Letters - February 3, 2006

Senator defends Pratt’s motives, involvement

A few weeks ago a public hearing was held in Bethany Beach by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to discuss and take comments on proposed changes to regulations concerning a building line intended to protect the coastal dune system along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

The regulations were authorized by law passed in 1972 by the General Assembly and include rules for construction within 1,000 feet of the high tide line.

Unfortunately in this public process, Tony Pratt and staff from DNREC were the subject of a great deal of criticism from property owners about the proposed changes and the lack of public notification about the process. I have known Mr. Pratt for many years and he has been at the forefront of protecting our beaches and property during his more than 25 years of state service. His position in DNREC has taken him to Washington, D.C., to advocate for federal beach replenishment funding and he has worked hard to see these projects accomplished.

Frankly I disagree with regulations which would in any way diminish the property owner’s ability to build back their structure should it be damaged by a coastal storm, fire or other event. We have worked hard for years to replenish our beaches and to protect our economy. What is so disconcerting is that unless you own property fronting the Bethany or Rehoboth boardwalks, the ability to build back your existing house will be limited by the DNREC designated building line.

The fundamental problem lies in a law passed in 1972, not with Mr. Pratt, who has served our state well.

Sen. George H. Bunting Jr.
20th District

Community thankful for service of officer

My husband, Randy, and I would like to extend a warm welcome to a new member of the Bethany Beach Police Department named Robert Talbot.

On Saturday, Jan. 28, the day after his graduation from the Delaware Police Academy, Robert interrupted his personal plans to stop and change a flat tire for me as I was stranded on Route 26 near Kent Avenue. He was not to start on duty until Monday.

Bethany Beach is extremely fortunate to have such a caring, enthusiastic and respectful young man on its police force. We wish Robert all the best in his new career.

Linda Dabney
South Bethany

Height restrictions are not being followed

I’m contacting you regarding the NV Homes code violations at the property located at Fenwick Avenue and Bunting Avenue.

This adjoins our property, which is located on Bunting Avenue. This residence has been in my family since 1948, and while we have witnessed extensive growth and development, the cottage has remained a part of the quiet family-oriented community of Fenwick.

While we did not oppose the original application for a zoning variance to accommodate a decorative copula on the new NV Homes, the current situation is unacceptable and seriously impacts our property in a negative way.

NV Homes has built two homes in violation of the height requirements that the zoning board had set. Now NV homes is going back and requesting again to change the height restrictions that they violated. They are also requesting to build an additional four homes over the height allowance after they have disregarded the restrictions for the first two homes.

I question why the Sussex planning board would allow the plans to go forward, or did NV homes just totally disregard height restrictions? This appears to have the same scandal that occurred in Montgomery County, Md., in Clarksburg. (The Washington Post has written many articles.)

We will strongly urge the board to require the immediate removal of the height violation and impose strong sanctions against this builder for the apparent deliberate fraud in disregarding your zoning requirements concerning heights.

We further object to the manner in which the builder contracted to remove large amounts of sand and dirt from the property in an attempt to keep the maximum height. When they removed the dirt, no consideration was taken for the adjoining property owners.

Having such a drastic and sudden drop with no retaining wall will lead to our property caving in over time. This was brought up to the builder and they have no concerns for our rights.

Jack Straughan
Fenwick Island

[Editor’s note: The Fenwick Shores development built by NV Homes is located outside the corporate limits of Fenwick Island in unincorporated Sussex County. Requests for variances from the county’s building height limits for homes in the development have been set for public hearings before the county’s Board of Adjustments on Feb. 6 and 27.]

Delaware has a lot of work to do on issue

Stunningly, Jerry Falwell stated on MSNBC’s “The Situation” on Aug. 5, 2005, “Civil rights for all Americans — black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, etc. — is not a liberal or conservative value. It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on… Housing and employment are not special rights.”

He’s correct: a 2003 Gallup poll found 88 percent of us believe in sexual orientation nondiscrimination on the job.

Not just an American value, employment fairness toward gays is good business. Our own Delaware Treasurer, Jack Markell, wrote in a 2004 op. ed., “In competing for the jobs of the future with other states and foreign countries, people are our greatest assets. They are the key to ensuring that Delaware companies compete in the new global economy. We must create an environment where innovation drives growth. We must be able to attract capital. All of that requires the best people no matter what their sexual orientation is.”

But American values and good business sense must not concern our Delaware senate. With 17 states and D.C. having passed sexual orientation workplace fairness laws, Delaware is not “the first state” here: we are not even close.

Douglas Marshall-Steele

Outside the box on Assawoman Canal

A final solution to the Route 26 traffic tie-ups — pleasing both the Sierra Club and our county political representatives, who wish to develop the canal into water front condo construction:

Fill in the canal, save the bordering trees and provide an easy-access, paved road from Route 1 to Route 26, ending at the low bridge, where Central Avenue becomes Cedar Neck Road, where the bridge is too low to pass any float or cigarette boats.

A well-designed cloverleaf at this point will allow merging traffic on and off the paved canal roadway and will allow a merge at 15 mph to Cedar Neck, to and from Hudson Road back to Ocean Highway (Route 1) to G&E Grocery.

Another cloverleaf at the Assawoman Canal Road at the intersection of Route 26, where the existing bridge is high enough to allow cars, trucks and SUV’s to pass underneath, will further ease auto traffic where only yield signs will be necessary. No 18-wheelers or buses.

The properties surrounding these two cloverleaves are easily subject to eminent domain and those at the ending cloverleaf are presently for sale “on the market” at reasonable prices.

Realizing that present property owners of canal waterfront have auto access (and access to kayaking on Assawoman and Indian River bays, so long as speed limit is controlled to 35 mph on the possible roadway for two way, north-south auto traffic, they should have no right to object to the use of the canal right of way without access.

Those in South Bethany who may become totally landlocked could settle for cash payments as they can hardly use the existing canal now to navigate motor boats.

Most summer and full-time voting residents agree that we want no more development and that summer traffic is the worst on Route 26. The Sierra Club will discontinue their planned appeal to the latest court decision, which has yet to be finalized and the politicians pushing for dredging will have solved the primary bumper-to-bumper traffic situation, which their “foresight,” with the help of the state highway planners, has created.

The Sierra Club continued to stonewall the dredging and has already cost us taxpayers a “pretty penny” and paving the canal will not interfere with the tide of the Salt Pond canals. Lastly, it will stop the land speculators, expecting to develop the waterfront which will occur if the canal is dredged. We have no area to economically place the “spoils” from such a dredging and no money in the budget to pay the marine contractors who would be politically awarded the contract to dredge.

Dick Lamb Peters
Ocean View