Letters: September 15, 2006

Trodden resigns over Olmstead mayorship

Three weeks ago, my former fellow Planning Commissioner, Dave Evans, wrote to you announcing his resignation in protest of the process used to enact new architectural guidelines for Bethany Beach’s C-1 and C-2 commercial districts.

Two weeks ago, Vice Mayor Carol Olmstead, who chaired that process, wrote to you to forward a letter from the Town Solicitor, Terry Jaywork. Ms. Olmstead had requested a legal opinion from Mr. Jaywork on the propriety of the Design Guidelines Committee’s work and Town Council’s actions. Mr. Jaywork, in essence, concluded that everything was legal and proper.

The time for legal opinions is before you act — not afterwards. Why should the taxpayer pay for an opinion that says, “Boss, you did OK”? Whose interest does such an opinion serve?

“Legal” versus “proper” are obviously two totally different concepts. Not all bad public policy decisions are illegal. I will leave legality judgments to others more qualified than I. However, I am dubious about any opinion that concludes that the Planning Commission doesn’t have to do the planning! It’s supposedly OK to give this function to a group that includes members with a vested interest in the outcome as long as the Planning Commission has a role as a Review Board on their efforts.

I am dubious also when the opinion seems to put great weight on the idea that the guidelines deal “only” with one dimensional element, i.e. height. What could be more crucial for the future appearance of downtown Bethany Beach than the height of its buildings? Why would any other dimensional elements be required to warrant a full-fledged planning process?

What I have no doubts about is the propriety issue. Consider the following facts:

(1) There has been no discussion, before either the Planning Commission or the Town Council, on the reasons why there should be any height increases for the commercial buildings.

(2) There was similarly no discussion before either body of why the heights approved for the commercial buildings are greater than those recently approved for residential buildings.

(3) All of the drafts coming from the Design Guidelines Committee proposed substantial height increases and, all but the last draft, included a mandatory off-set at the 24 foot height level to minimize the visual impact of the proposed height increases.

(4) The sequential reviews by the Planning Commission did succeed in reducing the height increases to those which were ultimately approved by the Town Council. However, our acquiescence was influenced, to a large degree, by the continuing presence of the mandatory off-set proposed by the Design Guidelines Committee.

(5) In the final days, the Committee decided to change the off-set from “mandatory” to “recommended.” The Planning Commission, hearing no rationale for this change (other than a major property owner wanted it), voted 5-0 to restore the word “mandatory.”

(6) In the final meeting before the proposed legislation went to the Town Council, the Committee voted unanimously (the representative of the Planning Commission was not allowed to vote!) to leave the off-set as “recommended.” The full Planning Commission has never heard the rationales used for this vote. However, several of them were articulated by Ms. Olmstead and Mr. Killmer (who had just voted 5-0 in the Planning Commission for “mandatory”). At least one of the rationales, i.e. the “non-conforming” issue, has subsequently been judged by the Planning Commission to have been invalid.

(7) When the legislation came before the Town Council, I made the case for the “mandatory” off-set. I also asked Ms. Olmstead and Mr. Killmer to recuse themselves from voting since they would, in effect, be judging on their creation. This request was ignored and the Town Council voted 6-0 in favor of the Committee’s recommendation.

There has long been a saying that “Government actions must not only be proper but also they must have the appearance of propriety.”

In my opinion, the above-described process fails to meet this standard. I thought that the recentelection, in which two of four Town Council incumbents were defeated, would send the new Council a clear signal that this kind of manipulation would not be tolerated.

Sadly, however, Sunday’s Council vote to elevate Ms. Olmstead to Mayor says clearly to me that a majority of the Council still doesn’t get it. Therefore, since I cannot work under a leader with a distorted view of how power should be judiciously exercised, I hereby announce my resignation from the Planning Commission effective upon completion of business on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006.

Steve Trodden, Planning Commissioner
Bethany Beach

Walsh explains choice to resign mayoral seat

Based on the outcome of the Town of Bethany Beach Organizational Meeting, held on Sept. 10, 2006, I felt that for me to continue as a member of the Town Council would be awkward and potentially unfulfilling.

At this point in our lives, (Jeri and I) it’s important to us that we optimize our experiences, minimize uncertainties and enjoy our lives to the fullest.

