Bethany group recommends one-way streets

The controversial recommendation of a Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) workgroup to consider one-way streets in Bethany Beach will, indeed, get full consideration by citizens and officials.

That news was delivered by Town Manager Cliff Graviet at the May 20 town council meeting. The recommendation for the one-way streets was among a handful of proposal components put forward by the town’s Transportation Plan Working Group on May 17, in the wake of a public workshop on the plan May 10.

The recommendations were divided into a two-tiered program, with a timeline of fall/winter 2005 for one set of recommendations and fall/winter 2006 for the others.

The recommendations for 2005 are designed to work in concert with planned DelDOT projects, including the construction of nine formal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant crossovers (similar to those constructed in Dewey Beach) on Route 1, new plantings on the Route 1 median and other traffic features to make crossing that highway safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The 2005 recommendations for Bethany Beach-controlled projects include:

• Converting the 300 block of Wellington Parkway into a one-way street, with vehicular traffic moving westbound;

• Adding 10-foot-wide pedestrian pathways from Route 1 to Atlantic Avenue, on the south sides of Fifth, Third, Second, Oakwood and Ashwood streets, and Central Boulevard, (design to be determined) to facilitate movement from the new crossovers (some permit parking would likely be lost);

• Widening Collins Avenue between Kent Avenue and Halfmoon Drive; and

• Encouraging that consideration be given to constructing pedestrian walkways on Kent Avenue, from Collins to Wellington and from Collins to Route 26 (to be done in concert with DelDOT, the group’s recommendations note).

Recommendations for 2006 include:

• Implementation of a one-way-street conversion of Pennsylvania Avenue (southbound) and Atlantic Avenue (northbound); and

• Creation of pedestrian pathways in the grass medians of Wellington and Oceanview parkways.

The working group’s recommendations note that the town would bear responsibility for all costs associated with the above projects, except for DelDOT’s own projects on Route 1.

Council approval would be required for most or all of the projects, due to their scope. The group’s members encouraged council members to consider the issue and make a decision at the June council meeting, to move the process forward in time for coordination with the fall 2005 DelDOT projects.

But with that approval process and the controversy regarding the one-way streets in mind, public input on the recommendations was a focus of discussion at the May 20 council meeting.

Council and working group member Tony McClenny noted that a lot of work had gone into the recommendations, with opportunity for townspeople to participate. He said some of the ideas “may sound radical” but may be worthwhile to consider.

McClenny suggested a public workshop be held prior to the next council meeting to allow public input, noting that the projects would “affect everybody” and be of particular benefit to those living in or near Bethany West, due to potential safety improvements.

Graviet said he would attempt to have representatives of JMT Engineering (the consultants hired by DelDOT to help develop the recommendations) present at such a workshop and would try to schedule it based on their availability.

As of Coastal Point press time, that workshop was scheduled for Friday, June 17, according to McClenny, who further suggested the town send individual postcards notifying property owners of the workshop to encourage attendance and input.

The response of those Bethany Beach citizens to the project recommendations is likely to be key in which, if any, of them move forward from loose concepts to reality. Already, some opposition to the idea of one-way streets has been noted, with some objections based on the town’s three-months-a-year population boom.

At the May 19 council meeting, council members also voted 5-1-1 to have the Charter and Ordinance Review Committee drop action regarding possible changes to the town’s voter eligibility rules, specifically as deals with multiple owners for a single property.

CORC Chairman and Council Member Wayne Fuller opposed the motion made by Harry Steele, while McClenny abstained, saying he felt the consideration of the issue was out-of-order based on it not being on the council’s agenda for a vote and not yet having been fully presented to council members by CORC.

Vice-Mayor Carol Olmstead stated her personal opposition to any such change, noting its potential to create dissention in the town, concern over the issue of privileges (resident versus non-resident), and how limits could be fairly implemented (three votes per property, versus two, versus four, etc.).

Steele noted that he had received a number of phone calls expressing concern about the idea, as well as inquiries about the intent of the idea even from those residing and owning properties outside the town.

McClenny noted that he didn’t feel such a change would pass the council if it were made, being that any problem related to multiple property owner votes was not a significant one, but he opposed the council voting on the matter at that time. Fuller also said he supported council deciding whether to make any such changes only after full consideration of CORC’s initial report on the matter was taken.

Mayor Jack Walsh noted that Town Solicitor Terence Jaywork had submitted an opinion on the matter, stating that it should not be changed unless a substantial problem were found to actually be occurring. Walsh said he felt the vote could save CORC considerable work in considering the issue as it proved not to have council support.

Also at the May 19 council meeting:

• Walsh announced the selection of Jerry Dorfman to complete the term of Robert Degen as a council member, the term to expire in September 2006. Walsh also announced the selection of Steve Trodden as Dorfman’s replacement on the town’s planning commission.

• McClenny, as the council’s secretary-treasurer, reported 4.8 percent of anticipated revenue had been collected in April, the first month of the town’s fiscal year. That compares with 5.83 percent for the same period in 2004. McClenny said the difference was due to lower-than-expected transfer taxes, a normal fluctuation.

He also reported expenditures of 4.52 percent of anticipated, compared to 5.76 percent in 2004, a reduction of $33,000, he said.

• Walsh reported that he had met with the Rev. Walter Scott of the Christian Church to reaffirm the church’s relationship with the town. Walsh described the meeting as “most cordial” but noted that church officials had expressed some disappointment with the lack of visible indicators that the church was providing the property currently used for a town playground.

Walsh proposed placards indicating the use of the church land with its permission be erected at the park. Graviet said he would order such placards for future display.

• Council members voted unanimously to refund building permit fees to Morning Star Construction, based on the company’s failed attempt to build a planned structure. Graviet noted that work was being undertaken to make such refunds easier, possibly with a partial fee refund, but current code required council to approve or disapprove a full refund.

• Council members individually agreed to support the town submitting a request to the governor’s office asking for gubernatorial confirmation of the town’s aldermen. The process is a new one, based on new state standards for the judicial position. Each alderman would be required to be confirmed in the process, and reconfirmed on a regular basis thereafter.

• Graviet said he had received some complaints about light pollution from the new boardwalk lights since the completion of their installation. He said methods of reducing the light flow outside the immediate area were being researched.

The town manager also reported the town’s major paving projects for 2005 as complete, with some patching yet to be done. The expanded driveway striping test project for properties east of Route 1 was also completed, along with striping of no-parking spaces and handicapped parking locations, he said.

Graviet further noted completion of the Hollywood Street drainage project, with extra effort by engineers to ensure maximum efficiency through construction.

However, he said problems still existed in the area due to the DelDOT-owned and -controlled ditches into which the new pipes drain. A lack of cooperation with DelDOT improving/repairing ditches has been mentioned. The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company may be assigned oversight of such repairs, if desired.