Letters to the editor -- March 22, 2013

Bethany resident has questions on project

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the mayor and town council of the Town of Bethany Beach and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication. The writer owns a home on Hollywood Street, adjacent to the Bethany Arms property.

After attending the public hearing regarding zoning amendments to the Bethany Beach Town code, I have few questions. Unfortunately, the public hearing was not the venue to ask the questions.

All seven amendments to the Bethany Beach Town Code have one and only one purpose: to facilitate Mr. Burbage’s project of building 100-room hotel at current Bethany Arms motel site! That is the fact, no matter how it is wrapped. Since these proposed changes of the ordinances are promoted by the nonelected and perhaps some or all the elected members of the Bethany Beach Town Council, therefore, I ask.

(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 properties and how do you propose to assess that?

It has been suggested that rezoning Lots 9, 10, 11 and 12, known as 96 and 98 Hollywood Street, would reflect historic use of those properties. In that case, most of the properties in Bethany beach that are used for summer rentals (licensed by the Town of Bethany Beach) should be similarly rezoned.

Currently, the Blue Surf property is predominantly used as residential and perhaps then that should be also rezoned as residential.

It has been suggested that proposed hotel will improve the year-round business in the town. That is a worthy cause but essentially a pipedream. Even Ocean City, Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach are for the most part deserted in the winter, and they have plenty of hotels. All East Coast beach towns are empty in the winter, unless there are casinos and gambling establishments. Perhaps that is the way to go. Of course, I am being sarcastic.

Let us accept the fact that Bethany Beach is a small, charming, family-friendly summer resort town, and I am hopeful that it will stay that way.

It is my sincere hope that all the elected officials of the Town of Bethany Beach will think hard about the proposed zoning changes for what they are:

(1) Help Mr. Burbage to build a 100-room beachfront hotel at a site that only has 50 rooms at present.

(2) This project will change the character of our town for good.

(3) This project will affect the neighboring property values adversely.

(4) All the residents of the town should have an opportunity to vote on this project.

I also hope that the residents of Bethany Beach will contact their elected town officials to let them know what they think of Mr. Burbage’s project. I pray that each one of you make a right choice.

Majeed Bhat and family
Bethany Beach

Costello weighs in on Bethany zoning

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.

I heard many observations and suggestions at the March 15 council hearing on the proposed seven zoning amendments to the Bethany Beach Town Code, and I wish to share my personal observations and suggestions following the well-attended hearing and the very thoughtful comments of so many citizens.

(1) I am hoping for a town government response to my recent inquiry seeking an assurance that nothing in any of these amendments would allow whatever replaces the Bethany Arms motel to be taller than the residences that replaced the Blue Surf Motel.

(2) A citizen suggested that these zoning amendments, should they be approved by the Council, not go into effect until Bethany Beach conducts a referendum of its voters that permits Bethany’s voters to approve or reject the proposed zoning amendments. In my view, it was an excellent suggestion and one that the Council should adopt, should it also decide to approve the changes.

(3) Where residential and commercial zoning abut or collide, if you will, in Bethany, extra special care must be exercised to guarantee that the property rights and values of residents take precedence over the rights and values of commercial owners.

If the council is not able to place a “thumb on the scale” in favor of abutting residential owners, it should at the very minimum guarantee residential owners that their rights and property values be taken into full account when zoning changes are proposed. There are examples in Bethany, e.g. the Town’s alley between the 100 block of Garfield Parkway and Hollywood Street and residential properties abutting Captain Jack’s on North Pennsylvania Avenue, where much more than a thumb was placed on the scale in favor of the rights and values of commercial property owners.

(4) In order to prevent commercial zoning expansion to leap over Hollywood Street into residential areas, the ordinance to rezone Lots 9, 10, 11, and 12 — 96 and 98 Hollywood Street — should not be approved. No good case has been made for removal of residential zoning there, and making those lots commercial will be extremely detrimental to both the property values of residential neighbors and their right to a share of the “Quiet Resort” values inherent in residential neighborhoods.

(5) If you rezone those properties to commercial, you will be increasing by a substantial amount present height limits applied to those properties. The Bethany height limit for residences is 31 feet and the Design Guidelines for commercial areas permit heights of 37 feet or more when cupolas and actual roof lines are factored in. Council simply cannot say that these amendments will result in no height increases on the properties.

(6) Council may want to recall that these Design Guidelines increased heights for commercial properties at a time when the Council was being urged to lower similar, recently approved height increases for residential neighborhoods. It would make a great deal of sense if there was only one standard for the height of buildings in the Quiet Resort and that standard remained at 31 feet.

