Beautification remains focus in Fenwick

Members of Fenwick Island’s Beautification Committee continued their efforts Monday, following up on a number of projects spearheaded by the committee and aimed at making the town even more aesthetically pleasing.

Topping the agenda for the Sept. 12 meeting was the so-called “living fence” project, aimed at camouflaging and physically containing the areas around the town’s recycling drop-off facility and where the town stores some of its trash trucks.

Originally conceived as a traditional fencing project, the committee decided instead to use trees and other landscaping instead of a fence. The project is now set to start about Oct. 1, with preparation of the area to stabilize the recycling containers in their locations, and with the landscaping phase set to begin mid-month.

Council Member and committee chairwoman Vicki Carmean noted that the project had hit one small snag in recent weeks, when it was discovered that one area bordering the planned “fence” is controlled by the county, as part of sewage pumping facilities. But the town requested county permission for the project and received that this week.

The committee’s container plantings project hit a more severe snag this summer, with the loss of the plants in about half the 10 containers. Carmean said some of the pots had been well tended by their volunteer caretakers — generally businesses operating near the container locations — while others had been neglected and suffered as a result.

The committee plans to replace the plantings in the affected pots, giving particular attention to their care in the coming year so the loss of the plants is not repeated. The containers might also be included in the caretaking duties of any future landscaping contractor, if the town decides to hire such a person or business in the coming year.

Following in the wake of the committee’s much-lauded ladies’ room renovations at the town hall earlier this year, plans continue for similar renovations to the men’s restroom in early 2006.

The work order for the project has been submitted for the public works’ project pipeline, with work tentatively scheduled to take place after the winter holidays, on a similar timeline as the ladies’ room project.

Currently, committee members are considering the design of the project, with an aim toward a more masculine look. That may include black or dark-colored fixtures, taking a lesson learned from the ladies’ room project about the difficulty of keeping the restrooms looking immaculate.

Carmean noted that she would be confirming the availability of funds for the painting of the town hall meeting room in the budget for the new fiscal year. Committee members began the consideration of colors for that project at the Sept. 12 meeting.

The councilwoman also requested committee members consider any input they might like to have on the proposed changes to the town’s signage ordinances before the changes were finalized.

With the possibility of increasing the allowance for use of A-frame or “sandwich board” signs by Fenwick Island businesses under the proposed changes, Carmean especially noted that she’d found information from a recent workshop to be a cause for further concern about those particular advertising devices.

Carmean said similar aesthetic concern had been voiced about changes to the town’s commercial area, with a trend toward franchised businesses that might have a standard or formulaic appearance.

She noted, however, that the planned Subway/TCBY set to be built across Coastal Highway from the town hall was not generating deep concern on that basis. Instead of a traditional design from one or both of the franchises, the business is instead tentatively has a more “non-formula” approach with an apartment above the shops, she said.

That idea itself raised concern among committee members as a possible trend in the town, especially if it were to involve multiple apartments above the town’s several shopping centers.

During the discussion, committee member and local business owner Jessica Clark noted that combined commercial/residential use was one way to maintain the business community while offering increased residential space. The town’s business area has been under increasing pressure in light of ever-increasing prices for residential property.

The town’s current major aesthetic project — the reconstruction of its beaches — was a takeoff point for another concern of the committee. Once the construction is complete, the town will turn its attention to the dune crossovers, including facilitating the ability to walk across them.

Hanrahan noted that the finished crossovers would have a compacted under-layer that will make getting from the roadway to the beach much easier for pedestrians of varying physical abilities than the current loose sand.

The public works supervisor also noted a slight delay introduced into the reconstruction project due to weather, with a recent northeast wind having created conditions that pulled some of the newly pumped sand back off the beach. The resulting delay was very minor, however.

Along with the new dune crossings will also come some accessories, namely plans for new town signs related to beach regulations.

Other new signs for the town – such as street name signs — were to be discussed in the coming months but no funds were allocated for the project in the current year’s budget, with a wide variety of options and related price ranges available.

Committee members also broached the subject of racks to hold the beachside trash cans once that work is complete, noting that the freestanding cans often tip over and dump their contents. But Hanrahan said removing the cans from the immediate path of beachgoers often results in them failing to use the cans at all, limiting the usefulness of racks.

Clark suggested the town, alternatively, follow the example of the unincorporated state beach to the south of the town limits and replace the trash can system with a carry-in/carry-out bag system. With that system, bags would be made available to beachgoers with a reminder to carry out any trash or other items they carried onto the beach.

Hanrahan said he wholeheartedly supported such a system, since it would entirely remove the trash cans — and their maintenance — from the town’s purview.

Finally, Clark and other committee members took the opportunity to thank the public works staff for their efforts in installing and maintaining the town’s many landscaped areas, including the new median areas and the town park.