Delaware to be the rural slum center of the east

There are many newspaper articles these days which conjecture on what is best for Delaware to control developmental sprawl. Some are downright lies.

Most of them pretend to be concerned about using up too much of our farmlands, allowing too much space there to individual homes, threatening the value of those lands to the farmer owners, and somehow causing too much DelDOT expenditure to provide roads to those in such wide developments.

Of course, the developers and the Sussex County Council and the Levy Court in Kent together caused this. Now they piously say they want to avoid what they caused.

What they really want is to continue their pattern of sprawl using another tactic. It is easy to see through. They invent reasons to continue development approvals and they use political pressure and lobbying money to get their way to continually build more. The people of Delaware have to realize their objectives are not ours.

The developers have seen our opposition to sprawl and now hasten to give their opinion that the best thing to do is to concentrate developments in smaller lots, grouping them together very closely to “save farmland.”

The real reason is to bribe the farmers by adding value to their land while at the same time reducing their infrastructure costs in their developments and increasing profits for both. A nice scheme, but it is not in our interests but theirs.

The solution, they say, is to forget 4 acre lots for houses and jam them together in tight groups in places where growth is allowed. Of course, this is exactly opposite to what they have been doing for years, but that is another story.

The truth behind all of this talk about avoiding sprawl is that the State is now beginning to realize that it is going broke having to provide all of the things necessary to support the great over-development that has already occurred because they never asked the developers to pay for it.

The counties let the burden fall on the State. Now they search for ways to dump the costs on the taxpayers. The county approval agencies just do not want to cut back on more approvals and do not want to disappoint the developers who are lining their pockets with lobbying money for their election campaigns and political party contributions.

The truth is DelDOT was brought to its knees, so short of funds trying to keep up with this process. It was forced to abandon or down-scale its road infrastructure plans because it could not keep up with the demands made upon it by already approved developments — made without compelling developers to share the costs of infrastructure for developments they lobbied the State of Delaware country councils and levy courts into approving.

The State Legislature refused to control them, even when asked, even though development approval authority was originally theirs and they had delegated it to the counties.

Serious objections have been made in each county in Delaware when it dawned on their residents that they were being misled by their county governments, principally Sussex and Kent, who irresponsibly are approving huge developments some of them in remote and almost primitive infrastructure-free areas, compelled by the demands of developers on those county approval agencies who pretended to be compelled to do so.

Some of these developments were approved in spite of disapprovals of state health and environment organizations, which advised against them. These huge developments are yet to be built and the impact will be very great, especially on the added taxes to be levied upon the present residents of those areas. Huge infrastructure costs are inevitable.

Now, to pacify and deceive those irate citizens of Sussex and Kent, they are proposing to build in growth-approved areas (sure!), on small plots with very close density, avowing that will save on longer roads, water, sewage, but ignoring that it will still put the same high demand on schools, education costs, police and fire protection, roads, sewage treatment and disposal, and everything a community needs and demands.

It is common knowledge that rapid development, with its greatly desired transfer taxes, is being gloated over. The final result is that the real estate taxes of the new home owners never equal the infrastructure and other costs that added development brings. It is a losing proposition, as learned in neighboring states.

In spite of that, the new propaganda for continued development is that it will be a smaller demand on our taxpayers because roads will be shorter, and water and sewage services will be more compact. Don’t believe it for a minute. I think Grimm had far better fairy tales.

A classic example of the greed strategy of developers is a current movement in Delaware to reduce the buffer zone distance between buildings and waterways. The distances must be great enough to prevent pollution of the waterways because the danger of pollution increases as the distance is shortened. In neighboring states, their rule is a 200-foot buffer while ours is presently 100 feet, dangerously short.

Yet, developers and their lobbying front, Positive Growth Alliance, are now pressing legislators to approve a 50-foot rule, even though it is evident it will result in increased pollution of our waterways, which are already seriously polluted.

Nothing seems to appeal to them to cut back on dangers to quality of life in Delaware. The only thing that matters to them is that they can put more buildings on water-view parcels and make more money. Pollution is easy to cause and very hard to remove and in some cases impossible. Better not to go there. Yet they are trying every trick to do so.

Imagine this for yourself. Recall communities where the houses and the people are jammed together and the wear and tear on everything, including people, is concentrated. Then recall communities where the houses are spread out, with space between and around them, and the crime, frayed nerves, noise and trash are absent. It is inevitable that the jammed-together communities rapidly end up as slums.

The rural-type housing avoids the concentrated density and resulting neglect, and lasts far longer in their original state. They are called “quality of life.” What our development approval agencies and Positive Growth Alliance are advocating is “slum heaven.” Notice that none of them will want to live there.

Further, jammed communities mean jammed schools, churches, shopping centers and all facilities. There are more crimes, more accidents, more social conflicts and more problems of all kinds, including lower health levels.

The only people who will profit from such slum-planning tactics are the developers and their country council levy court buddies, who are working together to force farmland prices even higher since more houses can be built on an acre. We will end up with slum communities in the heart of our farmlands — how charming a Delaware that will be!

