Public invited to Fenwick Island comp plan workshop

Every municipality in the state of Delaware is required to write a comprehensive plan, and Fenwick Island is now preparing its 10-year plan update.

The public is being invited to a comprehensive plan workshop on Saturday, May 20, from 9 to 11 a.m. They will be able to learn about the planning process, hear Fenwick’s priorities for the next decade, view display board and maps, and ask questions and learn more.

The Fenwick Island Planning Commission has done the legwork, analyzing the Town’s past, present and potential future. Once adopted, the comp plan should guide the town council forward as today’s citizens intended.

Fenwick’s first comp plan was created and certified by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in 2007, with a mandated five-year update in 2012.

Writing an update doesn’t require the same heavy lifting as the premiere 2007 document. But since January of 2016, the Planning Commission has edited the proposed updated version, page by page, and gotten input from the Office of State Planning Coordination.

Some changes or updates include: U.S. Census data; impacts of sea-level rise; impacts from development on Route 54 and across Sussex County; and more.

Since 2007, the Town has accomplished many goals from that initial plan, including: improvements to the town park; providing for more affordable housing by expanding the number of apartments above commercial buildings; new Route 1 signage to enhance the sense of arrival and place; changes to building height and freeboard; limits for rental occupancy and floor-area ratio; stormwater improvements and studies; an upgraded town website; and more.

The town approved the comp plan’s first reading on April 28. Meanwhile, the State is reviewing the plan to ensure Fenwick is on track, with town officials hopeful that they will only be requesting minor changes by late May. The council will likely approve the second and final reading this summer. With any luck, the state will officially certify the comp plan in autumn.

In other Fenwick Island news:

• Mobile telephone service is sometimes so bad that police calls are being dropped. Town management will begin discussions with cell phone providers about the lack of coverage in town, with one caveat: no cell towers on commercial or residential buildings.

• Lifeguards will ask beachgoers to move chairs, umbrellas or canopies that block their view of the water and lifeguard stands. But if someone refuses, do town officials have the power to make them move?

Roy Williams asked that question during a discussion of new beach rules in Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach that seek to limit various beachgoer amenities, such as tents and canopies of a certain size.

It’s hard to compare Fenwick to those towns, said Tim Ferry, head of the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol. Fenwick’s beach is much larger, from dune to sea. There are also fewer day-to-day visitors, and people tend to know the rules better, he said.

Councilman Richard Mais suggested the council wait until a specific problem arises that needs addressing, but Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said she would prefer to anticipate problems and give Town staff the authority to address hindrances.

• It’s Fenwick on four wheels: Town Hall will again sell black license plates for the fronts of vehicles that say “Fenwick Island” in white lettering. They’ll be sold to the public for $12 apiece.

• One major storm could cost the town thousands, if not millions, of dollars. So the town council directed staff to research the practicality of increasing the Town’s old borrowing limits from $500,000 to a larger number.

“If we were to have a really bad storm, like the one that hit in 1962, a half a million dollars would not cover the cost of replacing the infrastructure,” Carmean said.

Currently, Fenwick has the “unique” and “enviable position” of having no debt, said Town Manager Terry Tieman.

• Where four dune crossovers were extended, the Town will purchase more Mobi-Mats to help people access the beach. After that, they’ll start replacing older mats at Atlantic, Dagsboro, Bayard, Farmington, Houston, King streets. The $24,000 cost will be included in the 2018 budget proposal.

• A recent smoke test successfully identified sewer problems in town.

“Where we had odors, we found problems, so now those problems can be corrected,” Tieman said. “We found cracks in sewer line walls, we found caps missing, we found toilets [where] the seals were not in place right. So the mystery is solved.”

• Although individual businesses have chipped in to support the Fenwick Flicks summer moving showings after the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce withdrew from the activity, the Town still needs about $1,500 to sponsor the movies this summer.

• Residents should beware of an IRS scam. People should contact the police and the IRS inspector general if they suspect someone is trying to scam them for “unpaid taxes.”

“We’ve received several reports of people getting phone calls [from someone] claiming to be an IRS agent,” said FIPD Sgt. Brian Parsons. “This is a scam. The IRS will never call you. They will send you a letter.”

• The Business Development Committee will resume meeting in September, after the busy summer season. Although the planned Homegrown Harvest Festival won’t be fleshed out into reality this year, “Fenwick Fridays” are coming in October, being akin to a “First Friday” event where stores will stay open late and perhaps have refreshments, sales or other enticements.

The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting is May 26 at 3:30 p.m.