Letters to the Editor-- June 21, 2013

CIB director thankful for help with cleanup

The Inland Bays are once again much cleaner, thanks to the efforts of some very dedicated volunteers. On June 8, over 40 stalwart stewards of the water braved the rain to collect over 3,000 pounds of trash from the waters, shores and marshes of Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay. I’m writing to express my utmost thanks to these folks that continually give to their community by keeping our beloved waters free of junk.

Every year, tons of trash makes its way into the Bays, especially after storms. Plastics, in particular, can be consumed by marine life and make their way into the food chain of the estuary. Floating boards and other debris from docks and decks can also cause navigational hazards.

Everyone can help keep waters clean by switching to reusable materials and making sure trash cans near the water are secured. And, of course, by participating in the Bay Clean Up! The next opportunity will be on June 22 at the Assawoman Wildlife Area, to clean up the Little Assawoman Bay. Visit www.inlandbays.org for details.

The Inland Bays Cleanup is a partnership between the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Section, Dewey Beach Lions Club and DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Dewey Beach Lions Club has donated $1,000 to fund the event. We thank them and our other sponsors, State Farm Insurance Company, Blue Hen Disposal Service and Bill’s Sport Shop, for their support. On behalf of the Center for the Inland Bays, we can’t thank you all enough for your dedication!

Chris Bason, Executive Director
Delaware Center for the Inland Bays

Burbage states his case for hotel facility

It can be confusing to understand what all the fuss is about over building a new three-story oceanfront hotel facility in Bethany Beach. While we think it is great to debate whether a brand new oceanfront facility will have a positive or negative impact on the Quiet Resorts, some of the arguments and rumors I have heard about the new three-story oceanfront hotel are just plain wrong and misleading.

I want to make a couple basic points just to clarify some incredible misconceptions.

Point No. 1: Our new Bethany Beach hotel project is only three stories tall, and it did not require any special height adjustments from the Town of Bethany Beach. Someone actually told me I was going to build a six-story high-rise. Can you believe it?

Our new three-story oceanfront hotel facility would replace an existing three-story motel facility. Of course, because we would be building a brand new facility, we are happy to be able to offer a wider range of newer and more comfortable amenities.

Point No. 2: This is a Bethany Beach favorite — parking. Some people think that a new three-story oceanfront hotel facility will increase parking problems in downtown Bethany Beach. In reality, a hotel in Bethany Beach must provide on-site parking for its guests. Providing on-site parking is part of the requirements for a three-story oceanfront hotel facility. Our new facility will provide ample parking for our guests.

Point No. 3: Some people have said the new hotel would bring more people to that location than currently could use the existing area. We did an analysis. The Blue Surf Hotel had 35 rooms, and the Bethany Arms had 50. Because they were larger rooms than we are going to build; their maximum load of people was actually greater than ours will be in the new hotel.

I hope everyone will understand that we want our new three-story oceanfront hotel facility to be a positive addition to Bethany Beach. We have been pleased to develop properties in the Quiet Resorts before and look forward to building a brand new hotel facility that everyone can be proud of.

Jack Burbage
Bethany Beach

Costello clarifies his comments, stance

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Bethany Beach Town Council members and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.

I do regret that several of you appeared to take offense at my assertion of the facts as I have seen them this winter, leading to my belief that Bethany has moved too hastily and superficially to pave the way for the Hotel Burbage. At least I now have a better understanding that some of you see the choice at the Bethany Arms Motel development site as being between the Burbage Hotel, and only the Burbage Hotel, and a yet-to-be-proposed, seriously unsatisfactory commercial alternative.

Here’s what I think I know from the public record. In December of 2012, Mr. Burbage visits with town staff, outlines his plan for a hotel, discusses changes in certain rules, as well as a correction that will need to be made in the Zoning Code.

On Jan. 14, 2013, Mr. Burbage makes a detailed presentation to the town council at its workshop. The consensus of the council was that “...the project would be an excellent fit for Bethany Beach.”

On Jan. 19, at the Bethany Planning Commission monthly meeting, a series of proposals and a sketch plan were discussed by Mr. Burbage, making essentially the same points he had made five days earlier at the council’s workshop.

