Letter to the Editor -- May 3, 2013

Longtime property owner speaks out

As a 60-year property owner in Bethany Beach, former Bethany Town Council member and chairman of the Bethany Planning Commission, and former President of the Bethany Beach Landowners Association, I wish to express some of my concerns about the proposed zoning changes to accommodate Jack Burbage’s proposal for a flagship Hilton or Marriott Hotel at the site of the Bethany Arms Motel.

Mr. Burbage made his proposal at the Jan. 14, 2013, Town Council workshop and, according to a Jan. 18, 2013, Coastal Point story, he noted his “love” for Bethany Beach and that “this is not a money thing at all.” In a Feb. 28, 2013, letter to Bethany property owners, Town Manager Cliff Graviet noted that six zoning code changes will be required to accommodate Mr. Burbage’s proposal.

This is a very serious proposal and appears to have the approval of a majority of Bethany Town Council members. Let me express two reservations:

First, I believe that most Bethany property owners chose Bethany Beach because they want to live in a genuinely quiet resort. If you like crowded beaches and loud restaurants, there are many other choices.

Second, my wife and I have for many years supported the major environmental organizations. Their publications have devoted many articles to the issue of climate change and its effects, especially on our coastal areas. I seriously doubt that organizations such as the Marriott and Hilton would build an oceanfront hotel where it may be difficult to obtain insurance. I suggest that Bethany representatives do more research before signing on with Jack Burbage.

I would like to compliment the Coastal Point, especially News Editor Patricia Titus, for her excellent coverage of Bethany Beach news.

Cal Baldwin
Bethany Beach

BART thankful for support with theater

A thank-you from BART (Bethany Area Repertory Theater) for the community support of our first year of BART shows at the Dickens Parlour Theatre. The members of the company value the support of those that attended the shows, as well as those that have volunteered to work as actors, stage technicians, costumers and other areas necessary to the staging of our work. Most of the shows were sellouts, and we are most appreciative for that.

We also wish to extend out thanks to Rich Bloch of Dickens, who has made this beautiful little theater available in Millville, of all places. Our new season begins in October of next year, with four presentations. Anyone that is interested in joining the group, please contact Dickens Theatre or send me an email at Rdavis6018@aol.com We have lots of opportunity and even more fun.

Bob Davis, Founder
Bethany Area Repertory Theater

Resident offers thoughts to council

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

As you prepare to make a critically important decision about the future of Bethany Beach, please consider these additional observations. I have appreciated opportunities to communicate with council members and take my responsibilities seriously to tell you how I feel about the issues.

Mr. Burbage is an important commercial property owner in Bethany and is entitled to his thoughts and visions about how Bethany can be a better place as he purchases and develops commercial properties.

I still believe I am entitled, as a citizen, to an explanation of town government’s decision to allow him to develop a property in the 100 block of Garfield Parkway with absolutely no setbacks. His is the only property in the 100 block of Garfield Parkway whose building is permitted to extend all the way to the Town’s alley behind it. How that is possible has never been satisfactorily explained, and it does have a bearing on the manner in which his developments are treated by town government.

As I have said before, the lightning speed with which Town staff attempted to pave the way for his hotel vision on the Bethany Arms property, and the ease with which his ideas were sanctioned by the Planning Commission, are quite remarkable.

In attempting to understand all of it, I reread the last two Bethany Comprehensive Development Plans, searching for explanations. What I found instead were contradictions between what the Town plan suggests and what the staff and Planning Commission are proposing. As our elected representatives, you can help us understand these contradictions, explain them to us, or resolve them.

The most recent comprehensive plan states that, “The two existing commercial areas in the Town should be maintained as such, and dramatic intensification of these commercial uses should be discouraged in order to maintain consistency with the low-intensity, community-centered character of the Town.” Please help us understand how this statement in the existing plan squares with the rush to judgment in favor of the Hotel Burbage.

The following are self-explanatory quotes from the Town’s 2004 Comprehensive Plan. I quote them without editorial comment in the hope that they will convince you, as they have convinced me, that Town staff and the Planning Commission is off the mark with respect to how both the plan and residents feel about Bethany’s future.

