As part of a short-term effort to address persistent problems with bicycle parking, the Town of South Bethany will be adding bicycle racks on North 6th Street and on South 6th Street.
While they had been hoping another idea would be a temporary solution to persistent problems with bicycle parking, the Town’s proposal was recently rejected by several property owners who were unwilling to lease their empty lots for use as temporary bike parking.
Additionally, being very concerned with highway safety and with very expensive engineered sand dunes, the State has also rejected racks being placed on Route 1 or on the beach.
“To compound our issues, we have received two letters from the lot owners, empty lots in Sandpiper [Village], requesting that we remove all bike racks from their property,” said Mayor Tim Saxton at the July 12 council meeting.
As a result, existing racks will be removed from the private properties in Sandpiper Village as soon as the requests are formally made and mailed to the Town.
“You can’t do that! Where are all those bikes going to go?” asked property owner John Sorensen.
But no one is guaranteed parking at the beach, whether vehicle or bicycle.
“It’s not a town council decision. … We’re following exactly how we’ve always done it when somebody asks us to take something off private property,” Saxton said. “I know we don’t have the answers tonight. We have to honor [the private property owner]. … Nobody [here] would want us to put 150 bikes in their driveway.”
In an attempt to mitigate the resulting situation, the council has also made suggestions to those property owners regarding signage and other actions, because — deserved or not — they are likely to face a storm of questions when the formerly free bike parking is replaced with potential enforcement of private property rights.
The town council officially assigned the issue to the Planning Commission, but there was still plenty dialogue on July 15.
Maybe the Town will have to purchase a lot for parking, but “the infrastructure is just not there right now. I’m hoping the Planning Commission could be a little more creative than myself,” Saxton said. “It’s a long-term problem we have.”
Bikes parked on private property can be a nuisance that infringes on personal property rights. Bikes parked on the roadway are a safety hazard for emergency vehicles.
“We have to do something,” even if the solution needs changing in the future, said property owner Beth Rosso.
Although it seems simple enough to reduce existing public or lifeguard parking in favor of bike parking, Saxton said the challenge is fitting bike racks into a safe configuration. With people parking willy-nilly or leaving bike trailers hanging into the street, it could cause additional problems.
“How do you stop the over-explosion into the street?” Saxton asked rhetorically.
“If we put bike racks out there, it would be sloppy and it’d still be all over the place” because of the “culture” of bike parking, Councilman Frank Weisgerber agreed. “If we put signs up that say ‘in the rack,’ we have to be prepared to take action if they’re not in the rack.”
“We don’t have a good short-term solution. The best thing we can do right now put racks on North 6th [Street] and try to make it work,” said Saxton, who admitted that people don’t always follow the posted rules. “People aren’t going to listen to us. You’re right. But we’re going to try.”
Property owner Paige Stine also requested an adjustment to some of the existing racks, which she said aren’t positioned with enough room to move bikes around them.
The mayor and town manager promised to pass all their research on to the Planning Commission.
In other South Bethany Town Council news:
• The council approved $4,000 in dues to be paid to the Association of Coastal Towns (ACT). Although the money is available, it was mistakenly not included in the annual budget. The council briefly discussed the value of the Sussex County group and said they hope to make better use of their access to environmental expert and lobbyist Tony Pratt, who has already advised ACT on dredging and dune access.
• Town-hosted bonfires are slowly working their way to South Bethany beaches. The council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would authorize the town manager to permit Town-sponsored beach bonfires in South Bethany.
Instead of listing every safety requirement in the code, the town council would defer to his/her judgement for safe execution, based on a general set of guidelines. They’ve previously discussed their intention to hire a professional event company to safely execute such an event, as they do for movie nights on the beach.
If passed, Ordinance 195-19 will amend the town code, Chapter 34, “Beaches” § 34-9. Private citizens still would not be allowed to host beach bonfires.
• Outgoing council members Gerald “Jerry” Masiello and Jimmy Oliver received commendations for their hard work and faithful year of service to the town.
“They came in and were up to speed really quickly on what to do and how to participate on council, and did a great job” with police organization and beach access, said Saxton.
• Of three top applicants, Masiello was appointed to the Planning Commission.
Councilman Derek Abbott asked if the Planning Commission wished to expand, to take advantage of the other volunteers. During the five- and 10-year Comprehensive Plan updates, they’ll want more people, said chair Linda Lewis. But things are quieter now, and the commission has decided that fewer people can accomplish more business. The Planning Commission is chartered to have between five and nine members.
In that case, Abbott suggested that the Town redirect the energy of those people who want to help. Other committees can certainly use volunteers, he said.
• Oliver commended council for having abolished the Town’s discretionary fund, which he said has been used for “a personal piggybank” for meals in previous years.
• Council Members Carol Stevenson and Sue Callaway, as well as town staff and volunteers, received applause for organizing a successful 50th anniversary town celebration on June 30.
• The Community Enhancement Committee sponsored the Town’s first double-elimination Cornhole Tournament on June 30.
Top winners were the “York Road Yankees,” with teammates Mark Giler and Len Kolman. With such an incredible response and such public interest, Callaway said, the CEC may consider future tournaments.
• Voting for the annual Adopt-a-Canal landscaping contest will begin this month.
The South Bethany Town Council’s next workshop meeting will be Thursday, July 25, at 3 p.m.
By Laura Walter