In a relatively short working meeting, the Planning Commission agreed on a number of new definitions for the Town Code, off-street parking regulations for commercial lodging, and rezoning of portions of property south of Hollywood Street from residential to commercial.

The commission unanimously voted to request the Town Council to consider changing the zoning of the lots in question from residential to commercial. The discussion preceding the vote was of less than 10 minutes’ duration and did not involve any mention of why previous Bethany planners decided to leave the lots zoned residential, even though they probably were able to see that commercial lodging actually occupied a portion of that (Block 110) property.

No discussion appears to have taken place about existing rules for non-conforming uses and structures and how they were to be treated in the future.

At its Feb. 15 meeting, the council briefly discussed amendments to the zoning code and the timing of the public hearing that was required before the changes could be approved. March 15 at 4 p.m. was decided on for the hearing. Mr. Killmer tried to clear up what he called a misconception on our part that these amendments had anything to do with the Hotel Burbage project; and Mayor McClenny allowed that the public may not understand that these proposed changes are only housekeeping.

The town manager sent a letter to all Bethany property owners on Feb. 28 with detailed information on most of the proposed changes and announcing the March 15 date for the public hearing the council was obligated to hold.

The issue that was to become the most controversial as people learned more about it — the proposed rezoning of property (long designated as residential) to commercial — was only briefly explained as necessary because the property had long-standing use of a commercial nature. He argued that rezoning one third of Block 110 to commercial, while leaving two-thirds of the block residential, would “allow for a more unified commercial boundary and frontage on both South Atlantic and Hollywood.”

The March 15 public hearing was well-attended, lively and clearly indicated that townspeople did not agree that the changes were mere housekeeping and had nothing to do with the Hotel Burbage.

That the council subsequently chose not to take up one of the proposed zoning changes, unanimously approved by its Planning Commission, was a prudent acceptance of the plain fact that people knew it was not a housekeeping measure, that it had everything to do with Hotel Burbage, and that it amounted to commercial zoning creep.

What comes next with the raft of complex changes the council is proposing to take up now to make the Burbage Hotel a reality, exactly as it was proposed by Mr. Burbage in December of 2012, is anyone’s guess.

I was trying, inarticulately, I know, and I apologize for that, to make the point that the council will have to do a much better job of sharing, in a timely fashion, all of the information townspeople should have to fully understand what is going on and why, before voting to spread formal commercial zoning south of Hollywood Street into one of Bethany’s nice residential neighborhoods.

Dan Costello
Bethany Beach

Famous parade T-shirts now available

The Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade Committee is once again selling T-shirts to help fund the annual event.

Designed by Jennifer Carter, the shirts depict postcards and flowers in celebration of the parade’s theme, “Wish You Were Here for Bethany in Bloom.”

This year’s grand marshal will be the town’s landscape architect, Melinda Linde. The town’s Public Works Department will also be honored.

The shirts will be available on the Bethany Beach Boardwalk every evening from 6:30 p.m. until dusk. They will also be sold the morning of the parade on the Christian Church grounds.

If you’d like to buy a T-shirt and support Bethany’s annual Fourth of July festivities, please do so early, as popular sizes sell out. Adult sizes are $15 and children’s sizes are $10.

If you can’t make it the Boardwalk to make your purchase, call me at (302) 539-2805. We hope to see you and your family at this year’s Independence Day celebration in downtown Bethany Beach.

Mary Rossi, T-Shirt Sales Supervisor
Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade

Reader takes exception to Burbage ad

Being a stated opponent of the proposed Burbage Properties hotel along the Bethany Beach boardwalk, I was dismayed to see the ad in the June 13 issue of the Coastal Point newspaper (page A21).

Burbage Properties has every right to take out an ad such as this, but I would like to offer my opinion of it and why I think it exists. I do so because I feel that the ad has been placed to influence opinion related to the property rezoning that the project needs to go forward and therefore is open to criticism. The Town Council has, thankfully, slowed down that rezoning process so that Bethany residents may weigh in on the issue.

The ad’s title, “Your New Oceanfront Hotel,” strikes me as extremely presumptive in that it is presented as if the proposed hotel were a done deal. Does Burbage Properties know something the rest of us don’t? Probably not, but the ad uses the technique of leading the reader to accept the existence of the hotel as a given. Not so fast, guys.

