Six candidates battle for three seats on Bethany council


Bethany Beach voters will head to the polls this Saturday to vote in the town’s annual council election. On Sept. 7, from noon until 6 p.m., voting will be taking place at town hall. Three council seats are up for election this year, with six candidates running for the two-year terms.

The candidates for 2013 include residents Joseph C. Bellistri, incumbent Jerry Dorfman, incumbent Joseph T. Healy Jr. and Charles “Chuck” Peterson, and non-residents Jane North and Robert Steiner — who hold the unique position of being a husband and wife both competing for places on the town council this year.

At least four of the seven members of the town council must be residents of the town, but all may be residents of the town. Councilwoman Carol Olmstead did not file for re-election, and candidate Carol Seal Brigleb has withdrawn her candidacy due to an injury.

Voters in Saturday’s election must be at least 18 years old, and either a property owner for 90 days prior to the election or a full-time resident for at least six months prior to the election. Bethany Beach property owners who are listed on the Town’s property tax list are not required to register to vote in town elections. Residents of Bethany Beach who do not own property must register to vote at least 30 days prior to the election.

Voters can vote in person on Sept. 7, with photo ID, or may request an absentee ballot by filing an affidavit with the town. Affidavits are available at town hall or by contacting town hall and are also available on the Town’s website at www.townofbethanybeach.com. The affidavit must be filed no later than noon on Friday, Sept. 6, in order to receive an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots must be received before the polls close on the day of the election.

Election results are expected to be posted at town hall shortly after the close of voting at 6 p.m., with election officials counting absentee ballots throughout the day.

Once again, the Coastal Point has asked each of the council candidates to answer a series of questions for our readers.

Due to a communication issue and his schedule as a school teacher during the first few days of the school year, candidate Joe Bellistri was unable to respond to these questions in time for our Wednesday press deadline. We have offered him the chance to have his responses published on our website if he is able to get them to us by Friday, Sept. 6. We would encourage voters to check the website on Friday or Saturday, before they vote, to read the full set of responses.

The other five candidates’ responses follow, in alphabetical order.

Jerry Dorfman

Q. Please describe your vision of Bethany Beach in the future — including how you feel about the place of commercial lodging facilities, other businesses and single-family homes, residents and visitors in that future vision of the town, and how the town council should address those issues.

A. My vision for Bethany Beach has an open-space walking park at the corner of Routes 1 and 26; a new water tower by spring 2014; Garfield Parkway without utility poles on the wider sidewalks, also by spring 2014. Maintaining a fiscally sound budget with adequate reserves is also an important part of my vision.

Commercial lodging has been an important part of Bethany Beach since its beginnings. It benefits the businesses and residents alike, as well as folks who first come to town as tourists and become renters of homes or home owners thereafter. The town council addressed the commercial lodging zoning issue at the Aug. 16 council meeting, after getting the results of a nonbinding referendum. Those results were 71 percent for and 29 percent against.

Q. How do you feel about the ongoing Streetscape project and its impacts on the downtown businesses and visitors to the downtown area?

A. Streetscape, when finished by spring 2014, will have a beneficial impact on both visitors and businesses alike. The wider sidewalks, along with the updated look and new lighting, will enhance the appearance of the street, while maintaining our small-town, quiet-resort look and feel. The Town will work closely again with [DelDOT] and the contractors to minimize the impact on traffic and parking.

Q. With a significant amount of funding coming to the Town from federal and state government sources for projects such as beach replenishment and Streetscape, what is your plan for intergovernmental relations while you serve on the council?

A. Continuing to work as we have in the past with the members of the Sussex County Association of Towns, our County and State representatives, DNREC, along with our senators and representatives in Congress, will benefit our town through grants for town projects and beach replenishment.

Q. Please describe your qualifications for the office of town council member and explain why you should be elected to the council.

A. I have been a member of the town council for 7.5 years. I have been secretary/treasurer for the past five years, and chair the Budget & Finance Committee. I have served on the Planning Commission and been a member of seven other committees. I have also attended continuing-education courses on public administration, zoning, historic preservation, developing master plans and public safety. I have the experience and ability to go to work the moment I am sworn into office.

Joseph ‘Joe’ Healy Jr.

Q. Please describe your vision of Bethany Beach in the future — including how you feel about the place of commercial lodging facilities, other businesses and single-family homes, residents and visitors in that future vision of the town, and how the town council should address those issues.

