South Bethany discusses parking change

Town Council members held a first reading for their revised parking ordinance changes at a March 10 council meeting, reviewing a series of changes suggested by Town Solicitor Dennis Schraeder and answering a few questions and concerns from the town’s citizens.

The main goal of the changes is to bring the parking ordinances into compliance with existing practices, as well as fixing a few problem spots for the town and its law enforcement personnel.

With one exception, the changes are all to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2007, keeping intact current rules for the 2006 summer season and giving residents and visitors the chance to get acquainted with the new rules before the summer of 2007 arrives.

Still remaining to be decided: (1) whether the town should institute a rule regarding how close a vehicle can be parked to a mailbox, by way of ensuring postal workers can deliver to residential mailboxes; and (2) whether the town should include mopeds with motorcycles and motor-scooters in a new requirement for the two-wheeled vehicles to display a parking permit to parking during the season.

Councilman John Fields, who has been working on the parking ordinances, agreed to check with police officials on the latter issue, to see whether they felt the changes were needed, and to check with postal officials regarding any rule of thumb for delivery drivers as to when they could refuse to deliver mail due to the box access being blocked by parked vehicles. Previous inquiries on the subject revealed there is no official rule, but the town is hoping postal officials will give them an idea what is considered to be truly unworkable in their day-to-day delivery routine and allow the town to make a rule on that basis.

As drafted, the proposed ordinance adds prohibitions against parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, and against parking “fifth-wheel” or tractor trailers longer than 30 feet on the public right-of-way, except by special permit or when loading or unloading.

The ordinance also establishes a limit of four parking permits (two transferable and two non-transferable) to be issued to property owners in the town, no matter how many or what types of property they own.

Contractors will be able to obtain a parking permit when they show their business license, and their employees (subcontractors included) will be able to park for free during permitted construction hours.

When questioned on the availability of daily parking permits to the general public — including non-property owners — the council reminded those in attendance at the meeting that their beach is a public beach and must allow access to the general public if continued state and federal funding for beach replenishment is to be obtained.

On that front, Mayor Gary Jayne reported the attendance of town officials at the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association summit in Washington, D.C., which included meetings with the state’s congressional delegation and efforts to bring federal funding for the much-anticipated Bethany Beach-South Bethany beach reconstruction project hoped to begin this fall. Jayne and Town Manager Melvin Cusick were to return to the nation’s capital this week with other local officials to continue those efforts.

Councilman Bob Cestone reported little movement in the planned Assawoman Canal dredge, which is again being opposed by the Sierra Club, with request for a permanent injunction against the project currently on the judicial calendar. Cestone said preparation work is proceeding, despite that legal action, with initial work to prepare for brush clearing along the canal’s banks and to prepare the site for spoils from the project.

The town’s proposed tidal flush program is also being researched, with former councilman Lloyd Hughes conferring with Jayne and Fields to form a concrete plan so the town can proceed with possible applications and funding decisions.

Councilwoman Bonnie Lambertson noted recent publicity regarding wind power, which has been on the town’s radar since a wind farm was proposed for the Delaware coast several years ago. She said proposed federal laws limiting the construction of wind farms within sea lanes might impact the current lead project for the technology, the Cape Wind project planned for Nantucket.

A planned U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service meeting on the subject of wind farms also came to naught recently, she said, cancelled due to problems with some invitees being able to attend. And other communities had begun to question the value of wind power with the realization that in many cases the power would be added to an energy grid supplied by coal-burning power plants and thus fail to eliminate the undesired plants entirely, as had been hoped.

Councilwoman Marge Gassinger noted the completion of a soil and site survey for the new town hall. She said a revised site plan based on that information was expected to be available in the coming weeks, hopefully, she said, by the end of March.

Also at their March 10 meeting, council members unanimously appointed the election board to serve for this year’s council election, set for Memorial Day. Frank Fay, Martha Lowe and Elsa Clark are to serve.

There was also unanimous agreement from the council to again adopt the Sussex County property assessments as the standard for the town’s own taxes, as has been done each year to avoid the town needing to do its own assessments.

Police officials reported a “very, very quiet month,” noting as an ongoing problem incidents of portable toilets being tipped over. Suspects were known in the most recent case, they said.

Finally, during the public participation segment, resident Carolyn Marcello introduced resident and former Miss Delaware Roseanne Reed, with a donation of historical photos to the town.

Reed’s mother, Sally Reed, was an original homeowner in the town, Reed explained, having purchased her lot at 4 South First Street in the 1950s with a $50 downpayment on the total cost of $1,150. Sally Reed died Feb. 27, 2006, having only briefly left her South Bethany home for medical care after 11 years of living there full-time.

Reed noted that her grandfather had scoffed at the idea of purchasing property at the beach, that half-century ago, and had refused to help her mother with the cost of the lot. “My mother was ahead of her time,” Reed said.

Reed offered to town officials some old photographs of the lot, house and other aspects of the town that she had found among her mother’s possessions, and the council members accepted them gratefully. Jayne suggested a place to keep and display such historical items should be included in the new town hall.