Bethany Beach mayor Tony McClenny resigned his position as mayor and town council member at the conclusion of last Friday’s town council meeting, with an emotional reading of a letter addressed to his “dear friends” and detailing the information provided to him the day before by doctors at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore who are treating him for the brain tumor with which he had been diagnosed in January.
“The bottom line news was totally not what yours truly had in mind,” McClenny said. “The brain tumor (glioblastoma multiforme GBM) has proven to be far worse than I understood and, though it was removed, it is not gone. The battle with this condition is overwhelming, and the physicians explained it yesterday to our family in great detail — needless to say I was shocked. There are no guarantees, according to the physicians, but there is always hope.”
McClenny expressed his thankfulness for the “wonderful life together” he has enjoyed with his wife, Claudia, but added that there was a need to start treatment quickly, with both radiation treatment and chemotherapy. He said they hoped to continue to spend part of their time in Bethany Beach, in the company of friends, as he pursues treatment.
He further stated that he hoped that something could be learned from his situation that could be used to benefit someone else “going through similar travails” in the future, noting that he has been a volunteer for more than 40 years in an aging study at Hopkins, undergoing days of physical and mental testing every two years as part of that study.
In resigning from the council, McClenny said his “nine-plus years as a member taught me a great deal, and we worked so well together. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve our community, as well my fellow town council members and town staff members,” he concluded.
The council has set a special meeting for Friday, Feb. 28, at which they will determine the process to be used to fill McClenny’s council seat and a possible date for a reorganizational meeting to name a new mayor. Vice-Mayor Jack Gordon has been filling in for McClenny since his diagnosis in January.
Also at the Feb. 21 council meeting, the council unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting vehicles being parked, unattended, on town streets for essentially the entire summer, which Gordon said had become an annoyance to property owners and others in the vicinity where the vehicles are parked — notably in use as storage for beach items that owners retrieve from the vehicles before heading to the beach nearby.
Amendments to the ordinance suggested at a first reading last month incorporated the commercial areas of the town into the prohibition, which Gordon said he felt strengthened the ordinance overall.
“We’re not the only town that has this kind of provision,” noted Councilman Lew Killmer. “Many coastal communities also have this because they experience the same type of abuse.”
The council also voted unanimously last Friday to approve a change to the Town’s Schedule of Fees that states that the costs of re-taps or new taps into the Bethany Beach municipal water system will be borne by the property owner.
Town Manager Cliff Graviet explained that the Town has been charging standard connection fees, but that when there are problems or owners are requesting larger-than-normal service, the Town has previously had no provision for charging for the additional costs incurred and has had to absorb those additional costs as a result.
Graviet last Friday also provided an update on the progress of development of the Bethany Beach Hotel on the current site of the Bethany Arms Motel, saying that developer Jack Burbage had submitted plans for the new facility to the Town’s building inspector but that those plans had proven not to meet the requirements of the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
He said the Town had been working with the office and Burbage to establish a plan that’s acceptable to the Town and the fire marshal, one that he said would let the town use Hollywood Street “in the best way possible” to suit pedestrians, motorists and those who park in that area during the summer.
Graviet said Burbage wanted to begin demolition and some form of construction on the site before the summer begins. The Bethany Arms’ website currently lists a target opening date of the spring of 2015 for the new hotel but asks would-be guests this spring and summer to contact them about when and if stays at the Bethany Arms will remain available.
Garfield Parkway closed east of Route 1
Graviet also announced on Feb. 21 that changes in plans from DelDOT and the contractor working on the Streetscape project in downtown Bethany had resulted in a plan to close within the week the 200 block of Garfield Parkway, just east of Route 1 and including the area in front of town hall, in order to completely rehabilitate the roadway there.
He said deterioration of the roadway and the concrete underneath the asphalt had led to the decision to completely remove the old road surface, including multiple layers of asphalt and concrete, as had been done already in the 100 block portion of the project. That work would leave the resulting surface 1 to 2 feet below the existing road level until the repairs were finished, he said, necessitating the closure.
The additional road work is now part of the contract for the project, with DelDOT picking up the additional cost. The road in the 200 block was expected to be closed two to three weeks for the rehab work, with a target completion date of March 17. In the meantime, parking for town hall has been relocated to behind the building, in the alley between town hall and the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall. Graviet said the Town would deal with parking overflow issues as they arise.
Also on Feb. 21:
• Graviet reported on the installation of a new telephone system in town hall, noting that there had been some glitches with the new system, and also a new carrier, that he hoped would be worked out this week.
• He also reported the replacement of the Wi-Fi system along the boardwalk, noting that the prior system had been economical but had been rife with problems since it was installed. The new system, he said, would not only be more reliable but would allow the Town to explore expanding Wi-Fi capabilities to the north and south ends of the beach. Killmer noted that he had been told that surfers who took their cell phones with them out on the water last summer had been able to use the system from atop their surfboards.
• Councilman Jerry Dorfman reported on the addition of $55,000 to the Town’s expense budget for the replacement Wi-Fi system and the purchase of additional Mobi Mats to provide enhanced access to the beach. He also reported a recommended .5 cent increase per $100 of assessed value in the Town’s property tax (averaging less than $15 additional per property) in the 2015 budget, to generate an additional $50,000 in revenue. A public hearing on the budget is set for 10 a.m. on March 3, with another Budget & Finance Committee meeting following that hearing, at 11 a.m.
• Councilwoman Margaret Young reported that the Cultural & Historical Affairs Committee had recently previewed the first part of its oral history project, about two hours in estimated total length, some five years after beginning the process of interviews and editing. The finished project is to be installed in a kiosk in the town museum.
• Killmer reported approval by the Non-Residential Design Review Committee of new signage for the Bethany Diner, at the former location of Romeo’s Kitchen. He said a mid-March opening was planned for the new restaurant, which is actually owned by one of the original owners of Romeo’s Kitchen, who has also revamped the interior and replaced the kitchen but plans to return to a menu similar to what the prior business had when it was first opened.
• Killmer also reported plans by the Planning Commission to meet next month with contractors, architects, builders and concerned members of the public to review a draft ordinance on residential bulk density. He said the approach of the ordinance was based on trade-offs and that a final draft would take concerns expressed by those stakeholders into account. It would be reviewed at a future town council workshop before coming up for a formal hearing and possible vote.
• Councilman Chuck Peterson said work on the 2014 Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade was progressing in the hands of the new town committee that has replaced the former independent volunteer group that has organized it in the past. He said all the returning bands had been contacted by the committee and most were already under contract to be part of the 2014 event. The committee will meet next on March 25.