A. My view of the future for our town is the maintenance of the continuity and stability of our Town’s finances; the importance of beach preservation and the protection of our oceanfront shoreline, fostering and echoing the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) mantra, “Wide Beaches and High Dunes”; combating flooding issues that were highlighted by Superstorm Sandy in our back-bay area.

What can we do? By just taking baby steps initially, we could possibly: (1) set up a stormwater management fund (third enterprise fund); (2) educate our citizens; (3) review our present drainage system — what’s working/what’s not working; (4) establish a dedicated workforce; (5) strive to adopt the recommendations of the pending Corps of Engineers report that are financially viable to our needs.

The proposed lodging facility could be “a centerpiece for the Town of Bethany Beach for many years into the future” which would benefit our residents and visitors, as well as our business community.

Q. How do you feel about the ongoing Streetscape project and its impacts on the downtown businesses and visitors to the downtown area?

A. I believe the Streetscape project will have a very positive impact on our downtown businesses, as well as to our residents and visitors to the area. I’ve observed this summer that the ease of walking on the north side of Garfield Parkway was terrific. Certainly, this will be another enhancement to our town. This represents just another example of “adapting (managing) change to our philosophy of the Quiet Resort.” This has been a process we have followed over the last century. Nothing has changed.

Q. With a significant amount of funding coming to the Town from federal and state government sources for projects such as beach replenishment and Streetscape, what is your plan for intergovernmental relations while you serve on the council?

A. The significant amount of funding we receive from federal and state government sources is, in my mind, due to the fact that Bethany Beach has a very large public persona. We are a focal point for our region. As such, what we do as the “Quiet Resort” has not only a micro-economic effect on our town, but a macro-economic effect on our entire region. Yes, we have to be actively engaged with our federal and state governmental officials, because our stewardship is much broader than appears on the surface.

Last March, when I was visiting our federal delegation on Capitol Hill with Stan Mills, Rehoboth commissioner, in conjunction with an ASBPA meeting, they were just so very accommodating. Sen. Carper was concerned about the Indian River bridge crossing, so he took a very active interest in shoring the dune on the ocean side of the bridge. You will note further that the Corps of Engineers will be in our area within the next month to replenish our beach and dune area.

I said before that our stewardship is broader than it appears, but the exercise of our stewardship is essential not only to Bethany Beach, but to the macro-economic effect over our entire region.

Q. Please describe your qualifications for the office of town council member and explain why you should be elected to the council.

I stand for reelection to our Town Council based on my record and background in the financial and business arena. (I am a CPA.) Certainly, because of my experience, I am particularly vigilant as regards financial issues. I am indeed very proud of my record and that of our town council, which has been very responsible in the financial area.

I have, over my term in office, been responsive to all the issues that come before your town council. the responsibility of a town council member is not limited to a single area or issue, but is multi-faceted. What I bring to the table is: dedication, experience, integrity, financial acumen and an issues-oriented approach.

Based on my competence and performance as a town council member, I ask for your vote on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Your consideration of my candidacy is most appreciated.

Jane North

Q. Please describe your vision of Bethany Beach in the future — including how you feel about the place of commercial lodging facilities, other businesses and single-family homes, residents and visitors in that future vision of the town, and how the town council should address those issues.

A. While I believe commercial lodging is beneficial to Bethany Beach, I believe the future success of our town remains dependent upon the residents continuing to experience a family-friendly atmosphere. The beauty of our town is that long-term friendships form among the established residents and new residents. It is a place where generations of families can enjoy a quiet atmosphere. Commercial lodging is beneficial for those families and friends that the residents cannot house; however, those short-term vacationers are not the lifeblood of our town. I am opposed to any type of mega-hotel being built in our town for the reasons I previously communicated in writing to the BBLA.

With respect to other businesses, I believe that existing commercial property owners should be encouraged to make their buildings more architecturally charming to make the downtown more appealing. We should encourage additional restaurants and bakeries in the town and more aggressively market small, diverse businesses to open stores in the town.

Q. How do you feel about the ongoing Streetscape project and its impacts on the downtown businesses and visitors to the downtown area?

A. I think that the project is visually appealing; however, I have not had an opportunity to review any study that was performed which outlines how the project has increased parking or has improved the congested traffic conditions in the downtown area.

Q. With a significant amount of funding coming to the Town from federal and state government sources for projects such as beach replenishment and Streetscape, what is your plan for intergovernmental relations while you serve on the council?

A. I think that the Town should [seek] assistance from residents with expertise in these areas to serve as a liaison committee to assist the town council. Encouraging new participation of residents to lend their individual talents and expertise is what will keep our town vibrant.