I have been privileged to serve the Town of Bethany Beach for the past five years during a period of great accomplishments and am thankful for the relationships I’ve experienced with the town staff, fellow councilmen and citizens.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me over the past five years.

I wish the Council the very best going forward and urge them to work hard to serve the public interest.

Jack Walsh
Bethany Beach

McClenny thankful for support in Bethany

Congratulations to our re-elected Bethany Beach town council members.

I wish to thank everyone who took time to vote, especially those voters and friends who supported my candidacy.

As pledged during the election campaign, I will work with our townsfolk to assist in the presentation of ideas, constructive criticism, concerns and problems regarding the management of our town. Your concerns, ideas and issues will be acknowledged and each will be accepted and dealt with in a courteous and timely manner.

As a Town Council member, I ask our residents, property owners and business owners to please provide support for your council members as we concentrate on the issues and needs of our town.

The annual appointments to our various town boards and committees will be made in the next few weeks. If you are interested, willing to serve, and have the time and expertise necessary to benefit our town, now is the time to contact one of our council members or call our town office at (302) 539-5638 and let us know of your experience and willingness to serve.

Tony McClenny, Town Council Member
Bethany Beach

Replenishment issue unanswered

At the meeting with the candidates for election to the Bethany Beach Town Council on Friday evening, Sept. 8, a number of questions were asked about beach replenishment.

One question, submitted in writing by one or more of the citizens present, asked why Sea Colony was getting free sand from the state for its private beach and could Bethany Beach try to do the same thing. That question was dismissed with a brief response by the moderator, without affording the candidates an opportunity to respond.

The moderator’s response essentially was that Sea Colony wasn’t getting any free sand, but was only hoping to “piggyback” on a Bethany Beach/South Bethany replenishment project. That response may not be completely accurate and the question did not receive the attention it deserved.

I know at least one of the people who submitted the question, and believe it was raised because of a Delaware Voice column in the News Journal on Wednesday, Sept. 6, by Steve Callanen of Ocean View.

The article reported that the Sea Colony Recreation Association, which does not allow public access to its beach, hired an engineering firm to obtain the necessary DNREC and Corps of Engineers permits to dredge and transport 290,000 cubic yards of sand to its beach from the offshore public land of Delaware. The article further reported that DNREC intended to donate the sand without charge to Sea Colony.

Furthermore, and surprising to many who read the article, DNREC reportedly has donated other hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of sand to private communities in past years, including: North Shores in 1998 and 2005; North Indian Beach in 1994 and 1998; Middlesex Beach in 1989; and Sea Colony in 1989 and 1998.

Those communities reportedly have only had to pay for dredging and transportation, not the sand. They also apparently have “piggybacked” on adjacent federal/state beach replenishment projects along the coast and have thereby avoided any share of the cost of dredging equipment mobilization.

In the case of Sea Colony, I’m not sure that they’re relying on a Bethany Beach project. How do you rationally rely on a project where nothing appears to be happening? And that raises the question of whether Sea Colony is relying on some other nearby anticipated project that we may not know about.

So, the question that was asked at the Sept. 8 meeting certainly was a valid one and should be considered now by the reconstituted Town Council as part of an emergency effort to save our beach. There may be some valuable lesson for us in the Sea Colony initiative.

Anyone who has seen the condition of the beach after Ernesto knows that it has deteriorated to an alarming degree and we’re still facing fall and winter storms. It was good to hear Mayor Jack Walsh announce during the candidate forum that he was reassured by a state official that we would receive some emergency restoration assistance. However helpful that assurance proves to be, the assistance would be a short-term interim measure and not address the long-term issue.

During the election campaign, current Council members claimed beach replenishment was the top priority for action. But just continuing to wait and hope for federal salvation through lobbying and letter-writing seems more like wishful thinking than effective action in our present situation. We need to develop practical alternatives to full federal funding, with public input on options, and a long-term replenishment plan that has community support.

Jerry Hardiman
Bethany Beach

Reader takes a stand on school district

I would like to offer some comments on a number of letters recently published in the Coastal Point concerning the Dobrich and Doe law suit and religious tolerance versus intolerance.

(1) Our laws clearly state that there shall be a separation of church and state. I think we can all agree with that, but the ACLU along with the secular humanists and agnostics among us have perverted this with the objective of removing all reference to religion, especially Christian religion, from our wonderful country. Hopefully, they will not succeed.