Additionally, the word “Your” in the title implies the reader/Bethany resident has ownership, or maybe it’s even a gift from Burbage Properties. No? Then I disagree that the proposed hotel is owned by anyone other than Burbage Properties, and possibly its direct business associates.

How naïve are we perceived to be? This is a big business proposition, and let’s recognize it as such. I, of course, realize that “Your” is hyperbole, but regardless, the wording is at best paternalistic and at worst condescending to me, especially considering the psychology behind its use.

Also notably, the drawing shows only one of the two proposed buildings in the project. A different Burbage Properties-generated rendering not seen in the ad shows a second additional building as part of the very large hotel project. Could it be that the appearance of a scaled view of the entire two-building project might be alarming to us “owners,” due to its size? I don’t like to be fooled, and I think other readers don’t either. A very large omission, it seems.

As I and the many others who have written to Coastal Point, other print and online media and to the Bethany Beach Town Council have stated, this proposed project would be a mistake for the council to facilitate via a zoning change (from residential use to commercial) to the beachfront property bordering the south side of Hollywood street that is currently at issue.

Bethany does not need an oversize upscale hotel dominating our boardwalk and our unique town for the many reasons already put forth in the media sources and council meetings. Notice I write “our” town and boardwalk because those of us readers who own property in Bethany do truly have ownership as property owners and as taxpayers. And no matter what the result, we won’t be “owning” any hotel, no matter what the Burbage Properties ad seems to imply.

Neil Hopper
Bethany Beach

Sea Pines association upset with ruling

A few weeks ago, the Delaware Supreme Court announced a shockingly ill-conceived decision to vacate the 2011 unanimous Sussex County Board of Adjustment (BoA) denial of the ATT cell tower application adjacent to our 46 town homes at Sea Pines Village.

This stunning failure of the legal system is predicated on an absurd semantic technicality, namely that the BoA did not use the word “substantially” in their written decision, despite the board saying everything possible to actually mean that.

The Court did not even acknowledge the other two critical failures of the application (either of which alone is grounds for BoA refusal), namely the collocation on neighboring structures (many of which were indicated in testimony) and demonstrating a need. Also, the Court wrongly “focused” on the Bethany water tower, which was not even part of the record and is only one of many collocation possibilities.

This decision appears to be in violation of fundamental law principals. The judges seem unfamiliar with simple word meaning. As just one example, if the tower were to fall southward (and cell towers have repeatedly done so before, even when built to code) it would crush two of our homes. How much more “substantial” can there be?

In an instant, this court has cavalierly discarded three years of hard work, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, countless hours of volunteer time and testimony by homeowners, a unanimous citizen board approval, an appellate judge’s reasoned decision and the peoples’ faith in our judicial system.

By this absurdly warped logic, all of the county (and statewide) Board decisions over the past few decades should now be examined for these “technical” errors and possibly also vacated.

And as testimony to distorted favoritism, the temporary tower is still allowed to stand (all the while the landowner gets thousands in rent from AT&T each month), as we all prepare to do everything all over again, at a considerable additional cost.

Many feel that someone needs to be held accountable for this. Is it the former BoA solicitor, who made the elementary, but colossal, error? Or is it the Sussex County solicitor, who oversees county legal matters?

Incredibly, by state law, the case cannot be remanded back to the County BoA so that they can correct this administrative error and amend their ruling to rightfully include the word “substantially” in their written decision, as was originally intended.

In light of this debacle, we would again ask the County to immediately amend and fix the cell tower ordinance regulations to require an adequate minimum residential buffer and setback, to protect us all. This can be done immediately. We had given the County the proposal for this over 18 months ago.

As we approach the 150-year anniversary this summer of the worst Civil War battle in American history, a testament to the enduring freedom of our citizens, we’re reminded that justice is a tenuous right that can be taken away by any group of well-connected people in an instant. This Court should be embarrassed about the distorted justice, and the assault on our freedoms. It’s no wonder many have lost faith in our legal system.

Gary Bogossian, Spokesperson
Sea Pines Village Homeowner’s Association