Letters to the Editor -- March 15, 2013

Chamber puts support behind Bethany project

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

On behalf of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I am writing to express the Chamber’s support for the proposed hotel project in downtown Bethany Beach.

I have taken part in many inspired discussions during the previous two months on how to extend the shoulder seasons in downtown Bethany and how the Chamber can take a leading role with events and promoting the town as a year-round destination. The hotel project proposed by developer Jack Burbage presents the unique opportunity to market downtown Bethany as an off-season destination for small conferences, retreats, weddings and special events, in conjunction with the excitement of a new flagship attraction. The restaurants and shops that so many visitors love during the summer months would see added business during times that have been historically slow.

Mr. Burbage’s pledge to build the project in the style, image and character unique to downtown Bethany and his commitment to seeing the town’s businesses prosper year-round are factors in the Chamber’s support.

New shoulder-season events are currently being discussed between the Chamber and the Town that will positively impact area businesses and bring visitors for fall, winter and spring long-weekends and special getaways. Adding another quiet, distinctive and relaxing place to escape, discover and enjoy all that is special about Bethany Beach can only be a benefit to the Town and its unique shops and restaurants.

The Chamber looks forward to working with the Town of Bethany Beach and its businesses in creating a year-round active and relaxed atmosphere for visitors and residents. With all of this in mind, we believe Mr. Burbage’s proposed hotel is a needed and welcomed addition to the Quiet Resorts area.

David W. Martin, Executive Director
Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce

Bethany resident speaks against project

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

I strongly oppose the proposed changes to the Bethany Beach Zoning Code. These changes just pave the way for Mr. Burbage or any other developer to build a Hilton-like hotel in downtown Bethany, which I strongly oppose.

The property is presently zoned for 50 units. The zoning changes double that number. Let’s not focus on parking (even if there is one on-site space per unit, the number of cars in town will still double), a year-round hotel (Will Mr. Burbage really have control over the operation of Hilton?), minimum 100 units, seems to me to say more than 100 units.

Let’s think about the added number of people on the beach. One hundred units vs. 50 units means a minimum 100 more beach bathers daily. Can the sand take that? I think we are maxed out.

I have owned a home in Bethany West since the mid-80s, and before that my family rented. I see no comparison to Berlin, Md. We are a beach community. The Town of Bethany needs to address the desires and needs of the property owners, rather than hotel occupants who have no vested interest in our Quiet Resort.

Judith G. McLaughlin
Bethany Beach

Sierra Club questions Burton Island info

The Burton Island coal ash dump from the NRG Indian River Power Plant is the subject of a remediation plan proposed by the company (NRG) and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). The DNREC hearing on the plan Feb. 6, 2013, at the Millsboro Fire Hall brought more questions than answers.

The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes this plan of remediation action for the Burton Island coal ash dump site.

Because of its hazardous characteristics, coal ash and other coal combustion wastes are expected to undergo EPA rulemaking in the near future, which would increase the standards that DNREC must meet in environmental remediation plans.

We feel as though the NRG and the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) have not addressed the hazardous nature of the coal ash dump site. As per the rules of the VCP, this would offer NRG an insurance policy against future legal action or future cleanup when the EPA finishes their hazardous waste rulemaking for coal ash.

It places nearby communities and aquatic life at risk from infiltration of hazardous pollutants into ground water and the Inland Bays, and provides a potential for catastrophic failure of the site from storm surge, tidal action, heavy rains and sea-level rise. The 2011 Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment for the State of Delaware reveals the location of the Burton Island Coal Ash Dump site to be in an area of vulnerable coastal wetlands.

Delaware’s Inland Bays waters, which have been designated as “waters of exceptional recreational or ecological significance” under the state’s water quality standards, have also been designated as “impaired waters” under the Federal Clean Water Act.

The documented concentrations of coal ash compounds (arsenic, aluminum, barium, cobalt, copper, mercury, and selenium) that have leached into the shoreline sediment, offshore sediment, surface water and ground water from the old Burton Island coal ash dump site demand that this area be treated as a hazardous waste landfill and receive an appropriately rigorous level of remedial action.

