License revocation ordinance approved

Bethany Beach Town Council members unanimously approved two pieces of legislation at their meeting Friday, Jan. 21.

On second reading, the council agreed to add more teeth to the enforcement of town codes and fees by beefing up its ability to revoke business licenses.

The new ordinance allows the town to revoke the license of any business whose owner, manager or other controlling individual is found to have failed to pay town fees, such as those for trash collection or town taxes.

Town Council Member Harold Steele requested the ordinance be amended to exclude parking tickets from the items that could trigger the license revocation, saying the council could reconsider the issue if parking tickets proved to be a significant problem.

Town Attorney Terrence Jaywork reminded council members that some part of the origin of the ordinance had been an attempt to deal with “scofflaws” who refused to pay parking tickets up into the hundreds of dollars. However, Mayor Jack Walsh noted that the town had since instituted a boot law to allow greater enforcement on chronic offenders.

Town Manager Cliff Graviet said the town’s new digital ticketing system allowed officers to identify such violators more easily and make use of the boot law. He said that if the new enforcement system worked, it would eliminate the need for parking tickets to be among the items included in the license revocation ordinance.

The council members present at the meeting (Bob Degen was absent) voted unanimously to accept Steele’s amendment and the ordinance as amended.

Also accepted unanimously was the town’s ordinance to accept the International Building Code, 1991 edition. The code beefs up requirements for some areas of coastal construction.

In its third legislative action on Jan. 21, the council approved an altered version of an ordinance extending the existing “sunsetting” provisions for establishments serving alcohol in the town.

The sunsetting provision was originally put into place as a test, allowing restaurants to serve alcohol in waiting areas while they waited for a regular table in the restaurant. The provision was also designed to allow greater control of such patrons by the restaurant management and law enforcement officers, to prevent the allowance from becoming a problem.

The council was to approve an extension of the provision through the end of 2005, but Steele proposed it instead be extended only until April 30, 2005, to allow new council members (Lew Killmer had been serving only seven days) to study the ordinance before voting on it.

During the course of discussion, Council Member Wayne Fuller said he objected to the element of the ordinance that allows the waiting-area bar to be up to 450 square feet in size. He said he believed that size, which includes the floor space and tables in the area, was too large.

Jaywork pointed out that the vote under discussion was the extension of the provision and not its original content, which would have to be handled separately. But Fuller continued his objection to the size provision and voted against the extension until April 30, while all other members present voted in favor of it. The extension will allow council members to address an extension through December 2005 when they meet in April.

The council also heard a first reading of an ordinance to adopt flood plain designations. The ordinance strips references to manufactured homes (trailer homes), which are not allowed within the confines of Bethany Beach. The designations also require that enclosed areas of properties be property vented. As always upon first reading, no vote of council was held.

Walsh requested that council members consider appointing an official liaison to Millville, to keep Bethany Beach apprised of information concerning development. The issue arose after the recent decision by Millville to incorporate a planned development of 476 acres, with between 2,700 and 5,400 homes (the final number to be determined).

Bethany Beach residents and officials had expressed concern about the impact of such a large development on the beachside town, especially if the community’s residents were to attempt to park and go to the beach in Bethany Beach. Walsh had received an invitation from those involved to provide a liaison to help offset any negative impact on the town, as well as a request from Millville Town Manager Bob Alexander, to provide his town with a list of Bethany Beach’s concerns.

Walsh recommended that the Planning Commission serve as the town’s official liaison, but objections were raised as to the impact of appointing any sort of official liaison on development issues, as well as to the exact nature of the duties of any such person or persons.

Killmer said he believed the role of any liaison would have to be to keep the council apprised of any developments or concerns arising from such growth, “not to convince developers or Millville to change their mind.”

Planning Commission member Phil Boesch said he feared that “by formally recognizing them, we are recognizing them as part of this town.” He said of the developers, “I don’t have a lot of feeling that they’re going to play fair with anybody.”

Others in attendance at the meeting said they felt it was time for the town to “play hardball” with the development issue, to perhaps hire lobbyists or consultants and for the mayor to speak forcefully on the issue. “People are not moving to Millville to smell chicken manure,” one resident said, “they’re moving to go to our beach.”

Steele responded quietly, “It’s not our beach.” He said such a “bully pulpit has no effect. We need to get involved in everything in the county.”

Former Mayor Joseph McHugh also questioned the wisdom of appointing an official representative from Bethany Beach, saying, “We have to be very careful about the power this person has.”

Resident and Planning Commission member Steve Wode said he had closely followed development issues in Ocean View and Millville as a property owner in both towns (as well as Bethany Beach).

