South Bethany council discusses boatlifts

Boatlifts seem to be popping up all around South Bethany. But there are no zoning regulations on these structures, from the size to the number a person can build.

At its July 23 workshop, the town council appointed an ad-hoc group to study boatlifts and floating docks. It will present research and recommendations, and the council can then decide whether to take future action.

Members of the ad-hoc group include Dick Oliver, Jack Whitney, Joe Conway (chairperson) and Dave Wilson.

Although the four men are all members of the Planning Commission, they said this is not a committee under that commission.

Meanwhile, discussions are just beginning for a potential town hall and police station expansion.

“We’ve always had a need here for anther conference room,” Town Manager Mel Cusick said, describing town council executive sessions that shoo the public out into the hallway; committee meetings that battle for space; and financial auditors who share space with committee meetings.

Meanwhile, the police station’s shared locker room/armory/kitchen space isn’t cutting it.

They estimated a cost of $197,200 for town hall renovations and $199,100 for the police station. The Town already has grants for about 50 percent of that. Joining the two buildings would be more hassle than it’s worth, Cusick noted.

The designs were funded with an unexpected special grant from Sussex County.

The Budget & Finance Committee will further investigate the matter.

Council Treasurer Tim Saxton was absent for the unopposed vote, having left the workshop early for personal business matter. Councilman George Junkin was also absent.

In other South Bethany news:

• The council adjusted the makeup of the Communications & Public Relations Committee to be four voting members, plus a staff member. Originally, 29 people were listed as members, which would require an unrealistic 15-person quorum to vote on anything. The council determined that many of the members were just volunteers on individual projects.

• A local homeowner is taking advantage of a flood-mitigation program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

There are older houses, built before the establishment of zoning regulations, whose owners “can apply, through the Town, to FEMA and DEMA for assistance on raising their house” to 1 foot above base flood elevation (BFE), Cusick said. “It’s a good project.” Two homes in Fenwick Island are also being raised under the program.

The house at 204 Carlisle is South Bethany’s first such project since 2004, Cusick said. But it’s taken about 2.5 years, because FEMA kept changing guidelines. (They’re reasonable demands, Cusick said, but it would have been easier to know them up-front.)

East Coast Structural Movers produced the only bid on the project, about $48,000. FEMA would pay $36,900 of the 75/25 cost split. The homeowner pays the rest.

The Town pays that bill then looks for FEMA’s reimbursement. FEMA will also pay Town-specific costs, such as staff hours for inspections and bidding.

The council voted unanimously to approve the measure, with Junkin absent and Carol Stevenson abstaining because she couldn’t hear the discussion via remote access.

• The Town will consider hosting a flood-risk evaluator seminar. Although this community outreach is run by a company that sells flood vents, it may be eligible for Community Rating System points (which could help lower residents’ overall flood insurance premiums).

There is no charge to the Town to host the seminar, and the company doesn’t actively try to hawk its products. It simply helps people learn how to better protect their homes, thereby saving money on flood insurance, staff said.

The Sea-Level Rise Committee is also required by one of its grant programs to host a public information session, so the council discussed potentially combining the two.

• Police Chief Troy Crowson reviewed an overstock program South Bethany already participates in, allowing agencies to scoop up inexpensive equipment, on a first-come, first-served basis. That can range from Humvees to recycling bins.

• Resident Joel “Joe” Danshes asked whether the Town could increase revenue by leasing space for a cellular tower on the water tower.

Verizon already has a lease with Artesian on the water tower, and also with South Bethany for a support building.

“AT&T would have to do the same, and there’s really not enough room for another support building,” Cusick said.

Sharp Energy also has a lease with South Bethany, for propane.

“We receive money from all of that. If we had another water tower — you’re right, we’d lease that, because it’s good income,” Cusick said.

• Surrounded by his family, Al Allenspach was honored for his 11 years on the Board of Adjustment.

“One of the things I feel best about is the professionalism of all those people on the board and how they treated the various people who were having appeals” despite some rather testy appeals, Allenspach said. “We came out of it as friends, and one of the things that we always tried to do in that committee is be objective and keep that lovely little community [as is].”

The next regular Town Council meeting is Friday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m.