Summer season begins, Streetscape winds down

With the arrival of the summer season, Bethany Beach’s Streetscape project came to a close, at least for now.

“Streetscape work is ending as I speak,” Town Manager Cliff Graviet reported at the afternoon council meeting on May 23, on the cusp of the Memorial Day weekend. He said sweeping, final markings and a small punch list, with curbing and pavers included, were all that remained to be done as of Friday.

Workers later that day finished up work on the Town-owned gravel-covered parking area mid-block on Garfield Parkway between Route 1 and N. Pennsylvania Avenue and hauled away the construction trailer that had been the headquarters for the 2014 “winter edition” of the Streetscape work.

“They’ll be back in mid-October for the late fall edition,” Graviet noted, with that final segment to include the Streetscape renovations on the beach block of Garfield Parkway, at the “loop” near the lifeguard station/bathhouse.

An add-on project on N. Pennsylvania Avenue was also completed in recent weeks, except for a snafu that involved getting the wrong fixtures for the light poles installed there — something Graviet said would be corrected as soon as possible.

“We’re happy A-Del and DelDOT put it all together and were able to complete it in time for the Memorial Day weekend,” he added.

Along with the debut of the bulk of the Streetscape project, the 2014 summer season will also see the arrival of smartphone-based parking in the town, as the Town adds ParkMobile to its parking payment system.

“We’re working some issues out, trying to meld both together and make sure it works as it should,” Graviet explained to the council on May 23.

He said the Town was focused on trying to make sure the addition doesn’t make parking more painful and expected to have the system operational as of June 2, when people can sign up for a ParkMobile account if they don’t already have one (Rehoboth Beach has been using the system the last few summers) and use the smartphone app to pay for parking for designated vehicles.

Until then, it’s off to the paystations for the bulk of the town’s paid parking areas, or coins in the meter for the few remaining metered spaces.

For those seeking to avoid all the headaches of parking, Graviet also noted that the town trolley is now up and running. And with the season getting into full swing, the Seaside Craft Show will be held June 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the Bethany Beach Farmers’ Market set to open for its season on June 15.

The town will have one fewer police car patrolling in the coming weeks, with the loss of a 2013 Tahoe that was consumed by fire after, it is believed, one of the electronic elements of the $55,000 vehicle caught fire.

Graviet said the car had been parked while the officer was on traffic duty, but when he spotted flames in the interior, he’d been unable to get the doors to open. The fire spread, with the car a total loss, but Graviet said it was believed insurance would compensate the Town for the cost.

The Town was expected to deploy its traffic and speed measuring device in Bethany West, on Halfmoon Drive, at the request of residents there. Graviet said the Town had previously measured traffic and speed there and, at that time, there wasn’t a problem. It has also recently used the device on Hollywood Street, after complaints about volume and speed while traffic detoured around the Streetscape work, but Graviet reported that the bulk of traffic was actually going slower than the speed limit.

“I’m sure we will find the same thing,” he added of Halfmoon Drive, “but we will be glad to deploy it there.”

The Town has also officially added e-cigarettes to its smoking ban for the beach, boardwalk and public parks, with a unanimous vote on May 23. Councilman Lew Killmer noted that the updated definition of “smoking” was being expanded to include substances other than tobacco, including marijuana extracts, and other methods of inhaling such substances, including hookahs and the newly-trendy e-cigarettes.

He again reported that the state legislature was in the process of banning the sale and use of e-cigarettes by minors, while the FDA has not yet determined what health hazards they may pose.

In other news from the May 23 council meeting:

• Planning is under way for Périers Day 2014, again celebrating the town’s sister city of Périers, France. The March 27 program is set to feature band La Vie en Rose, with French music to be offered on the bandstand prior to the regular evening performance that day, along with two caricature artists available to draw stylized depictions of boardwalk-goers.

• Planning is also well under way for the 2014 Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade. The new Town committee has settled arrangements for use of the Christian Church property, and has all of the planned bands signed and commemorative T-shirt sales to begin with the Seaside Craft Show.

• A second May meeting of the Non-Residential Design Review Committee is set for May 30, when the committee will consider approval of new signage for the new restaurant Pie (located in the former Coastal Living Market), relocated Beach Break Art and new business Dreamweavers. Killmer said even more applications had come in since the May 30 meeting was scheduled, marking a very busy start to the summer season for the town’s businesses.

• A June 21 meeting will focus on a draft of regulations designed to address residential bulk, with architects, developers, contractors and the public invited to a public hearing that will include a line-by-line review ahead of possible revisions.

• The council unanimously approved an update to the town code regarding off-street parking and loading, involving the size of spaces and some housekeeping changes required to make the ordinances consistent. The new ordinance creates a size for “compact” spaces, at 8 by 16 feet, and sets the maximum amount of required parking in the CL-1 Commercial Lodging district that can be made of up compact spaces at 15 percent of the total (one space per room). Previously, the Town had required all parking spaces be at least 8 by 18 feet.

• Another amendment to the parking code that the council unanimously approved last Friday requires that no new construction or enlargement in dimensions of a structure (or addition of bedrooms in a residential zone) or conversion of any existing building can be done unless the parking requirements are met.

A definition for off-street parking has been added, along with requirements for residential parking of two spaces for three bedrooms, four spaces for four or five bedrooms, six for six or seven bedrooms, and eight for nine or more bedrooms. Killmer said the requirement was designed to help “achieve balance with the size of future dwellings.”

• The council also unanimously approved a policy designed to regulate charitable events held in the town. Councilman Chuck Peterson noted that there “seems to be a continuing increase in the number of organizations asking to run charitable events, such as bike races, road races, and asking to use our facilities, public thoroughfares and rights-of-way,” as well as requiring work by the Public Works staff and police department.

“We’d like to make sure that, with an event we’re putting our resources into, the money gets to where they say it’s going,” he explained. Citing research on charity-rating groups, Peterson said it was felt that Charity Watch’s mark of 60 percent or more of funds raised needing to go to the organization an event is supporting was a good measure of an acceptable charity event for the Town to support. That’s an average, or C-rated, program, he noted, while most well-rated charities give 75 percent or more of funds raised to the charitable cause.

Under the policy, organizations wishing to host events involving Town facilities or staff must provide documentation to the Town that shows where the money goes, such as bookkeeping records to show how the funds were spent. Details of the requirement and a timetable for documentation will become part of a contract designed to hold the organizations liable for meeting the criteria.

• Council Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Dorfman reported on the annual audit by the TGM Group in late April, noting there were, again, no areas of concern. A compliance audit — required when more than $500,000 in federal funds are used — was also included, due to funds used for the Town’s new water tower.

• The council unanimously approved an amendment to the Schedule of Fees for the 2015 fiscal year, to correct a mention of an “impact fee” that is actually a building permit fee, with the change applying retroactively.

• Finally, the council unanimously voted to approve a revised purchasing policy for the Town, which Dorfman said serves to improve documentation in the process already being used by the Town.