(1) “The community value expressed here (a review board to preserve the atmosphere of Bethany) is an overwhelming desire to maintain the look and feel of the existing community as a small-scale, quiet, primarily residential beach village.”

(2) “Clearly, the vast majority of respondents (to a question about more commercial zoning) prefer the existing conditions in the town, overwhelmingly rejecting the idea of increasing the level of commercial activity or development in Bethany Beach. More than three-quarters of those surveyed (80.5 percent) disagree with the proposal to increase commercial zoning, and more than half of the respondents (57 percent) strongly disagree with the idea.”

(3) “Once again, the idea of increasing the amount of space for commercial enterprise was clearly rejected by the survey respondents. Nearly three-quarters (72.7 percent) of them indicated that they disagree or strongly disagree with the concept of using additional land for commercial purposes. Only a small portion (31.5 percent) of the respondents agrees with the idea.”

(4) “More than three-quarters (75.1 percent) of the respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the concept of working to increase the level of tourism in Bethany Beach. The respondents clearly feel that the number of tourists and the amount of tourist-related infrastructure in town is either sufficient or should be reduced. Regardless, a public focus on increasing tourism in town is certainly not a priority.”

(5) The statement we were asked to comment on was this: New development should be aimed at maintaining a year-round, quiet, residential atmosphere. “This question showed the most positive response of any question asked on the questionnaire. The vast majority (87.7 percent) of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the idea of maintaining the quiet, residential atmosphere of the town. More than anything else, this concept should probably serve as the focus of policymaking and planning for the town.”

In the absence of more recent surveys of the opinions and values of Bethany’s landowners and residents, I hope that these sentiments will assist council members in these critical deliberations.

Thank you.

Dan Costello
Bethany Beach

Subject of article offers some clarity

First of all, I would like to thank Marie for a very nice article in last week’s “Marie’s Kitchen” (April 26, 2013). I am honored that she wanted to feature me and my recipes.

Secondly, I would like this opportunity to clarify the information regarding Beach Singles and Beach Singles Book Club, as mentioned in the article. Beach Singles (www.beachsingles.org) is a local singles group for men and women ages 45 and older. We meet weekly and also have many other activities going on each month throughout the Lower Sussex County/Ocean City/Ocean Pines areas.

We have approximately 180 members, including both men and women. The Book Club, which is part of the Beach Singles, comprises 20 members and is, at this time, all women… but we welcome men to join us. We meet once a month and have very insightful discussions about the books we read. We do not just read “chick books.” As Marie so aptly queried, “Real men read, don’t they?” Thank you for this opportunity to clear up any confusion.

Dianne DeForest
Ocean View

CROPwalk ready to take center stage

We would like to invite the community to join us on May 11, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., to make the 25th Southeast Sussex Hunger Walk, sponsored by the Ministerium, the best ever. You can walk or celebrate the event by enjoying the entertainment that will be provided for non-walkers. The Nautical Sounds will perform at 11, followed by opening ceremonies for the walk. While the walkers are walking, there will be a sing-a-long for non-walkers. Song booklets will be provided for many of your favorite songs.

Many of your friends and neighbors are collecting for this event, and if you would like to join the effort, you can call or email me at (302) 537-9417 or rm.hendrix@mchsi.com. Most of the area churches are involved, so your church may have a group walking. I can provide that information also.

As Dr. Seuss says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” CROPwalk programs are designed not to just provide a meal but to promote a life change to help people provide for themselves.

Put on your walking shoes or have a seat at the boardwalk to participate in a sing-a-long and enjoy a few hours with your neighbors or perhaps make a new friend. It always feels good to get together to participate in something that is not only fun but makes the world a better place.

Hope to see you walking or singing, or both.

Rose Mary Hendrix
South Bethany

Reader responds to previous letter

In response to Mr. Griffiths’ letter...

I think you are correct in one thing: gay marriage does not result in children. My relationship, though heterosexual, will not result in a child. My partner and I have chosen to be childless. Should I be allowed to marry for the “tax breaks”? By your logic, the answer should be no. What about those with fertility issues? Can they marry? The answer is no.

So what should we do about those people? How will we know if they can multiply? Perhaps all couples should undergo testing prior to walking the aisle to be sure they can have children. Should the marriage certificate have a certified letter of intent to bear children attached?

