M&T Bank sponsoring Bethany’s fireworks show

With the recent acquisition of Wilmington Trust by M&T Bank, the new guys in town are looking to get involved in their new community, using television ads to express interest in Delaware banking customers and even offering to sponsor this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display in Bethany Beach and elsewhere in the state.

Debbie Crago, who is the branch manager at Wilmington Trust at its location south of the town and who has been in the community for 23 years, told the town council on June 17 that the effort was intended, “Basically, to say, ‘thank you’ to the town and the community, to let them know that the same people will still be here.”

She said the outreach campaign had been presented to the employees of the former Wilmington Trust as something M&T was doing across the state, from north to south, with Dover and Smyrna among other communities that were also to be recognized by the company with sponsorship of their holiday fireworks displays.

The display costs the town around $20,000 per year, and M&T offered to pay $10,000 of that cost this year.

Vice-Mayor Jack Gordon said the offer was intended to emphasize M&T’s commitment to the community as they take over the operations at Wilmington Trust. He said the company also wanted to have M&T flags and about a dozen representatives present at dune crossings during the time of the fireworks, handing out T-shirts and drink cozies, making the company’s presence known.

While some council members expressed concern that M&T’s presence would overwhelm the July 4 event, which is set to take place at dusk, Gordon said he thought the offer was a positive for the town.

“It’s nice to find a commercial sponsor for something like this,” he said, proposing that other downtown businesses might want to support such events in the future. “We spend a lot of money on bandstand entertainment.”

“Many years ago, we did have contributions from local businesses,” noted Councilwoman Carol Olmstead. “They didn’t have to be selling themselves. They were willing to make a contribution. This does seem like a lot of PR on their part.” She also said she was concerned it would set a precedent.

But Gordon said he felt the fireworks would remain clearly a function of the town.

“People come to see the fireworks in Bethany Beach,” he said. “No one says, ‘Those are M&T’s fireworks.’ I don’t see something here that is of harm to the town.”

Crago said she knew the fireworks event was very crowded and would discourage M&T from utilizing a lot of signs as the sponsor.

The council voted 5-0 on June 16 to accept the sponsorship offer from M&T, with Councilman Joe Healy absent and Olmstead recusing herself, saying she is a customer.

Town adopts RV and portable storage ordinances

Also on June 17, the council voted 6-0 to adopt changes to town ordinances regarding the storage of boats and trailers to include recreational vehicles (RVs) of all types and portable on-demand storage devices (known often by the company name PODS but also provided by other companies).

The ordinance prohibits the storage of RVs on residential property for more than seven days in any 30-day consecutive period, except for those stored in an enclosed garage or otherwise not readily visible from the street or from adjacent properties. RVs in violation of the regulation are subject to removal as per the town’s existing code on abandoned vehicles.

Under the new ordinance, “pods” require a permit from the town office, which itself requires the payment of a permit fee. They can be stored on a property no more than 14 days over the course of a 12-month period, limited to two occasions during that period.

“Pods” in use during construction work on a property can have an extended permit, allowing up to 90 days on the property during a 12-month period, with the possibility to renew the permit with an additional fee paid, up to a possible maximum of 180 days and expiring when the building permit expires or a certificate of occupancy is issued, whichever of the three is soonest. They must be stored on a driveway, if one is present.

The council also voted 6-0 to add permit fees for the “pods” permits to its table of fees.

Asked about enforcement issues, Councilman Lew Killmer said the town’s code enforcement staff would be monitoring the devices to make sure permits were displayed property and in order. He said there had been complaints made to the town about them being left on properties for a long while.

On June 17, the council also held a public hearing on a change to Chapter 425 of the town zoning code, to clarify the maximum lot coverage as indicated in the Table of Dimensional Requirements, and to make other housekeeping changes. The clarification to the lot coverage calculations are intended to address possible interpretations of the allowance that have recently led to at least one appeal of a decision by the town’s building inspector.

A vote on the ordinance is to be held at a future council meeting.

Also up for a future vote is approval of the town’s latest update to its comprehensive plan. The council held the second of two required public hearings on June 17, with no additional public comment made.

Also at the June 17 council meeting:

• Councilman Jerry Dorfman reported that the town had taken in 43.3 percent of its budgeted revenue for the year to date through May 31, up from 42 percent last year; and paid out 13 percent of budgeted expenditures, compared to 13.5 percent last year. Revenues continue to exceed expenditures, he said.

• Mayor Tony McClenny reminded citizens and would-be councilpersons that the town elections are set for Sept. 10, from noon to 6 p.m. Property owners who are listed on their property’s deed need not register, but residents who do not own property must register to vote by Aug. 10. Three council seats are up for election this year, each with a two-year term. Applications for those wishing to run for the council seats must be turned in to the town office by 4 p.m. on July 26.

• McClenny also announced plans for the town’s police department to host the second of two bicycle safety checkpoints on July 7, between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m., on Route 26 east of Wawa. Bicycle light sets are also available for no cost at the police department, as long as supplies last. Cyclists were reminded that they are required to follow the same rules of the road as drivers of motor vehicles, including riding on the right side of the road.

• Councilwoman Margaret Young thanked Town Manager Cliff Graviet and public works staff for promptly replacing benches atop the beach dune crossings after they were requested to be put in place. She also thanked those who participated in and attended the ceremony dedicating a plaque to Henry Clay Drexler in the Loop Canal Park on June 14. “It’s taken 87 years, but we have finally ensured that Henry Clay Drexler has been awarded recognition by his home town for receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

• Killmer reported approval of three new or replacement signs at the June 10 meeting of the Non-residential Design Review Committee. The signs are for Treasure Island in the Blue Surf building, for Dickie’s Frozen Custard and for Blue Water Coastal Cuisine. So far this year, 11 signs have been approved by the committee, the largest figure since it was established.

• Graviet reported ongoing efforts to make the town’s continued transition to parking paystations successful, saying they had identified one or two areas where the paystations were being used more than expected, including in the N. Pennsylvania Avenue area, where 24 additional parking spaces are being added on property owned by the Christian Church and leased to the town for $28,000 per year, as well as in the area of the post office and Bethany Blues, he said. The town will be relocating one or two paystations to address the heavier usage in those areas, Graviet said. He also reported that parking revenue was ahead of budget, though the town had issued 19 percent fewer tickets than at the same point last year.