Fenwick leaves voter codes unchanged

After hours of discussion, the Fenwick Island Town Council this week elected to make no changes to voter qualifications. At a special meeting on Dec. 8, they finally agreed with Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox that the current system is the simplest they can manage at this time.

There was discussion of allowing properties owned in trust to have multiple voters, since non-resident spouses once were allowed to vote. But that left questions about the eligibility of siblings, partners and others involved with trusts and regular deeds. As the council members considered more variables, they decided to table the issue.

That means each trust may put forward one voter in municipal elections.

In addition, the council decided that artificial entities (such as an LLC owning a restaurant or gas station) will not be allowed to put forward candidates for election, which had previously been suggested.

In other Fenwick Island Town Council news, from the regular Dec. 9 council meeting:

• The ambulance fee for Bethany Volunteer Fire Company will be unchanged this year, at $53 per household.

• In preparing the 2016 town audit, Tom Sombar of Sombar & Company determined that the Town accurately reported its financial transactions.

The council discussed several changes to make finances smoother or more transparent. Sombar suggested that the Town do budget amendments if income or expenditures are far from original expectations.

Meanwhile, the Town’s realty transfer tax revenue is already $13,000 ahead of last year’s numbers at this time.

Also, the Town will finally get about $2,100 that was stuck in PayPal limbo for several years.

• The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber reported a great summer for family movies on the beach near Fenwick.

However, “The Chamber is no longer in a position to do 2017 Fenwick Flicks,” said Executive Director Kristie Maravalli. “My apologies. We hate pulling events, but we really needed to look at the big picture.”

The summertime movies don’t fit into the Chamber’s strategic mission of growing business in the shoulder- and off-season, said Maravalli.

But “Whoever takes over, we are more than happy to continue our relationship by helping,” with planning and vendors, she added.

Each event costs about $900 to put on and attracted 650 total attendees for three films. Town officials began brainstorming ways to continue the event, possibly seeking sponsors or using money from the $12,500 Go Melvo snoball vendor contract that was also approved that afternoon.

• The 2017 Turkey Trot welcomed 648 humans, 45 dogs and $7,700 in donations for the American Cancer Society. The 13th annual Fenwick Freeze will be rescheduled for 11:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day at Bayard Street.

• As nearby towns suffer an increase in petty crime, Police Chief Bill Boyden asked residents to report any unusual activity, especially as so many houses are unoccupied for winter.

“If you see a vehicle or a pedestrian walking though your neighborhood and you don’t recognize them, there’s nothing wrong with calling the police. … You’d be amazed at what we find,” Boyden said.

Property owners should also tell the police department when they’re leaving for extended periods of time, so the police can include patrols near the house, he said.

• Colleen Wilson will take over as chairperson of Environmental Committee. Canal water quality and silt build-up are a concern. It’s been at least 15 years since the last underwater survey of canals. The committee is researching cost estimates for an elevation study, which they’ll share with the Ad-hoc Financial Committee.

The council also approved $300 for the Environmental Committee’s Earth Day cleanup in April.

• Houses are now allowed more bathrooms. Instead of the previous four-bathroom maximum, houses are now permitted a maximum of five full bathrooms and a half-bathroom (with no bathtub or shower). The council unanimously approved the changes to Chapter 160 “Zoning” 160-2.

• Businesses will be responsible for a fence buffer behind their properties when adjacent to residential zones. A residential fence may remain, but if it’s ever dismantled, the commercial owner must ensure another fence is erected. The town council unanimously approved that change to code Chapter 160 “Zoning” 160-8A(9)(b)(1)(a).

• Property owners are held to a higher standard in the flood plain. Typically, renovations worth $1,000 or more require a town building permit. However, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requires more oversight, so all major projects, even valued at less than $1,000, will soon require a permit, too. However, there will be no charge for those permits, as the town council approved the first reading of the change to Code Chapter 61-1C “Utility & Bldg. Construction.”

• The council unanimously approved changes to Chapter 120 “Property Maintenance” 120-2, which requires the Town’s building official’s approval on any changes to the approved drainage plan during construction or after issuance of a certificate-of-compliance.

• Fenwick currently offers adequate handicapped parking at the beach ends, officials decided after much discussion at the C&O Committee and town council meeting. Bayard Street has several spots, which aren’t frequently full. But the Town is already limited in overall public parking.

Additionally, the Town is not required to provide handicapped parking to access the federally-owned beaches, according to the town solicitor. Since there aren’t very many complaints, the council made no move to expand the parking.

• The Barefoot Gardeners are planning a garden tour, similar to a cottage tour, on June 29, 2017. Boyden suggested he has the power to approve a special parking hangtag for that day, but reported the plan to the council, as he said he wanted to keep the council informed. Businesses and individuals can purchase ads in the event’s program book.

• The Technology Committee has been on hiatus, as Mayor Gene Langan said the future town manager’s first duty will be a Town Hall technology audit.

• Tim Collins was again named Board of Adjustments chairperson, with Vice Chair Richard Benn and Secretary Marlene Quinn.

The Fenwick Island Town Council’s next regular meeting is Friday, Jan 27, at 3:30 p.m.