Bethany's 'dog days' go unchanged

Members of the Bethany Beach Charter and Ordinance Committee (CORC) voted Friday, March 18, to keep in place the town’s existing date for permitting dogs on the beach after the summer season.
Acting on a request from resident Lois Lipsett, the committee discussed moving the date upon which dogs are once again allowed on the beach from Sept. 30 to Sept. 15. The suggestion was made with an eye toward matching the date up with the dropping of other summertime restrictions, such as paying for parking at a parking meter.

Lipsett had argued at a previous CORC meeting and in a written request to the committee that dog owners often take their cues from the removal of parking meter requirements and that the two sets of dates were confusing to some property owners and visitors.

She said problems with allowing dogs on the beach at the earlier date could be minimized by granting permission only during the weekdays in that roughly two-week period. She also pointed out that town regulations require dogs to be leashed at all times, whether during the restricted period or outside it, and on the beach or off. Dog owners are further required to pick up and properly dispose of dog waste.

Committee member and former town council member Jane Fowler noted that the condensing of dates for the end of beach restrictions had happened some years ago, as a result of the then-council’s desire to make the restrictions more consistent and easier to follow. But the Sept. 15 date had not been consistently used since that time.

Indeed, committee members pointed to restrictions on all-day bicycling on the boardwalk as one other summertime restriction that was kept in place until Sept. 30. That date was kept, they said, largely on the grounds that the boardwalk and beach traffic is still too dense to allow for safe mid-day bicycling until at least October.

Similar grounds brought committee members to the consensus that the dog restrictions should not be changed. Concerns about the interaction between still-heavy visitor traffic and dog-waste/leash-law scofflaws were chief among their reasons.

Despite scattered and mild support for better accommodating dog owners, there was no deep support for the change and the committee voted to take no action on Lipsett’s request.

CORC members also reviewed a number of items of old business at the March 18 meeting, including items that had been passed on to the various expertises of the town’s planning commission and parking committee.

The planning commission was requested to review the town’s ordinance regarding replacing fencing on certain commercial properties, while the parking committee is due to tackle the interaction between ordinances on illegal parking in driveways and the town’s method of marking or officially registering driveways for enforcement purposes.

Council and committee member Lew Killmer presented the other committee members with a draft version of new code on swimming pools, specifically relating to fencing and other safety requirements.

The draft was written by way of the committee’s new policy calling for an informational “white paper” for committee and council members before any further legislative action takes place. Committee members requested Killmer’s draft be forwarded to council members to obtain their approval before the committee proceeds with work changes to the town’s pool code.

In discussing the draft, Killmer noted that Delaware is one of only four states in the country with no statewide pool code. Thus, in drafting the new code, he referred to the Standard Swimming Pool Code of 1999, a common standard nationwide.

The major change in codes the committee has sought is to define regulated residential pools and spas as anything with a capacity of 2 feet or deeper, encompassing new soft-sided pools.

CORC members also delved into issues related to the International Code for Property Maintenance, a supplement to the series of international building codes adopted by the town in recent months. Building Inspector John Echrich had recommended the supplement as a starting point for codifying such issues in the town.

While committee members had reviewed an extract from the code, they decided a more extensive review of the entire supplement was advisable before they started in-depth work on possibly incorporating it into town code.

Certain areas of the code are likely to prove overkill for the town, mandating quick fixes to holes in screens, for example. But the committee’s overall response to the code was positive, with emphasis placed on ensuring there are no areas where the international code conflicts with already-enacted bits of town code.

Committee members envisioned a need for indexing for the completed code when the process is done, ideally with parenthetical references to guide readers to applicable areas of code that are located in other sections of the document.

Mayor Jack Walsh, present at the meeting, also requested CORC members work on developing guidelines for membership in all of the town’s committees. The guidelines would include definitions of the committees’ membership, including the numbers of members, number of council members and any requirement or exclusion of non-residents.

The guidelines would take the form of a recommendation to the town council and would not apply to state-mandated commissions (such as the Planning Commission). Walsh said guidelines could also be developed for the town’s sub-committees, if “trickle down” of membership-related problems was deemed an issue.

CORC is also set to tackle concerns about the town’s absentee balloting system, after suggestions that it has proven cumbersome for some voters. The committee will review the issue and discuss the town’s voting regulations at its next meeting.

There, the committee reversed a previous decision to maintain its Friday-morning meeting time.

Citing concerns about the draw on town employees and resources on the morning prior to town council meetings, committee members voted (unanimously with a single abstention) to change CORC meetings to the prior day — Thursday before the town council’s Friday meetings. The new meeting time will be 2 p.m.

Accordingly, the next CORC meeting is now set for Thursday, April 14, at 2 p.m.