The National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories, a compiled a database of all fish advisory samples in Indian River, indicates that there has been no testing for toxins in fish since the early 1990s.

The corrective options offered in the remediation plan include DNREC’s preferred plan that covers the top of the 2.5-acre dump with fabric and 12 inches of soil. This plan does not address the perimeter shoreline of the dump, which is protected by permeable fabric and riprap and vulnerable to leaching toxins. This option is estimated to cost $2 million.

The second option is to truck out the entire waste spoils with thousands of truckloads over approximately 23 years at a cost of approximately $300 million.

The Remediation Action Plan is ill-informed as to the extent of environmental and public health risk and should be revised to consider the impact that the toxic properties of the dump site have had, and are anticipated to have in the future, to surrounding bodies of water, wildlife, aquatic life and nearby communities in an effort to eliminate those risks.

The remediation plan needs to address the following questions:

• Where is the data that demonstrates safety from seeping arsenic and other toxins from storms and tidal changes?

• Why is DNREC’s preferred corrective action ($2 million) not fully addressing the leaching of toxins into the Indian River Bay?

• Where are the specifics from the “long-term stewardship plan” for monitoring? Who, when and how are inspections and sampling carried out and reported?

• Does DNREC’s proposed remediation plan consider EPA’s new findings as to the exposure levels of toxins that can cause health risks from the human consumption of shellfish and finfish?

• Do the EPA’s new findings as to health risks from the human consumption of shellfish and finfish change the Inland Bays status under Delaware’s Hazardous Substances Cleanup Act?

DNREC is required by the Clean Water Act to manage resources so that bodies of water are fishable, drinkable and swimmable. This plan does not come close to accomplishing those goals and is inadequate to protect the Inland Bays or public health.

Instead, it appears to be a least-cost way of passing the risks of toxic waste to taxpayers and future generations. We ask the State of Delaware to reject this plan of remediation of the Burton Island Coal Ash Dump.

DNREC has extended the public comment period until March 29, 2013. You may contact DNREC’s project manager at gregorydecowsky@state.de.us with your concerns on the remediation plan.

Chuck Schonder
Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club

SPV homeowners hope Court declines appeal

On Feb. 27, the Supreme Court of Delaware (the highest court) heard oral arguments for the final appeal of the Sea Pines Village (SPV) cell tower case. We look forward to a positive vote (namely the fourth type of ruling choice — affirm the lower court), as the BoA and lower Superior Court did prior to this appeal.

We’re happy that Sussex County has also recommitted to the BoA decision and stands by the Superior Court ruling, lending their solicitor’s full support to the oral arguments.

AT&T’s assertion that this is simply a “NIMBY” (not-in-my-back-yard) case is wrong, as years of work, large amounts of money and hundreds of volunteer hours can attest. A tall cell tower potentially crushing our homes if it fell is not inconsequential.

We hope the Court remembers the simple legal fact that AT&T ignored at least four to six other prime collocation alternatives (as was shown during the BoA testimony), and that it’s not just about the Bethany water tower.

We would not expect this Court to create new precedent by either deciding the case merits on its own, without hearing any actual residents’ testimony (or even have the lower Superior Court do the same). Why even bother having a County Board if the courts would now make BoA decisions without resident testimony? What would that say about our ability to govern ourselves?

Gary Bogossian
SPV Homeowner’s Association

Resident disagrees with Bethany proposal

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the mayor and town council of Bethany Beach and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.

I am writing this letter to submit my thoughts and concerns regarding proposed development of Bethany Arms motel property. Due to my professional responsibilities as a physician, I may not be able to attend the hearing on March 15, 2013, though I plan on attending.

Background: My family and I reside at 100 Hollywood Street and, as such, my neighbors and I will be directly impacted by this project.

We bought this house not to make a quick profit, but to serve as a retreat for my family. We chose the property in Bethany Beach, instead of neighboring towns, because of its reputation as a quiet, family-centered community.

We knew that the Bethany Arms hotel and other residential properties on the east side of the house could be developed, but we did not count on the eagerness of Town officials to change the Town’s established zoning and building codes on a whim simply to favor businesses that serve the transient tourist population at the expense of land-owning and taxpaying residents.