(2) The Dobriches were, from what I understand, treated shabbily at a meeting. That is unfortunate and reflects badly on our community. However, I do have a question for the Dobriches. Was the mentioning of the name Jesus during a commencement blessing so traumatic that you felt it necessary to join with the ACLU to open the can of worms that has evolved? I am reasonably positive this is not the first time that you’ve heard the name Jesus.

(3) Is the unnamed party in this law suit simply there to show what a terrible offense the blessing was or simply to vault ahead of everyone on the School of the Arts waiting list and perhaps share in the monetary settlement? Those are possibilities but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

(4) I think the elimination of all reference to Christmas and Easter in the Indian River School District as part of the proposed settlement clearly shows what the intention of the ACLU is in this case.

(5) Speaking of traumatic experiences a recent letter writer noted how uncomfortable she was when the Lord’s Prayer was recited in her classroom. I think that is no longer being done, thanks to the above-mentioned parties. Perhaps she recalled this from her school years and the mention of “Lord” was offensive to her. However, I suggest that she actually read the Lord’s Prayer because without its title it is a beautiful, even generic, prayer.

(6) Tolerance is often mentioned by people with regard to religious differences but I think it means that others should back off, be tolerant and accept the user’s position.

(7) Tax dollars are often mentioned when referring to this and similar religious controversies. Baloney! A prayer or a blessing said by a minister, priest, rabbi or imam in any private or public setting should be welcomed by all present. We all need prayer! I do not see this as proselytizing. This is the 21st Century and we are all aware that there are religions other than our own. Furthermore, we should be thankful that someone of another faith includes us in their prayers. And,

(8) I have omitted the feelings of agnostics in most of the above because I am not tolerant of them. I believe when they find themselves with nowhere to turn, even they resort to prayer of some sort.

Thomas M. Keeley III
Ocean View

Arts festival once again a huge success

On behalf of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, I would like to thank the many artists, businesses and individuals that helped to make the 28th Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival a success.

I would like to start by thanking our lead sponsor, Centex Homes, for generously underwriting the event. In addition, I would like to thank our media sponsors; Coastal Point newspaper, Delaware Today magazine, and Great Scott Broadcasting for their coverage and support of this wonderful event. This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and the 100-plus artists who participated in this year’s show.

We also wish to thank the Town of Bethany Beach, particularly Brett Warner and the Public Works staff, for their diligent efforts before, and following the event, and also the Bethany Beach police for their continued help and support. Special thanks to Bill Dowdell and the rest of the parking supervisors for helping us to expand this year’s show to the Parkwood street area.

We also wish to thank Wayne Fuller and the Christian Church Conference Center for allowing us to use their grounds for parking.

Last but not least, we thank the many volunteers who help to make this event possible, as well as the many visitors and residents who patronized the artists and the downtown businesses on the day of the event. Their support is vital to the continued success of this event.

Amy Tingle, Events Manager
Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce

Church golf outing a huge success

On behalf of St. Martha’s Episcopal Church golf outing committee, we would like to thank all those persons and places of business who contributed to the awards and prizes that were given.

Golf awards were provided by Bayside Golf Community, Bay Club Golf Resort, Harry and Dianne Burlew, Grotto’s Pizza and Armand’s Chicago Pizzeria.

Silent auction items were provided by Harry and Dianne Burlew, Jack and Carolyn Smith, car washes in Fenwick Island and Selbyville, Tempe Steen, Steen Beach Service, Beachview Chiropractic, Beach Club Golf Resort and Debbie Smith Cleaning Service.

Door prizes were donated by McCabe’s Deli, York Mall in South Bethany; Dirty Harry’s restaurant and Surf’s Edge Deli, in Fenwick Island; and The Cottage Café, Bethany Blues, Blue Crab and The Parkway, all of Bethany Beach.

The festive evening came to a close with a 50/50 drawing.

All proceeds, after expenses, will go to St. Martha’s outreach program. Last year’s proceeds of $560 generated $18,000 by way of matching funds from St. Martha’s congregation and its outreach program. The $18,000 went to the Episcopal Relief Fund for use with Hurricane Katrina victims.

St. Martha’s Episcopal Church golf outing committee