Fenwick considers canal project costs

Fenwick Island Town officials don’t know if or when their canals were last dredged, but officials said this week that it’s time to consider such a project.

“There are some issues with depth and getting in and out of our canals,” said Alex Daly of the Town’s Environmental Committee.

The first step is seeing the condition of the town’s canals and access channels, then deciding a course of action, Daly told the town council on Jan. 27.

So, as part of an effort to determine how shallow the canal beds have become, the Environmental Committee recently researched the costs of a hydrographic depth survey, which could range from $15,500 to $21,500 (plus $2,200 for calculations on removing material to a desired depth).

Now, Fenwick Island’s ad-hoc Financial Committee will begin brainstorming how to fund such an expense. If the council ever pursues dredging in future years, the cost could be millions of dollars, former town manager Merritt Burke IV had warned in 2015.

Fenwick will also consult with the Delaware Department of Natural Recourses & Environmental Control, as well as the neighboring towns of South Bethany and Ocean City, Md., for advice on canal upkeep and funding.

“Thank you for getting this going. This is a big item, I think,” said Mayor Gene Langan.

Propane tank a hiccup in subdivision

When discussing the application for subdivision of a few combined lots, the town council was told not to worry about a propane tank that was approaching non-compliance. With the council’s approval, the existing 2.5-lot property at 1208 Schulz Road was officially split into two buildable parcels.

One parcel will have adequate room for the existing freestanding garage to be demolished and replaced with a new house. However, on the second parcel, the existing house has a propane tank that will extend into the 7-foot side-yard setback. The propane tank was not drawn on the survey maps, but it’ll be a few feet from the new boundary.

Councilman Roy Williams voted against allowing a subdivision that might put something into non-compliance, resulting in a 5-1 vote in favor of approval, with Councilwoman Vicki Carmean absent.

But that preexisting tank is grandfathered in, even if the council reconfigured the lot, said Building Official Pat Schuchman. When the house was built 15 years ago, Fenwick Island didn’t regulate whether heating pumps or propane bottles were placed in the 7-foot setback, she said, although those items are no longer allowed to encroach.

Moreover, the Town’s rule forbidding those items being placed in the setback is just a policy, not a law.

“It is not in the codebook. It is a policy here that we follow that says nothing is allowed to encroach into that side, whereas now we enforce it, [and back] then we didn’t,” Schuchman said. “When somebody comes in, we say nothing goes in the side setback … for new construction.”

Owned by Harry King III and Yvonne King, the combined 17,144 square-foot property was split roughly in half.

In other Fenwick Island town news:

• New town manager Teresa “Terry” Tieman attended her first council meeting. She brings 28 years of municipal experience, including the last five in Harrington, where she earned the 2015 City Manager of the Year award for Delaware.

“I have never felt more welcome in my life,” said Tieman (“TEE-man”), complimenting the “great town staff.”

Langan welcomed her and thanked Police Chief William “Bill” Boyden, who had served as acting town manager since the summer: “He did a great job for us, and we appreciate it.”

• Fenwick has joined the effort to re-form the Association of Coastal Towns (ACT). After perhaps a decade-long hiatus, Delaware’s oceanfront towns will lobby together on issues including beach replenishment, realty transfer tax, fire company volunteerism and sea-level rise. Langan will report back after a February meeting.

• The Fenwick Island Comprehensive Plan update is nearly complete. Consultants are reviewing the draft now, said Councilman Richard Mais, with a proposed schedule of: April 4 — draft returned; April 28 — town council’s first reading; May 20 — public hearing; May 26 — town council’s second reading and final approval.

Councilwoman Julie Lee asked why the Town wasn’t holding the public hearing before the council reviews. Mais said the town solicitor had suggested the timetable. He also said there’s been minimal public input on the update and that the issues raised were addressed.

• Don’t forget the fire alarm: When property owners sign rental licenses at Town Hall, they will now see a new line reminding them that Delaware Code places responsibility on property owners and long-term tenants to ensure a home has working smoke alarms.

“Our homes are so close,” and working smoke alarms could help avoid a disaster, said resident Lynn Andrews.

• Asked about an apparent sewer smell near the intersection of Coastal Highway and E. Indian Street, Public Works Supervisor Bryan Reed said that the Delaware Department of Transportation had investigated their pipe but found nothing unusual. Langan suggested contacting Sussex County’s sewer department. Mais suggested marsh odors are wafting up from the exposed bay bottom, as he’s witnessed in South Bethany.

• With 16 voting members, the Business Development Committee has had difficulty getting a quorum. They’ve considered reducing membership to get town business done. Members who cannot serve should contact Langan or Chairperson Tim Collins.

• On New Year’s Day, around 140 people dove into the Atlantic Ocean for the annual Fenwick Freeze, raising $2,800 for the summertime lifeguard competitions. Remaining Freeze T-shirts are being sold at the Southern Exposure clothing shop.

• Public Works would like people’s opinions on a new style of access-improving beach mats, which are on display now at the Dagsboro Street dune crossover. The new material is more slip-resistant and has white stripes for nighttime visibility.

• Recycled wood will be used to build two new lifeguard stands, plus a bicycle rack, at a maximum cost of $3,000.

• While planning an expansion, the Sands Motel has not submitted any applications yet, but probably will in spring, said Schuchman. Last winter, the council changed town code to allow such an expansion, then placed a two-year moratorium on other new hotel/motel uses.

• The 2017 waste-hauling schedule has been updated. Waste Industries will now collect yard waste monthly, starting in April.

The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Feb. 24, at 3:30 p.m.