Featured houses to star in Cottage Tour

The South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach has served the expanding beach community for more than 11 years now, ever since the town donated an acre of land and a local group put up money for a bulk mailing permit and their first funding drive.

According to Director June Moran, the number of patrons and items circulated has increased by at least 10 percent every year since then, and this year, Sussex County government started setting money aside for a major expansion.

There’s $655,000 in the county budget for the project ($252,000 of that from the state bond bill) at present. County Administrator Robert Stickels said they were looking considering a project up to $4 million in total costs.

According to Stickels, $4 million would probably support a 20,000-square-foot addition, but there was some question whether there’d be room on the parcel. A 10,000-square-foot addition would still double the size of the existing library, he said.

And the land is paid for, according to Friends of the South Coastal Library (FOSCL) President Lois Lipsett — or, rather, it soon will be.

Lipsett said the group is preparing to make the final payment later this month. Sussex County has provided a 50 percent match for that land purchase (the library is considered county property), and the Town of Bethany Beach (the previous owner) has provided 0-percent financing over the last five years.

Moran noted the importance of FOSCL’s contributions over the years — all the extras the group had provided to make the South Coastal Library what it is.

FOSCL is really stepping it up this year, though, as they move from supporting the library’s rental collection, the newsletter, the Web page, various programs and equipment needs, into a season of capital campaigning.

Lipsett said they are aiming high, for a target of 25 percent of total project costs to be made in contributions.

It’s ambitious, but Stickels said he suspected they’d be up to it.

“The Friends in the past have been very generous and very aggressive in raising funds, and I wouldn’t underestimate their ability to raise what is needed for the library,” he said.

First and foremost among those fundraising efforts has always been the annual Beach and Bay Cottage Tour, returning this July 27 and 28 for its 14th year.

Known simply around town as “the Cottage Tour,” this home tour par excellence has raised more than $100,000 each year for the last few years, according to Lipsett — “and I have every reason to believe we well be able to do that well again this year,” she said.

According to Moran, the home tour has become more and more popular every year. People have actually started planning their vacations around it, she said.

Cottage Tour Committee Member Joan Gordon warned everyone who planned to participate that, with less than two weeks to go before the event, they needed to act fast. She advised anyone interested in the tour to stop by the South Coastal Library as soon as possible, suspecting there’d be no tickets left by July 27.

Tickets are also available online, at www.foscl.com, and tour participants will be able to start picking them up at the library within the next week or so.

In addition to stunning architecture, design and views, the $25 ticket will allow tour participants will take away tote bags, design-oriented magazines and a program booklet, and have a chance to enter the Special Fine Art and Dinner for Two raffles.

In related (but unaffiliated) Cottage Tour news, the Heavenly Luncheon will return for another year. Ocean View Presbyterian Church schedules the event to coincide with the home tour (both days, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). It helps pay for the church’s new parish hall and has become a popular stop for lunch and “tour chatter.”

In asking for support with the library expansion, Lipsett recognizes that FOSCL is in competition with many local causes — the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company is in the middle of a capital campaign as well, she pointed out.

However, she said FOSCL continues to do quite well with its direct mailings, bringing in more than $30,000 each year. (They canvass the entire county).

“Mentioning the capital campaign just brought out a lot of generosity,” she noted.

While nothing’s set in stone yet, Moran said library staff and supporters are hoping to expand the children’s area and meeting room, both of which get a lot of use and are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

“Some additional office space would be nice, too,” she admitted.

For more information on everything the South Coastal Library offers the community, visit the Web site at www.southcoastallibrary.org, or stop by in person at 43 Kent Avenue in Bethany Beach.

For anyone interested in participating in this year’s Beach and Bay Cottage Tour, the dates again are July 27 and 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tickets are going fast.