Letters to the Editor -- May 10, 2013

Reader questions merits of beach replenishment

Last week’s front-page article announcing the federal allocation of monies for the 2013 beach replenishment in Delaware marginalized some of the larger economic and environmental issues inherent in a project of this magnitude.

Under the provisions of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA) we, as citizens of Delaware, can request oversight and transparency in the implementation of this project. In short, as taxpayers and shareholders in the ocean environment, we need to request a better functional design for beach replenishments.

Restoration and preservation of a natural sand sharing coastline should be the first measurable goal in this undertaking. Our neighbor to the south, Assateague Island, has never undergone any major engineered alteration of their shorelines. The ebb and flow of storms has added and subtracted sand structure over the years. Inherently, the basic protection provided by near-shore shoals and sandbars allow the beach to grow in the summer months for additional protection against hurricanes and nor’easters.

Admittedly, recent dune breaches needed restoration, and Chincoteague faces a natural westward progression of their coast in some areas, but nature often contains the best design practices. The Army Corps of Engineers needs to be held accountable as to why these projects lack permanence, especially when such funding is presently an annual request.

These are federal dollars that could be spent enhancing quality of life issues for the elderly, education values and upholding community standards. This is a matter of public trust in our government officials. Transparency and fiscal accountability are two of the ambitious benchmarks of Gov. Markell’s current administration.

Secondly, proper management of coastal ecosystems is essential. DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara’s responsibilities in these matters is to define environmental protocols and limit impacts for all ocean life under the provisions and laws inherent in the Title 7 Delaware Administrative Codes and the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

Federal regulations regarding species habitat protection for fisheries, sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles are mandated under NOAA statues. The negative impacts of dredging operations on benthic ocean communities are scientifically documented. Under the guise of necessary action, the recent Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Indian River North Shore project concluded that “the emergency action is necessary and a waiver of dredging window restrictions was requested from DNREC and NMFS.”

This permit was issued “to allow dredging in the project area during the time of year that these (benthic fish) life stages will be most vulnerable.” Multiply the scope of this initial beach replenishment by four-fold and the negative environmental impacts of replacing beach sand echoes far into the future for Delaware.

Imagine if someone entered your residence and removed all of your furniture, beds, refrigerator, and confiscated the stock of emergency canned goods? You would have to move, maybe to where it was more difficult to live, losing established fidelity to habitat and survival. Exactly what are we asking of our ocean residents?

The price we ultimately pay for our federally-funded sand rental program is not just quantifiable in dollars, or perhaps even justifiable when compromising the future health of Delaware’s oceans. Will tourist dollars today translate to an urban, sterile ocean tomorrow?

Gregg Rosner

Editor’s note: Annual sand bypassing activities between Ocean City, Md., and Assateague Island started in April 2004, to address the loss of sand due to the Ocean City Inlet, and are now routinely scheduled in the spring and fall of each year.

Justin’s dad offers thanks for fundraising support

Thanks to D’Ortones!

Thank you so much, Nick and family, for Thursday’s Dine & Donate supporting Justin’s Beach House. It was a fun night. The food was great. MaryEllen says, “It’s like eating at Grandmom’s.”

Your mom and dad, and the rest of the staff, were very nice and took excellent care of us.

A lot of our friends came to show their support and enjoyed themselves, also.

I think you’re going to have quite a few new customers.

Thank you.

R. Craig Nantais, Chairperson
Justin’s Beach House

Letter writer denies homophobia

With regard to Ms. McGee’s letter to the editor [May 3, 2013], her implication is that I am some sort of homophobe. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no problems with gays, other than I disagree with gay marriage. If gays wish to join together in a civil union and contractually grant each other certain rights, that is fine with me. I would point out to Ms. McGee that we heterosexuals do the same thing. That is why we have such things as wills and healthcare proxies.