The only solution, of course, is to show our legislators, county councils and levy courts that we are not going to fall for this kind of destruction of the natural Delaware. Determine for yourself which of those people want to trade the green of rural Delaware for the green they want in their pockets. Determine the few who are on our side. Our answer should be we will do all in our power to vote the rest of them out at the next election.

It is the only workable solution. Since they do not listen to reason, it is the only way we can keep the quality of life we have left and save on taxes.

Charles N. Valenti
Rehoboth Beach

Cape band members triumphed on trip

Young, gifted, talented, dedicated and sophisticated: These are just a few words to describe the 2006-2007 Cape Henlopen High School concert band, jazz band and marching band, under the spirited leadership of Barry Ell, director of bands.

On May 3, 2007, we departed Cape Henlopen High School for Boston. We left with three buses of students. We expected them to be responsible, reasonable and rational. We expected them to represent themselves, their families, their communities and their school. We gave them independence, self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

We expected them to obey and respect adults, many whom they did not know. We expected them to make adjustments out of their comfort zones. We expected them to get along with their peers. We expected them to be responsible for others. We expected them to perform to the best of their abilities. We expected them to know what is wrong and what is right. We expected them to meet our expectations.

Once again, on May 3, 2007, we left for Boston with three buses of students. On May 6, 2007, we departed Boston for Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes with three buses of students, but this time we arrived in Lewes with three buses of experienced performers who are emerging and maturing young people. I only hope that we met their expectations.

There’s something unique and special about traveling with this great group of musical students from the Cape region. It takes a lot of pre-planning, scheduling, willingness, coordinating and working together from everyone.

Here are a few comments from students and chaperones who attended the trip:

“One of the best educational trips…” “Schedule was great…” “All the bands performed very well…” “We were only doing what we thought was right…” “The students were wonderful…” “The students showed superb mannerism…” “It’s great to see kids doing the right things when other things around them may not always go the right way…” “I have never been with a group of students so pleasantly prompt…” “We didn’t want the trip to end… “It was wonderful to see our students show passion and concern for their fellow students in a myriad of fast-paced settings…” “I am very proud of the students’ performances…” “They looked great…” “They went about their job in a professional manner.”

The students had an opportunity to embrace the rich history and cultural vibe of Boston. Then the time came for the students to perform on Saturday, May 5, at the Boston Music Festival held at Dedham High School in Dedham, Mass., which was the ultimate reason why they took this journey.

As they gathered to rehearse and the signal was given by the master himself (Barry Ell) to march, every eye, every hand, every arm, every foot and every instrument was in sync with every note played. These very polished ladies and gentlemen marched with boldness and finesse.

After witnessing the outdoor experience, everyone went inside and enjoyed the stage performances by our bands. They all played wonderfully. Some of the songs played were “Taurus,” arranged by Barry Ell; “Two Seconds to Midnight”; “Lil Darlin’”; “Blue Rondo”; “Turtle Dove”; “When Honor Prevails”; “Hold in Memory”; and “From Whom All Blessings Flow.”

The style of music was a little funk, swing and classical. It took a unit of well-taught and disciplined students like Cape’s, under the magnificent leadership of Barry Ell, to perform victorious. Every student played a major role in the overall performances and success of the honors bestowed upon them.

There were several solos, including Kevin Dieffenback on guitar, Alex Lotscher on trumpet, Hannay Tiberi on flute, Doug McGirk on baritone sax, James Moore on tenor sax, Phil Kunzig on trumpet, Cody Leavel on alto sax, baritone sax, tenor sax and clarinet, and Jimmy Williamson on trumpet.

We had to wait until the next morning to hear the results from the judges. Needless to say, and to no surprise, our students came home with super ratings: first-place silver medal (excellent rating) for concert band; first-place gold medal (superior rating) for jazz band; first-place gold medal for marching band; and outstanding jazz soloist for Cody Leavel.

The judges said they were extremely impressed with all the band members and how every student performed. We salute our freshmen for being so brave and mastering the art of playing like pros at this music festival.

We cannot forget and we give honors and appreciation to the Cape’s music department staff — Ken Schleifer, Peggy Kirby, Lisa Bales and Anthony Baray for your undying and continuous dedication to our students. Parents/chaperones — you played a vital and pivotal role as well. It was you who helped load and unload the instruments, kept the smiles and styles, ensuring all students came away as winners and with an awesome experience to remember for the rest of their lives, and performed many other duties for which we are grateful.

Our music department will only be as good as those who support it. Let’s continue to help our students set the best, reach for the best and expect the best.

As this year comes to a close and another chapter has been written in the musical lives of all the students we have touched throughout these notable years, we appreciate all of you for your time, effort and hope that you will continue to encourage your child and other students to be a part of one of the most talked about bands in the land, Cape Henlopen High School.