Q. Please describe your qualifications for the office of town council member and explain why you should be elected to the council.

A. I have been a trial attorney in the city of Philadelphia, commonwealth of Pennsylvania and state of New Jersey for over 22 years. The Philadelphia court system has entrusted me as serving as a mediator in cases, and I have been successful in bring opposing parties to a peaceful resolution. I can bring those same communication and mediation skills to town council. Further, I have litigated primarily construction cases over the past decade, and my knowledge of building codes would be helpful. Finally, while I think that the current town council is comprised of committed, hard-working individuals, I think that new ideas and new people are critical to keeping a town vibrant. Since we all want what is best for our beautiful town, I think that the town council should be more inclusive in its membership.

Charles ‘Chuck’ Peterson

Q. Please describe your vision of Bethany Beach in the future — including how you feel about the place of commercial lodging facilities, other businesses and single-family homes, residents and visitors in that future vision of the town, and how the town council should address those issues.

A. I see the future of Bethany Beach much like it is today: a vibrant, well-managed town that has a balance of single-family homes, businesses and lodging that attract people to a family destination resort. The Planning Commission developed a Comprehensive Plan that details how to move forward and avoid overdevelopment. The Town Council and State of Delaware have approved the plan. As a member of Town Council, I would be working to see that the plan is implemented.

Q. How do you feel about the ongoing Streetscape project and its impacts on the downtown businesses and visitors to the downtown area?

A. Streetscape will create a more inviting, safer downtown area that improves pedestrian and vehicle flow. Work is being done off-season to try to minimize the impact on businesses. The Town also posts signage to try to draw customers in. There is no way to complete the project that will not have an impact on business and visitors, but we can minimize the impact. The final result will be a boon for business, residents and visitors alike.

Q. With a significant amount of funding coming to the Town from federal and state government sources for projects such as beach replenishment and Streetscape, what is your plan for intergovernmental relations while you serve on the council?

A. Again, the Comprehensive Plan covers ongoing efforts to continue relationships. The efforts to keep Bethany Beach a family-oriented destination resort helps the Town get funding for these projects. We need to preserve the “Quiet Resort” that we have, and the best way to do that is for Town Council to continue to follow the road map that is laid out in the Comprehensive Plan. The State of Delaware thinks enough of our planning process that they share our Comprehensive Plan with other towns as a model of how to do long-range planning.

Q. Please describe your qualifications for the office of town council member and explain why you should be elected to the council.

A. I have spent the last eight years learning about how our Town governance works by being a member of the Planning Commission, the Audit Committee, the Election Board, the Charter & Ordinance Committee (chairman), the Election Board and the Fourth of July Parade Committee. Before I retired, I was an IRS executive managing national compliance programs. I also taught management courses in a graduate-school program. I am well prepared to bring financial, management and local governance experience to the position. If elected, I can make positive contributions to effective governance from Day 1.

Robert Steiner

Q. Please describe your vision of Bethany Beach in the future — including how you feel about the place of commercial lodging facilities, other businesses and single-family homes, residents and visitors in that future vision of the town, and how the town council should address those issues.

A. I am concerned as both a home owner and professionally (as I am employed by a REIT) by what appears to me rapid movement on approvals, variances and rezoning for the hotel on Hollywood Street. What concerns me is there is an opportunity to create a better space, one in keeping with the architecture and history of our community. I am concerned because the proposed developer has other properties within our community that, in my opinion, do not reflect this same vision. While I could agree that a new building consisting of better lodging and retail spaces are warranted, we need to carefully reflect upon the current proposal.

Q. How do you feel about the ongoing Streetscape project and its impacts on the downtown businesses and visitors to the downtown area?

A. I feel that the current Streetscape project is a wonderful improvement to downtown and, as a homeowner, look forward to its completion. I would also, if elected, work to expand (our most beautiful) landscape program and expand this (wherever possible) throughout the community.

Q. With a significant amount of funding coming to the Town from federal and state government sources for projects such as beach replenishment and Streetscape, what is your plan for intergovernmental relations while you serve on the council?

A. This I consider one of my strengths, as in my current professional position I work with a great number of communities, townships, municipalities and cities throughout the United States, and I am well-positioned to employ my background in working with these different agencies.

Q. Please describe your qualifications for the office of town council member and explain why you should be elected to the council.

A. In my professional career, it is my role to improve shopping and living spaces. I have traveled extensively through this work, and I am confident that I would be an asset to our community if and when called upon. I would like to thank your readers for their thoughtful consideration.