The lady asks the question, would I deny her and her partner tax breaks because they don’t intend to have children? Of course I would deny them to her. No one is given a tax break, no matter what their marital status, unless they are “head of household,” which is defined as meaning they are responsible for a child or other helpless dependent’s care and wellbeing. My bride and I have been married for 50 years. Our two children have flown the coop. We pay the full rate. Why shouldn’t she?

My main disagreement with Ms. McGee is that she accuses me of saying things I never said. We can begin with her claim that I said that gay marriage “may destroy the integrity of marriage.” I don’t believe that for one second. It is not a logical argument. Marriage is a sacrament created by God, long before there was such a thing as civil union, and will continue to exist as long as there is a belief in a supreme being. Even more telling, why would gays wish to be “married” if it would destroy marriage? The simple truth is I never said it.

Ms. McGee then wraps her next argument in some flowery rhetoric about diversity and the flag and being a free nation and gay couples benefitting society. I never said that gay individuals do not benefit society. However; their marriage/union neither enhances nor deletes their contribution. Ms. McGee has attempted to turn my disagreement on the subject of “gay marriage” into an ugly anti-gay rant. I am not anti-gay. I tried to choose my words carefully. It would be nice if she read them in like manner.

It is not my intention to get in a newspaper p—-ing contest with some woman I don’t even know. However, you have been kind enough to grant me space in your paper and I would like you to know that you are not granting that privilege to some ultra-right-wing nutjob. Granted, I’m a conservative, but I try to be a reasonable one. Frankly, I don’t care what Ms. McGee thinks of me, but your opinion does matter.

Chuck Griffiths
Ocean View

Neighbors question impact of potential hotel project in Bethany

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Bethany Beach Mayor Tony McClenny, Councilman Lew Killmer and other town council members, and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication. It references a public hearing held on Friday, May 3.

I understand that Mr. Lew Killmer, town council member and Planning Commission chairperson will make his presentation to our Town Council regarding the following items.

(1) An ordinance to amend section 425-22 (C) of the Bethany Beach Town Code to change minimum livable floor area for a commercial lodging room.

(2) An ordinance to add the definitions of livable floor area and livable floor area square footage to the definition section of section 425-2 of the Bethany Beach Town Code.

(3) An ordinance to amend Appendix 3, the Table of Dimensional Requirements Footnote (e) of the Bethany Beach Town Code.

(4) An ordinance to amend Chapter 425 (Zoning), Article II (Terminology) Section 2 (Definitions and Word Usage) to update the Definition of an Accessory Building of the Bethany Beach Town Code.

(5) An ordinance to rezone Lots 9, 10, 11 and 12, Block 110, known as 96 Hollywood Street and 98 Hollywood Street from Residential to C-1 Downtown Commercial.

(6) An ordinance to resolve possible conflicts between requirements in the Town Code and the Non-Residential Design Guidelines.

(7) An ordinance to amend Appendix 3 (Table of Dimensional Requirements) in the Town Code regarding buildings containing apartments/lodging rooms in the C-1 Central Commercial Zoning District.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this important meeting. However, I do have questions and I hope Mr. Killmer or other responsible officials will address those questions and concerns.

One cannot hide the fact that all the proposed zoning changes have one and only one purpose. That is to replace current 50-room Bethany Arms Motel with a bigger 100-room hotel. That certainly is a favorable to Mr. Burbage and current owners of the above-mentioned property. Such changes increase the value of those properties. Rezoning Lots 9, 10, 11, 12 to C-1 Downtown Commercial has no other purpose than that.

As you know, currently all the business activity is to the north of Hollywood street. However, some of the changes in the zoning codes may have negative impact on the neighboring residential properties.

Following are the questions.

(1) Why is it in the interest of Bethany Beach residents to promote such project?

(2) What are the benefits, if any, from such project to the current part-year and year-round residents of the town?

(3) How will such project affect the traffic, parking, water, sewer, noise, tranquility, beach views and access to the beach?

(4) What will be the impact of this project on the value of the surrounding residential properties and how do you propose to assess that?