Robert “Bob” Wingo, President
Diaz J. Bonville, Vice President
Cape Henlopen High School
Music Boosters

Beach maintenance costs — overlooked issue

All of us in Bethany Beach and South Bethany were delighted when it was recently announced (by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) that the full share of federal funding had been allocated for major beach reconstruction in our area — an event that had already occurred in Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, Fenwick Island and Ocean City. Our beaches badly needed replenishment if they were to continue to be the recreational areas both our residents and vacationers have enjoyed over the last 50 years.

However, Sen. George Bunting stated that local towns have been living off the transfer taxes and not putting money away for replenishing our beaches. Instead, he states, the towns have simply been relying on the accommodation tax — the state’s dedicated fund for the purpose of beach replenishment.

Bethany Beach has followed “to the letter” the state’s mandate to use transfer taxes for capitol improvement, infrastructure and public safety projects. The state never mandated that they be used for beach replenishment.

When critics discuss the cost of beach replenishment (which is the only time the federal and state governments pick up any beach bills), they should talk about all the costs necessary to keep the beaches and supporting environment in the condition that make it a beautiful recreational area to enjoy. Not only do we do our fair share, but in doing so, we regularly receive awards as one of the nation’s cleanest beaches.

The real facts are that when Bethany Beach adds up all the expenses for lifeguards — salary, benefits and equipment ($556,000), trash collections, additional staff for safety and maintenance and monitoring thousands of vehicles, the overall cost to the town is a staggering $2 million annually. (If one wants to multiply this over 10 years, we are talking about $20 million — doesn’t sound too irresponsible to me.

While the town offsets these expenses as much as possible with meter fees, rental taxes, etc., from the thousands of visitors, the fact remains that these costs are a remarkably expensive commitment and it continues to become more expensive each year.

In closing, the town of Bethany Beach has paid more than its fair share of beach costs to maintain these public beaches.

Joe McHugh, Former Mayor
Bethany Beach

Hattier informs parents on uniform issues
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to parents of students in the Indian River School District (IRSD) and forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

With the school year rapidly coming to a close, the Indian River School District uniform committee would like to update residents about the status of our uniform discussions.

As many are aware, the IRSD has looked at uniforms for several years. Delaware state law allows school boards to implement a uniform policy, with the stipulation that special financial provisions be made for those who cannot afford the uniform.

The IRSD has taken this a step further by involving parents, residents and educators in our discussions. It was felt that a change of this type should be brought before the public for review.

Starting in the fall of 2006, a committee consisting of parents, residents and educators was established to examine the benefits and drawbacks of uniforms. A survey of parents was conducted in January/February of 2007. Seventy-five percent gave a positive response to the question “…should the IRSD consider uniforms for the 2007-2008 year?” The committee has done just that.

The committee has considered all ramifications of a uniform policy. These include not only the design of the uniform itself, but also supply and distribution, secondary marketing opportunities, policy implementation, financial obligations and the legal aspects of a successful uniform implementation.

One of our earliest concerns was the timeline for 2007-2008. After reviewing the amount of work involved, as committee chairman I did not feel there was adequate time to present the uniform to the public and then implement the policy for the 2007-2008 school year.

There is currently a subcommittee designing a potential uniform. Elements could include shirts, tops, slacks, shorts, polo shirts, jackets and accessories.

The committee is also planning to ask the various PTA organizations in our district for the opportunity to present the proposed uniform at their meetings in the fall of 2007. This presentation will also highlight the benefits and potential drawbacks of the policy. Times will be advertised in multiple venues.

Our plan is to have a follow-up survey regarding the design and various implementation methods after the PTA presentations. In January, parents returned 4,531 of the more than 8,100 surveys distributed. This represents a 56-percent return rate.

These results were tabulated by hand over many hours and the IRSD staff is to be thanked for their efforts. Currently the committee is planning to utilize a computer-based method for the next survey.

Based on the results of the second survey, the committee will decide whether to recommend uniforms to the school board as a whole. It takes two readings and then a vote to obtain policy approval.

Based on the outline presented, the earliest implementation date would be 2008-2009. Policy changes are printed in the district calendar and are available on our district Web site at www.irsd.net. Changes are made annually to the current dress code and parents are encouraged to check these policies every year.

Due to the recent move of our administrative offices from Selbyville to the John M. Clayton building in Frankford, the committee has not been able to meet during the past two months.

A meeting will be scheduled on a date to be determined in June. The various subcommittees will be making presentations at that time. If you would like to be placed on our e-mail list, please contact David Maull at dmaull@irsd.k12.de.us.

We recognize that in a district the size of IRSD (360 square miles), which represents 8,100 students from diverse backgrounds, it can be difficult to get information to everyone. The IRSD makes every effort to communicate with parents and residents.

Information about the uniform committee has been presented not only in individual school newsletters, but also in the Coastal Point, Sussex Countian, Wave, Sussex Post, and various television and radio broadcasts.

The committee would like to thank everyone who has given their time and input on this issue. We sincerely appreciate your patience throughout this process.

Donald G. Hattier
Indian River Board of Education