Bethany Beach’s new comprehensive development plan (CDP) is one short step away from having the force of law.
After more than a year of work by town officials and consultants, the 2005 CDP received unanimous final approval from town council members Friday, June 17, at the monthly council meeting. (Council Member Harry Steele was absent.)
That approval comes in the form of a resolution to be drafted based on similar resolutions from other towns and after overwhelmingly positive response from state officials at its March 30 review.
With the resolution in place, the town sends the final plan for one final endorsement from state officials under Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s Livable Delaware program. Though it is considered a loose framework of ideals rather than a concrete bit of legislation, upon its final certification, the CDP takes on the force of law.
Council Member Lew Killmer called the event “a major milestone” for the town, completing some 18 to 20 months of work that is now “about to cross the finish line.”
The plan was altered only slightly from the form it took at its state review, taking into account some minor suggestions from the review committee but reflecting their strongly positive reaction to the plan as submitted.
Killmer said feedback was so positive that two representatives of state agencies had — on the spot — offered the town potential funding for projects that would be compatible with elements of the plan, including funding for retaining and planting trees in the town and funding for protecting the town’s wells from environmental and terrorist threats.
Mayor Jack Walsh praised the work of the town’s planning commission on the CDP, including the initial work by now former commission Chairman Cal Baldwin.
Council members noted that the bulk of the CDP’s contents were derived from property-owner feedback obtained through a comprehensive questionnaire sent to them in 2004.
As summarized by Killmer, the plan is essentially a “total plan for the next five years for development of the town.” It includes not only core ideas for zoning, development and infrastructure but details the town’s focus on retaining its existing character while improving the lives of its citizens.
The plan’s term is five years, at which time a new draft will have to be created and adopted as with the 2005 version. A copy of the plan is available through the town office or on the town’s Web site at www.townofbethanybeach.com.
Also at the June 17 council meeting, those in attendance heard the first reading for a proposed pool ordinance.
The ordinance amends existing town code, updating it to reflect the newer 1999 standard swimming pool code that is used nationwide. The ordinance also updates the town’s regulations by defining what kinds of pools are regulated and how — including adding reference to the newer soft-sided pools. It details safety, sanitation, drainage and fencing requirements for pools and hot tubs.
Killmer noted that the ordinance was intended to make the regulations more user-friendly by placing them within a single section of code, rather than spread out throughout various sections of the larger town code.
Council members also voted unanimously for the town to pay $19,640 for a new fingerprinting system for the Bethany Beach Police Department.
Sgt. Rick Hayden referred to the system during a presentation on the department’s new child-identification initiative but noted that it would also be used as part of the department’s regular fingerprinting procedure when arresting suspects within the town.
The Live Scan System from Cross Match Technologies Inc. is designed to be both portable and efficient, automatically scanning a database of existing fingerprint samples for a match with the newly taken print. The BBPD will be one of the first agencies in the state to use the new system, Hayden said.
Hayden noted that the system is comparable in quality to a refrigerator-sized unit priced at some $50,000 more but vastly superior in terms of portability. That portability factor is needed because the system will be used as part of the BBPD’s child-identification program, with volunteers to offer parents fingerprint ID cards for their children in the town’s boardwalk area throughout the summer.
The town will not, however, foot the final bill for the system. Hayden applied for and received a $35,000 Homeland Security grant for the project earlier this year. The funds the town pays for it and other projects under the grant are 100 percent reimbursable.
Both the ID card program and a DNA sampling program are being provided at no charge to parents through the department. Area businesses, including the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, have also donated funding for the project.
Other elements of the BBPD security program include a volunteer program that will not only be used for the child-identification program but to aid with volunteer patrols of the town, as well as assisting with clerical work, follow-up telephone calls and other assistance to officers.
The BBPD is still seeking volunteers for the program, through Hayden, and he said he hopes that the town will be able to retire its oldest patrol vehicle for re-outfitting as a volunteer patrol car, similar to that now in use for the volunteer program in Ocean View.
Council Member and Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) Chairman Wayne Fuller noted at the June 17 meeting that his committee had decided not to fill its vacancies until after the town’s September elections.
Fuller also received unanimous approval from the council for CORC to proceed with work on incorporating the International Property Maintenance Code into the town’s existing maintenance code.
They also approved continuing CORC’s work on creating guidelines for the town’s committees, with an outline of a plan to be presented at the next council meeting.
