I attend as many coastal construction building seminars as possible to learn the best and most recent design and construction techniques for building in the high wind coastal zones. The recent height change creates a building environment that allows today’s coastal zone construction techniques to be incorporated.

The required 7/12 roof pitch will perform better in coastal storm events, while allowing creative designers to create a visually pleasing curb appeal. In some cases, home owners will save money on flood insurance when the designer creates a structure that is one hundred percent above the base flood elevation.

I applaud Bethany Beach for changing their building height restriction and I encourage the neighboring coastal towns to follow Bethany’s lead.

Bruce Mears

Candidate runs for debate; not for seat

I feel the real story about the Bethany Beach election is the election itself as that provides an additional way for people to communicate on issues affecting the town, its future, and its government.

During the election process, issues, priorities, possible improvements, and concerns are discussed and debated. The process increases communication and understanding and can increase respect and trust. That benefits Bethany Beach as a whole. It benefits whomever the voters decide will be seated on the next town council.

The Coastal Point article (“Eight file for Bethany Beach council seats”) used standard phrasing such as “four citizens who hoping to take the seats for their own” and “seeking to unseat them are …”. It then focused on a list of concerns expressed by a number of people.

I know all eight candidates care about Bethany Beach. Everyone who is providing “scrutiny and criticism” cares about Bethany. An election can channel this care and energy into positive ways.

I expect that that the dialog and debate that comes with the election will benefit the town. I filed to increase the probability that would happen, not to unseat anyone.

Tracy Mulligan
Bethany Beach

Thomas was just doing his job

I bought a home in Ocean View four years ago and love it. The people are friendly and the area has much to offer. I am also glad to say the taxes are reasonable compared to other areas I have lived. I would like to keep the taxes reasonable as I am sure everyone else would too.

However, when I read that a town councilman is spending my tax money without regard for procedures and then compounds the problem by an improper installation, which will cost more of my tax dollars to fix, I get upset.

I don’t know Mr. Wichmann, the mayor or Mr. Magill, but I do know I want accountability for spending my tax dollars.

Why do people insist on calling someone on the carpet for doing the job he was elected to do? How can people subject Mr. Thomas to that kind of treatment when he did exactly what he should have done? If those people would like to donate more tax dollars to Ocean View, I am sure council can raise their taxes.

Bill Schury
Ocean View

Repass has done a great job on tour

The Board of Directors of the Friends of the South Coastal Library thank the more than 500 volunteers who, once again, made the Beach & Bay Cottage Tour a sell-out success.

Special thanks go to the members of the Tour Committee, many of whom have been at work on the event since last summer. The tour has been the largest fund-raising event for the South Coastal Library for the last 15 years.

We also extend our thanks and sincere appreciation to Donna Repass, who is stepping down as the tour’s chairwoman. During the three years that Donna served in that capacity, she built and provided leadership for the Tour Committee and the tour itself, raising over $300,000 for the library.

The Board of Directors and everyone involved with the tour will miss Donna’s easy-going nature and ability to express her appreciation to all the volunteers to make them feel valued, inspiring each committee to exceed the success of the previous year. We wish Donna continued success in her future endeavors.

Board of Directors
Friends of the South Coastal Library

Councilman wants petition to get it right

Please, Mr. Costello, get it right.

I have watched in complete amazement while a petition is being circulated door-to-door in our community on an issue that has nothing to do with what its author says it does.

If you signed this petition and you thought you were fighting “overdevelopment and looming, intrusive, mini-motels” (Mr. Costello’s words), you were fooled. The petition you signed was to repeal a small attempt on the part of the Town’s Planning Commission to make those “looming, intrusive mini-motels” look a little better. This was accomplished by allowing an increase in roof pitch in a manner that is more restrictive in height than ordinances already allow.

First, and most importantly, the petition you signed has nothing — zip, zero, nada — to do with overdevelopment. Let me say that one more time, the petition has nothing — nothing — to do with overdevelopment.

Your Town Council took that issue on when it limited the size of any development that could be constructed in Bethany Beach by amending Ordinance 245-52 in January of 2003. That ordinance limited the density of development in our community. That ordinance was the most restrictive thing any Town Council has ever done to limit growth in Bethany Beach.

Second, if you thought you were striking a blow to curtail the construction of “looming, intrusive mini-motels” you were sold a bill of goods. You were duped. The referendum you signed asks to repeal an ordinance that allows a homeowner to build a home with more roof pitch — an ordinance more restrictive than the current law.

lf the real issue is home size and you want to legislate smaller homes, then you circulate a petition that calls for a referendum on building height and lot coverage (lot coverage and height controls the size or volume of a home).

In 1972, the Town adopted a zoning ordinance that allowed homes to be constructed to a height of three stories (31 feet) and occupy 40 percent of a lot. That remained unchanged until 1998, when a different Town Council allowed the height to be increased to as much as 36 feet.

Let’s be clear on this: for over 30 years, a lot owner has been able to construct a three-story (31-foot) home anywhere in Bethany Beach. In 1998, a homeowner was allowed, under certain conditions, to construct a home to 36 feet in height.

If Mr. Costello’s real motive in circulating a petition is to limit “looming, intrusive mini-motels” then he should withdraw his current petition and circulate a petition that lists Section 245.2.2 of the Town’s Zoning Code, dealing with building height, and Section 245, Attachment 3, of the Table of Dimensional Requirements, dealing with lot coverage. These are the ordinances that control the size of homes being built in Bethanv Beach.

I asked Mr. Costello at our July Town Council meeting to tell me what he was trying to accomplish with his referendum and why he was misleading Bethany citizens with this referendum. He simply refused to discuss the issue.

As a citizen and a Bethany Beach councilperson, I would love to have a public discussion with Mr. Costello so I can understand what he is really doing, because it isn’t what he says he’s doing.

If you were one of the people that Mr. Costello tricked into signing a referendum request that has nothing to do with “overdevelopment, and looming, intrusive mini-motels” then call him or e-mail him and tell him to scratch your name off of his petition and bring you a petition that deals with the issues he says he is concerned about.

I am not at all opposed to a referendum on any issue. I’m here along with my peers on the Bethany Beach Town Council to listen to public concerns and act on them. What I am opposed to is a door-to-door smear campaign based on misinformation and a blatant distortion of the truth.

Please, Mr. Costello, get it right.

Harry Steele
Bethany Beach Town Councilman