Wode had earlier encouraged town council members to write a formal letter to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) requesting they follow a request by the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce to revise existing plans for Route 26 to include a third lane the entire length of the road through the coastal towns. He said he had made similar requests of both Millville and Ocean View.

With his involvement in all three towns announced, Wode was chosen as a possible candidate for a liaison position, but the question remained as to whether his appointment would be formal and official or as a private citizen. Council members unanimously approved a motion to charge the Planning Commission with keeping the council informed about development issues in the area.

The Planning Commission members decided the following day to give Wode the unofficial charge to provide them with that information, with Killmer serving as his backup.

Council members also unanimously agreed to a contract for drainage improvements to the 200 block of Hollywood Street and to add a water line to the Natter property. The cost of the drainage work was bid at $120,000, while the water line cost was $20,000. Only $50,000 of the drainage work will be paid from town coffers.

Graviet updated council members on a series of ongoing issues in the town during his town manager’s report. He said the bid-package designs for the town’s boardwalk bandstand project had been completed. (The project has since gone out for bids, and the town has requested responses by May 1.)

He said the town had had an informal meeting with representatives of DelDOT to discuss preliminary findings of the traffic and pedestrian study conducted in the summer of 2004. Among those preliminary findings were the crossing of 24,000 pedestrians and 500 bicyclists across Atlantic Avenue at Garfield Parkway during a 12-hour period in late August.

Graviet said the meeting had been designed to get input from the town’s working group, and public meetings on the findings would be held within three to four months.

Those wondering what has become of the “Welcome to Bethany Beach” signs at the borders of town can rest easy that they are simply out for refurbishment, according to Graviet. Meanwhile, representatives of Conectiv have confirmed that they will be able to start installation of lights in the town within four to six weeks.

Graviet noted that the town had decided upon a sign style for planned street-sign replacements. He noted that the signs were not “high-end” but instead would cost the town only $37 more per sign than standard signs on metal pole, while being an upgrade. Sign replacement on Route 1 had already started, he said, with Route 26, Kent Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and Atlantic Avenue scheduled for the near future.

The town’s new boardwalk clock will have to wait another few weeks, thanks to bad weather in the Midwest, Graviet noted. The installation is now scheduled for the first few weeks of February. The new technology for the town’s meeting rooms is right on schedule, however, with digital recording being ready for the February town council meeting, he said.

New things are also coming to the town’s streets, with work being done to survey them for long-range blacktopping plans. Graviet said there were some concerns about how the underlayment for the streets had been holding up, with a lifespan shorter than had been anticipated.

The town manager also announced that the town had been awarded two grants. The first, for $10,200, was awarded to the town for homeland security. The second, from DelDOT, was awarded for the planned Garfield Parkway streetscape project and totaled $150,000. Graviet said the town would attempt to get at least four bids on the project design and final construction.

Steele took the opportunity of the mention of the streetscape project to recommend that the recent theming suggestions and input from architecture students at the University of Maryland be considered by the town.

In his treasurer’s report to the town, McClenny noted that 94.3 percent of the town’s anticipated revenue had been collected, compared with 102.3 percent collected at the same point in 2004. Expenditures were 76.75 percent, compared to 72.6 percent spent at the same point in 2004.

Despite the higher expenditure rate and lower revenue collection compared to the previous year, McClenny said he was “not concerned. Everything is just fine.”

Fuller, in his report to the council from the Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) instituted a number of new CORC procedures. Having previously presented to council members a “white paper” addressing concerns about skateboarding, he requested the council members give CORC its approval to proceed with developing legislation on the issue.

He noted that the committee had expressed concerns (by a 7-1 vote) that skateboarding in the downtown area was a safety hazard, while skates and rollerblades were deemed not to be an issue. (Skateboarding is already banned on the boardwalk and Garfield Parkway.)

Fuller noted a number of problems with reported property damage from skateboarding activities but conceded that skateboarders had generally complied when asked to cease by police. He proposed a skateboard facility in the town as one possible solution to the problem.

Vice Mayor Carol Olmstead said she saw the value in in-season restrictions but wondered whether there was a real need for them year-round. Walsh noted that he felt there were a number of ways in which the activity could be controlled, such as restricting it to children younger than 12 or instituting fines to the parents of children who violated restrictions or other ordinances. “A total ban would be somewhat harsh,” he said.

Killmer suggested CORC write a few versions of proposed ordinances on skateboarding and bring them back to council for consideration at a later date. Council members agreed the committee should proceed with that action.