Fenwick council tackles 'the Wedding House'

The Fenwick Island Town Council at their council meeting on May 21, discussed “the Wedding House” – a house in the town that has since been cited for advertising as a wedding reception facility.

After being asked about the home by Councilman Todd Smallwood, Town Manager Win Abbott explained that town staff had met with the owner because of his advertisement of the house, which Abbott said is “inconsistent with the zone.”

Abbott said reservations for existing parties already booked at the home could be honored if the home’s owner pays for additional police officers.

“The property management company has been notified and has taken action to prevent [violations] from continuing to occur,” Abbott said. “We have placed the financial burden on the owners, and when they have not been incompliance, they have gotten a citation,” he explained.

“So, Fenwick Island Police Department officers will be there, with their uniforms on, and with a FIPD car there?” asked Smallwood. “That troubles me on a lot of different levels. We are not a private security firm.” He asked what the town’s liability might be if someone who attended one of the reception/parties were to get hurt.

“I got to a party, see a car, and see an officer, I have a right to assume some enjoyment at the party, and if the deck collapses, who is the first person I sue?” he asked rhetorically, before answering his own question: “Fenwick Island.”

Police Chief William Boyden emphasized that his officers are police officers not building inspectors.

“OK, so what if someone bashes me in the head?” asked Smallwood. “This is the worst idea I have heard come out of this town hall. They have two strikes against them,” he said, referring to violations the home’s owners have already received this year concerning noise. “One more, and their rental license can be revoked. I don’t care how many parties they have booked.”

Boyden explained that uniformed officers have also helped with traffic control for house-moving companies in the past, and he argued that that was the same in terms of liability.

Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said they need to make sure about that.

“Moving a house and having 90 people over for a party is not the same thing,” said Smallwood.

“We need to look at it and discuss it,” said Councilman Bill Wesitling Jr. “We had a similar situation a few years ago with the same gentleman.”

Building Official Pat Schuchman explained that, because of “no comma between two words, [his] attorney challenged the ordinance we were using.” But she added that, as far the 12-person-maximum overnight occupancy rule in Fenwick Island, there had been no violations. The code states that violations of the 12-person rule or noise ordinances more than three times in a calendar year can result in a rental-license suspension or revocation.

“In the case of a rental license issued to a single-family residential property owner, such license may be revoked if there been three or more cases during a calendar year of violations of either § 100-4A(11) of this chapter (overnight occupancy by more than 12 persons) or § 107-2A of Chapter 107 (noise disturbance). Oral and written notice of each such violation will be given to the licensed property owner and his/her Realtor. Such license revocation may be immediate, or deferred to the entire rental season for the following year, or both.”

“It is legitimate if they are constantly breaking the law? That doesn’t seem right,” added Councilwoman Diane Tingle.

Weistling commented that the recent noise ordinance passed in the town should be “helpful,” and Mayor Audrey Serio said that the town would check to see what the town’s liability is. She also noted the challenge of enforcing rules like those the town has in place when people have family gatherings and parties of similar size.

“As long as he is not advertising it, there is no way we can stop them unless they are disorderly. And if he gets three, he can lose his rental license. I think we have in our books what we need to control it,” she added.

In other news from the May 21 council meeting:

• The council held a first reading of an amendment to Chapter 131 – Sewers of the town code, which aims to make the wording more efficient and raises fines for violations.

• The town passed a resolution to rename W. West Virginia Avenue as Oyster Bay Drive.

• Nominations for town council will close on June 22. June 30 is the deadline to register to vote in the town general election, which is scheduled for Aug. 7.

• The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 25, at 3:30 p.m.