I have worked in state of Delaware for 27 years, serving the children of Delaware from every community and socioeconomic background as a highly trained health care professional. I have paid Delaware state and property taxes for last 27 years, Sussex County taxes for last 23 years and Bethany township taxes for last 13 years.

My thoughts: Let me state very clearly that the good folks who own the Bethany Arms motel property and adjacent lots have every right to sell and/or develop them. However, that does not mean that they should receive favors and preferential treatment at the expense of other owners.

I did not object to the Blue Surf Motel project, though since its completion we have felt negative impacts from it. All summer long, there are now delivery trucks parked in front of our house in the morning with their engines running, disturbing our sleep and spewing diesel fumes that fill our house, as prevailing winds are east to west. I am forced to breathe diesel fumes in my own beach house; this is an unhealthy and unacceptable situation.

In addition, every morning my wife and I have to remove cigarette butts, discarded wrappers and Styrofoam or paper cups, plates with unconsumed food, and beverage bottles and cans from our property. That was not what we had anticipated we would be doing at our beach retreat. However, we accepted the project as beneficial to the economy of our town.

We purchased this house to escape from the problems associated with urban living, air pollution, noise and trash. We are frustrated to be dealing with those very problems at our beach retreat. These difficulties will only worsen if a 100-room hotel comes to fruition.

With a proposed 100-room hotel, I am also concerned that parking for the guests and hotel employees will become a problem, along with increased traffic and compromised safety when biking and walking in the area. We know we will be inhaling more diesel fumes and picking up more trash from our property.

We have invested a significant amount of time, effort and money into the community to acquire and renovate our house; we made special effort to support local contractors and builders in that project. In addition, we designed the addition and modifications of our home to take advantage of the views afforded to us based on the current zoning designation.

During the renovation we learned that there was a 4.5-inch encroachment on the southwest side of the house and, due to the inflexibility of the building code, we had to invest additional money, time and resources into modifying the building plans to comply with the existing Bethany Beach code. Once again we did not protest and complied as taxpayers who must abide by the existing laws.

I’m sure there is a good reason for such building code, and these sorts of codes should apply universally to both residential and commercial properties. To be technical, there is currently not a proper setback between the Bethany Arms Motel and the newly developed Blue Moon Motel property. By changing the designations from residential to commercial and by giving preferential treatment to commercial developers, the Town is going to devaluate my property and my neighbors’ properties. This may set dangerous precedent for inducing the future commercialization of our quaint beach town.

Mr. Burbage’s project attempts to bring money into the community, which is a worthy goal. However, he is also looking to make a profit. This is certainly acceptable, but as it stands, it will occur at the expense of the current property owners and residents of the Bethany Beach.

Building this large hotel in the Bethany Beach requires substantial and detailed scrutiny as it will change the fundamental nature of Bethany Beach and not necessarily for the better. I think such a major change of the structure and spirit of Bethany Beach should be decided by all citizens of Bethany Beach through a referendum. That way we will not be led by dreams and biases of one Mr. Lew Killmer.

People come to Bethany Beach for relaxation and not for conferences and meetings. The idea of my family being forced to look at a rooftop swimming pool and retail shops from our house was not and is not our dream of our home in Bethany Beach. There is a reason why there are more places of worship per square mile in Bethany Beach and more hotels per square mile in Dewey Beach or Ocean City, Md. I would like to see Bethany Beach maintain its commitment to being a safe, peaceful, family-centered place.

Pleading: We plead to the Town of Bethany Beach that they should not grant any zoning changes from residential to commercial on the adjacent lots and properties of Bethany Arms Motel.

The town should hold a referendum to seek the opinion of all Bethany Beach residents before embarking on such fundamental change to the Town’s structure and spirit.

There should be a uniform Town zoning and building code applied to both residential and business properties, as far as setbacks and elevation of the building is concerned.

Variance should not be granted to business properties if that has potential detrimental impact on the value of the neighboring residential properties.

The properties currently zoned as residential, regardless of current use, should not be rezoned as commercial without consideration for negative impact on surrounding residential properties. Those affected by such change of zoning need to be financially compensated adequately.

Majeed Bhat and family
Bethany Beach