Fullner noted continuing work by the committee on a number of issues raised by the town’s Budget and Finance Committee during the process of moving town fees into the annually-updated fee schedule. He said most of the issues were housekeeping items.
CORC is also proceeding with an effort to include permit fees with the types of town fees that require council approval for a refund, he said, promising council members a “white paper” on the issue at its next meeting.
Vice Mayor and Cultural and Historical Affairs Committee (CHAC) Chairwoman Carol Olmstead reported approximately $6,000 raised by the inaugural Seaside Craft Show, held on the boardwalk June 4. The proceeds are to benefit the committee’s work, including the staging of cultural events, funding the town museum and its oral-history project.
Olmstead noted that the committee was seeking volunteer assistance with all of its work, including the running of the museum and cultural events. Walsh said the committee’s members “need to be commended” for their work with the craft show, museum and other related activities.
In his town manager’s report, Cliff Graviet expressed concern about the state of the town’s beach crossovers at street ends. He said a loss of sand had been noted, especially at the southern end of the town but pointed to the difficulty of obtaining the sanction of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) in repairing the damage.
Not only does DNREC require permission to move sand on the beach, Graviet said, it generally does the work itself, considerably complicating and elongating the process of such repair.
Graviet said the plan for repairs included attempting to build steps at the locations and packing clay and sand around them to stabilize the areas.
The town manager further noted a DNREC complication for the planned move of the home next to the town hall. He said DNREC officials had advised the town and the property’s owner that the move would have to be delayed until September.
Graviet said town officials were continuing to meet with representatives of Kercher Engineering Inc. (KEI) on matters related to flooding and drainage, while the town’s public works department was focusing on the replanting of landscaping beds and ground maintenance.
In conjunction with the recent refurbishments to the town hall and meeting room, Graviet said he was also planning a commemorative plaque to be placed at the entrance to the meeting room. The plaque would commemorate all previous town councils, he said.
Graviet further cited delays in the town’s planned Street Scape project. He said town officials were engaged in an ongoing conversation with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) regarding the project but had reached an impasse over what the starting point for discussing plan should be.
He said DelDOT was pushing the town to conform to a requirement to hire an engineering firm to approve the existing plan before discussions could proceed with the agency. The town, meanwhile, had decided on a single firm plan and was fighting to have DelDOT review that plan without having to hire the engineer first.
Bypassing that step, Graviet said, would mean saving the funding that would be spent hiring an engineer while allowing the town to have its one and only preferred plan reviewed by DelDOT for possible implementation. The town has received a $150,000 grant for the project.
Also at the June 17 meeting, Secretary-Treasurer Tony McClenny reported on the town’s finances.
He said the town had collected some 35.9 percent of its anticipated revenue through the period ending May 31, compared to 38.4 percent collected during the same period (April 1 through May 31) in 2004. That was largely due to a reduction of $57,000 in the real estate transfer taxes the town took in, compared to the previous year, he said.
Parking revenue was also down for those months, due to poor weather and an increase in the “seed money” taken out for the town’s parking meters. Still, the town’s revenue for the year to date was some $157,000 higher than at the same point in 2004.
Expenses for the period were also down, with 12.4 percent of anticipated revenues spent, compared to 13.6 percent in 2004.
The town’s financial audit is also still in progress, McClenny noted.
During public comment portions of the meeting, resident Lois Lipsett requested the council provide the public with access to draft versions of its minutes and committee reports on the day of council meetings, preferably no later than 2 p.m.
She said the provision of the documents would allow citizens to review them prior to the meeting, with knowledge that they were draft versions and subject to correction by the council.
Walsh said he thought the idea sounded “doable,” while Planning Commission Member Kathleen Mink said such releases had previously been given a green light, provided the documents were marked with a “draft” notation. The matter was turned over to the town manager’s office for review.
In ongoing debate over the town’s prized parking spaces, it was noted that there had been a loss of permit parking spaces due to the recent driveway marking program on the east side of the town. The suggestion was made that some metered parking spaces be changed to permit spaces to compensate for the loss. No specific action was taken.
Finally, Fuller thanked the town’s public works department and officials for following through with DelDOT on the re-striping of pavement markers along Route 1. He said the work was a boon to safety.
Graviet noted that DelDOT had finally agreed to review a decision to put off the re-striping until after planned paving, having visited the location again and agreeing the existing marks were badly faded.