What do we do with those that wish to adopt? Where do they fit in this plan? Of course, a gay couple could adopt an unwanted child, but that is an entirely different issue.

As for the rights that gay couples are so rudely asking for, don’t we all deserve these rights? If your partner was sick in the hospital, would you be the best person to handle the decisions needed about her care? Or would you trust that decision to a person who may not have spoken to her in 20 years? Medical decisions fall on the next of kin, and not your roommate.

Some gay people have been shunned by their own families, leaving a decision of great importance to a virtual stranger and not a spouse. Would you like to be shut out of your spouse’s care at the end of her life?

As for your other statement that “their union does nothing to benefit society,” I find that to be so insulting. I don’t understand the argument that it may destroy the integrity of marriage. Hasn’t divorce already destroyed it? How can one vow to remain faithful to one person until death, then say, ‘Just kidding,’ sign a paper and find someone else?

Gay couples benefit society the same way the rest of us do. Through our differences, we build a community rich with art, music, science and, yes, religion. This nation was founded on our differences and the ability to embrace all people and include them in the fabric of the stars and stripes. Diversity makes us a powerful and free nation and separates us from those who wish harm upon us. We need to celebrate our diversity and not condemn it.

Heather McGee

Reader offers suggestion to another

I just finished reading a letter that was posted in the Coastal Point today from a Ms. Cindy Shomo, in reference to her home at Massey’s Landing.

Dear Ms. Shomo, I feel real bad for all you people and I totally agree that Sussex County does not need any more RV parks, overpriced housing developments or out-of-town developers with their big ideas.

What we do need is infrastructure to support what we already have. Actually, the infrastructure should have been addressed long before the developments were built; however, the people we trusted and voted into office were only worried about one thing, and it sure was not us waiting 30 minutes to pull out of our driveways and fight our way to work each morning.

Ms. Shomo, nothing is sacred here in Sussex County, especially promises that were made and not legalized on paper. I know more than one person through the years that have lost homes that were on leased land. Where their nice mobile homes once stood now sit half-a-million-dollar homes. They thought they were protected with 99-year leases. Apparently a judge ruled in the developers’ favor over the little community that was right across the water from Massey’s Landing.

Rule of thumb: if it is not your land, it does not belong to you. I know you thought 14 years ago you were making a wise investment, a nice stick-built home on the water; but as you can see, things change and rarely is there anything you can do about it if you do not own the land.

If it were my land, I would do what I pleased with it and, considering that Massey’s Landing is a valuable piece of real estate, I would take the money and run, and so I am sure are the Faucetts.

My suggestion to all of you is, “Look for a nice piece of land and relocate your homes,” then call it yours. There are some real good deals on property right now. Look on the MLS and find a Realtor who will assist you. Good luck!

Melanie Rickmers

NARFE official urges seniors to act

Eastern Sussex County has over 2,000 federal retirees plus many federal employees who will all be affected by the government’s switch to the chained CPI. Joining the National Active and Retired Federal Employees’ Association (NARFE) is their best means to lobby against this attack on their “earned” benefits, yet less than 500 have chosen to join us.

When the change is made and they begin to lose purchasing power, will they ask, “Why didn’t you stop this?” If they want to protect the purchasing power that they worked so long and hard to earn, they need to act now. I would also advise all those living on their Social Security checks to let their legislators know how they feel about protecting their retirement purchasing power.

For those readers who are not familiar with the “chained CPI,” It works as follows: When prices rise and you are forced to buy a lower-priced meat, the “chained CPI” changes the meat in the pricing basket to the lower-priced meat. Therefore, when rising prices force you to buy a cheaper product, the CPI adjustment the next year uses the lower-priced product, which lowers your CPI increase to less than the actual rise in the cost of living.

That means that instead of keeping your purchasing power level with the cost of living, it lowers your purchasing power a little each year, which gradually defeats the purpose of “cost of living” adjustments, which were meant to keep your purchasing power on an even keel. In other words, each year that there is any inflation, you become a little bit poorer.

The time is to act now, before it makes its way through Congress. Seniors need to wake up, stand up and speak up now!

Walt Berwick, Immediate Past President
Delaware Federation of NARFE Chapters