South Bethany increases house height, allows floating docks

After one year of discussion and research, South Bethany will allow floating boat ramps and docks. They unanimously voted Oct. 14 to amend the Town Code (Chapter 50, Bulkheads) to permit the installation of “Modular Floating Docking Systems,” such as floating boat ramps, floating docks and inflatable lifting docks.

In the past, floating ramps and docks were prohibited, since boats had to accelerate to get enough momentum to drive onto the platform. The resulting wake was no good.

“That ordinance was written back in 2005. The technology has changed a lot,” Planning Commission Chairperson Dick Oliver previously said.

Now, docks are submergible, boaters float on top, and the dock can re-inflate to elevate the boat.

The system must be designed with rollers, cut outs, molded ramps or other design elements that are intended to allow docking without suing the boat’s propulsion. A Town permit is required for installation.

Council took up the topic in 2015 when people began installing boatlifts that seemed too big, possibly blocking neighbors’ water views. Since then, the challenge was to write a fair ordinance that restricts high lifts in a boating community, without over-mandating, like a homeowner association.

Although Town Council decided they don’t quite have the language to control height, they can at least allow for modern docking options.

“If we don’t at least try to deal with this, a couple of years from now, people are going to say, ‘Look at this. It’s like an amusement park,’” Weisgerber said in 2015.

Ordinance 182-16 also added an appeals timeline for enforcement, and it prohibited repeat violations.

Rules are already in place for placement of docks.

South Bethany doesn’t regulate boat sizes, Code Enforcement Constable Joe Hinks had said. “They could buy a yacht and park it here, if they could fit it [in the canal].”

House height increases for all

All houses have a little more room to comfortably build.

Town Council unanimously amended the zoning code to increase the maximum height of houses by one foot. Houses may now be 33 feet (or 35 feet above BFE when 2 feet of freeboard are included), but no higher than 48 feet as measured by North American Vertical Datum (NAVD), due to variations in the elevation of Ocean Drive.

House elevations may now be measured from either the center line of the road or the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in the AE and AO Zones, at the property owner’s discretion.

Ordinance 184-16 follows on the heels of a similar law that passed in May, which only covered houses in the VE zone, nearer to the beachfront.

Miken Builders had originally suggested the change because they thought houses need about 33 feet for a good design. That would ensure some equality, so everyone can get 8-foot ceilings, which is considered a comfortable standard.