As you know, those questions were submitted before to the town council, and so far the council has chosen not to respond. I hope this time Mr. Killmer and the town council will address those questions and concerns.

A. Majeed Bhat and family
Bethany Beach

Bethany resident calls for referendum on proposed zoning changes

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

I am writing to express my grave reservations about the proposed zoning changes that are pending before Council. I ask that you defer any vote on these proposed changes until the homeowners of Bethany Beach have had a thorough opportunity to review and comment upon them. Furthermore, I believe it would be prudent to obtain the sense of the public by putting these proposals before the voters in a referendum.

My wife and I attended the two town hearings where presentations were offered by Bethany Building Inspector Susan Frederick, and Councilman Lew Kilmer, respectively. Following each presentation, numerous citizens voiced their opposition to the proposals. It was clear to me that there is intense concern for how these changes will affect the character of our town. Therefore, I question why the Town is moving so rapidly to ratify these changes.

Although the zoning changes were initially presented as “cleaning up” inconsistencies in current zoning, I find that they are far more than mere technical modifications. Although the current non-conforming use of part of the property is commercial in nature, the proposed zoning changes would dramatically increase the extent of development that could be facilitated by these changes.

For example, the Bethany Arms hotel features 50 rooms. The proposed changes would permit more than double that number. This is not merely codifying what already exists, as some have suggested. Alternatively, it might be beneficial to all stakeholders if the Town Council explored the prospect of re-zoning the C-1 commercial property now occupied by the Bethany Arms to R-1 residential zoning.

In conclusion, I ask your consideration for the points made by scores of citizens and to delay your scheduled vote on May 17. There is no overwhelming need to push these changes through hurriedly.

Furthermore, this matter alters the character of Bethany Beach so substantially that Council should allow citizens to weigh in via a referendum. Your names and your legacy as a Council will forever be linked to whatever development proceeds from these zoning changes, if you vote for them on May 17. Please do the right thing and allow the people to be heard.

Thank you for your consideration.

Dan Tunnell
Bethany Beach

Founding father’s great-granddaughter calls for referendum

As the great-granddaughter of William R. Errett, one of the six men who revived the Bethany Beach Improvement Company and made possible the founding of this distinctive town, I feel a unique responsibility to comment on the zoning amendments presently before the Bethany Beach Town Council.

Mindful of my great-grandfather’s legacy, I write on behalf of the Errett family, in opposition to these amendments. We strongly believe that these zoning changes will permit the type of development that contradicts the vision of these founding families and undermines the unique character that makes this town so appealing.

When I spoke at the May 3 public hearing, I brought with me a photo of my great-grandfather, which adorns the mantel of the cottage that has welcomed six generations of my family since its construction in 1903. I brought it as a reminder of this town’s origins in family and faith, and of its founders’ vision of a peaceful retreat by the shore.

This vision has continued to the present time, with Bethany Beach promoted as one of the “Quiet Resorts,” in contrast with the more developed beach communities up and down the coast.

It is precisely this contrast that makes Bethany Beach so appealing to the thousands of families who flock to this shore. They do not come here seeking luxury hotels, but rather to find uniquely charming accommodations that fit within their means and their vision of a restful family community.

Bethany Beach visitors choose to return here every year to avoid the traffic and parking problems found in more congested resorts. Unfortunately, the proposed zoning amendments will permit the kind of development that will bring these same problems to our residential streets and intrude on our quiet neighborhoods.

While these amendments may be presented as harmless changes that simply update the code to reflect current practice, they have been drafted for the benefit of a single developer, and they send the message that Bethany Beach is willing to sacrifice its founding principles and abandon responsible development.

Such a drastic change in course demands thoughtful consideration, not only by the members of the Town Council, but also by the taxpayers and property owners of Bethany Beach. For this reason, my family asks that the town’s voters be granted the time to better understand the consequences of these changes and the opportunity to vote on them in a town referendum.

Amy Markley Jones
Salisbury, Md.