There is apparently no reason for the current rush to judgment on these important changes in zoning rules in Bethany, and the Council may wish to seriously consider postponing any votes on them while it looks for additional ways to ascertain the views and concerns of the proposals. The hearing on March 15 was a very good start.

Dan Costello
Bethany Beach

Reader: government must listen to majority

There are 52 words in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Those few words define this nation by defining the purpose of the Constitution.

“We the people” ordained the Constitution “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

“We the people” elect legislators to uphold our Constitution and to make our union more perfect.

It is time for our federal and state legislators to “promote domestic tranquility” and “the general welfare,” by enacting gun laws that would limit the use of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines to our troops, who “provide for the common defense.”

It is time for our elected officials to listen to the will of the majority of the voters, rather than continue to capitulate to the financial interests of the NRA.

In the name of justice, we owe sensible gun legislation to the thousands of victims of gun violence, including 20 little children in Newtown, Conn., who lost the “blessings of liberty” forever.

Joanne Cabry
Rehoboth Beach

Smallwood grateful for journey, support

On March 9, 2013, I traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to compete in the Graveyard 100 Ultra Marathon. It was a 100-mile race that traveled from the top of the barrier island to the bottom.

I did this race in honor of my friend Mark Habicht, who was recently diagnosed with ALS. I turned my journey into a fundraiser and, with the generous help of our friends and local businesses, we managed to raise close to $10,000 to benefit the Brigance Brigade Foundation, the ALS Clinic at Johns Hopkins and the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research.

My journey ended in failure, but not defeat. I injured my left foot at mile 50 and was able to continue until mile 74, and then I was forced to drop out or risk permanent injury. I am truly disappointed by the outcome, but I am overwhelmed by all the support that I received.

On Feb. 23, we held a fundraiser at One Coastal in Fenwick Island, and the locals did what they do best: they stepped up to the plate with tremendous support.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people and businesses for all of their donations for the auctions and their monetary support at this event. I would like to thank: Eric DeCosta with Ravens Camp Tours, Jay Sommers of the Fenwick Island Bike Shop, Ben Reiz with the Washington Capitals, Mio Fratello, Jay Hall with Fisher’s Popcorn, The Greene Turtle, the Brigance Foundation, Chris Clark with the Coastal Point, Atlantic Shoals Surf Shop, Anne Powell and Jennifer Hughes with Ocean Atlantic-Sotheby’s International Realty, the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol, Fenwick Island Dairy Queen, the Book End Café, Lori Martin with Hipaha, Janes’s Jewels, Ruddo’s Golf, Catch 54, the Captain’s Table, the Crab Cake Factory, United Distributors, NKS Distributors, Stephanie Hawke of Southern Distributors and, of course, Bernadette and Randy of One Coastal for making it all happen.

I would also like to thank all those who donated money to the cause via our Web site, www.fundraise.com/obxraceforals.

Sometimes we try our hardest and come up short. It’s not the losing that defines us, it’s how we lose and what we do afterward. I will be back to try this race again next year, and I will continue to race this year in honor of my friend and to continue raising money to fight this terrible disease.

Thank you.

Todd Smallwood
Fenwick Island

Reader believes death penalty has no purpose

Our law-enforcement officials live with the uncertainty of violence during every minute of their shift. I am grateful for their service and respect the anxiety with which they live. But I cannot understand their rationale for opposing ending capital punishment, which statistics have shown is not a deterrent.

If the death penalty were a deterrent to crime, I could understand why policemen as a unit might continue to support the death penalty. But according to 88 percent of the nation’s leading criminologists, it is not.

In states where the death penalty has been repealed, the crime rate has decreased. An examination of homicide rates in states that execute reveals that homicide rates are 48 to 101 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.

Most policemen know that confessions can be forced and that prosecuting attorneys do lie and withhold evidence at times. But when someone is executed, there is no second chance. Since 1973, 142 people have been released from death row as their innocence was uncovered. As a society, we should broaden the empathy as we have for the family of a fallen officer to include the family of an innocent person who is executed.

The high cost of the death penalty diverts money from law enforcement in general. The appeals process usually amounts to three times the cost of life in prison. Finally, 57 percent of police chiefs agree that “the death penalty does little to prevent violent crimes.” (All information has been taken from deathpenaltyinfo.org.)

Finally, as a taxpayer, I oppose the state killing anyone in my name.

Kit Zak